Christmas is a day of joy not only celebrated in America, but all around the globe. While most people have off work and enjoy time with their families, athletes still have to perform the morning of Santa’s gifts hitting the floor under the tree. For people into betting or sports viewing with families, Christmas Day sports is a staple. For those who are lonely on Christmas, Christmas Day sports are the only thing keeping them sane over the sound of Mariah Carey music. No matter which category you fall into, Christmas Day sports are for everyone.
10- Hawaii Defeats Houston in Triple Overtime in the 2003 Hawaii Bowl
Overtime is always fun, especially in a bowl game, but to get a triple overtime game on Christmas is a once in a holiday season thing to see. The 8-5 Hawaii Warriors took on the 7-5 Houston Cougars on Christmas Day for the Hawaii Bowl held in Honolulu. The game was a slobberknocker of a matchup, having shouting and punches thrown, resulting in multiple players receiving an ejection and coal in their stocking. After fighting back and forth for two overtime periods, Running Back Michael Brewster ran in for an eight yard touchdown, leading Hawaii to a Bowl Game victory at home.
9- Don Shula Breaks NFL Regular-Season win Record
The name Don Shula and football are synonymous, and Don Shula’s beautiful record was on a perfect day. In a game against the Detroit Lions, the Dolphins sleigh bells were ringing. Barry Sanders was at 1,831 rushing yards, looking to acquire 2,000 yards in the last game of the season. With the Lions and Dolphins both being at 9-6 and battling for a playoff spot, this was one for the ages. The Dolphins managed to contain Barry Sanders as well as the Detroit Lions, winning 27-20 and getting Don Shula his 319th regular-season victory.
8- Phil Jackson Celebrates 1,000th win
Only ten NBA coaches have reached the 1k win club, and Phil Jackson’s Christmas came early. With Kobe Bryant scoring twenty-seven points against his all-time rival Boston Celtics, who were on a nineteen game win streak, it put the dagger in the game. The Lakers stopped the Kevin Garnett lead Celtics in a great Christmas Day rivalry game, and what better a way to win your 1000th game than to do it in the biggest rivalry in sports history behind the Yankees and the Red Sox.
7- Dolphins and Chiefs play Longest game in NFL History
Even now fifty-one years ago, Santa knew exactly what sports fan wanted under the tree. In 1971, the Chiefs faced off with the Dolphins in an AFC Playoff game. The usual playoff overtime rules are that if the first team to get the ball score a touchdown, game is over. If they kick a field goal, the other team gets a shot. If the other team scores a touchdown, game is over. If they tie it back up, the other team gets the ball back again, and if they don’t score in the allotted time left, game results in a tie. Since this was a playoff game, that was impossible. The game had a run time of 82 minutes, 40 seconds. The final score was 27-24 after Miami hit a game-winning kick off the foot of Garo Yepremian.
6- Bernard King Drops Sixty Points
Santa is no king, but if he was he would’ve let Bernard borrow his crown for a day. Knicks legend Bernard King was having the best season of his career scoring, and the presents waiting for him back home were no distraction. In a rivalry Christmas game early for the times in 1984, the Knicks took on the then New Jersey Nets. In a losing effort, King dropped sixty points in one of the greatest Christmas Day game performances of all-time, and one that won’t soon be forgotten.
5- Katie Hnida Makes Women’s College Football History
2002 was a huge year for women in NCAA Football, having the first one appear in game on Christmas Day. New Mexico had Katie as a place-kicker in the Las Vegas Bowl against UCLA. While her kick may have been blocked by UCLA, Katie’s kick set the way for women like Sarah Fuller and many other alike in the future, and it is a Christmas Day sports memory forgotten and underrated by most.
4- Knicks Comeback of Twenty-Five Points
As if facing the Bird-Celtics wasn’t tough enough, the Knicks had to dig themselves out of a twenty-five point hole as well. Coming into the game the Knicks were 9-19 facing off against a hot 21-6 Larry Bird led Celtics. It was 1985, the year Bernard King had the career-altering ACL injury. The Celtics had their largest lead of the game in the third quarter up 58-33, and that is when it all turned around. Even though the Celtics may have been wearing grinch green, Patrick Ewing was ready to save Christmas. Patrick Ewing had thirty-two points alongside Rory Sparrow with twenty-two, coming back and winning in overtime 113-104. While the Celtics won their sixteenth championship that season, the Knicks left us with one of the best comebacks in Christmas history (behind the Grinch bringing the gifts back and getting the girl).
3- Steelers Claim 2016 AFC North Crown in Thriller
The Steelers headed into the game 9-5 against a 8-6 Ravens, both racing for the top of their division. After falling behind 17-10 after the third quarter, the Steelers answered with a touchdown. Both teams kept scoring, only for the Steelers to just barely win in the end, clinching their AFC North division leading spot. The Steelers won 31-27 in a thriller not even Die Hard could beat (it is a Christmas movie) were Big Ben threw for 279 yards and three touchdowns along with Antonio Brown having nearly one-hundred yards and Bell having a touchdown. A game for the ages you should ask to watch on Christmas, especially if the games on TV aren’t that good today for Christmas.
2- Cavs-Warriors Finals Rematch (and Preview)
After Cleveland pulled off the greatest comeback in NBA Finals history a few months earlier, they also had one of the greatest Christmas games ever against the same opponent. LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love faced off against the season-prior record setting Warriors lead by Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and new addition Kevin Durant. As if it wasn’t hard enough to beat the big-three originally, they got one of the greatest offensive players in NBA history in Kevin Durant. Curry, Klay and KD combined for seventy-five points in the thriller while LeBron James and Kyrie combined for fifty-six points, including a game winning three by Kyrie Irving, one of the greatest shots in NBA history, winning 109-108 in a jingle bell classic.
1- Kobe and Shaq face-off for the First Time
Christmas Day NBA games have a way of always telling a beautiful story. We’ve had the previously mentioned Cavaliers vs Warriors, Kyrie faces Boston, this year we get Knicks vs Hawks, but never one quite like Kobe vs Shaq. Kobe and Shaq three-peated and made four straight NBA Finals, so this was a huge game for them to not be teammates for the first time since Kobe Bryant was still in high school. It was Christmas 2005 in Los Angeles, once Shaq’s Staples Center, now Kobe’s. Kobe led a team with Ron Artest and Chuck Atkins while Shaq got to go alongside a young Dwyane Wade and a powerful Miami Heat team. Kobe Bryant scored forty-two points on the day, Shaq finished with twenty-four. The best part of it was almost poetic, Kobe left a little gift for Shaquille. Shaq fouled out of the game, but his sixth foul was on Kobe Bean Bryant. While Shaq got a gift of his own, winning an NBA Championship that year with the Heat. In true Kobe fashion, he won the game with four seconds left in an overtime battle for the ages, and if you aren’t doing anything fun for Christmas this year, rewatch this game in all of its glory.
Merry Christmas to you and your family from me and The Dyspatch, everyone stay safe and have a fun and responsible holiday season and a great New Years.