Here are five NBA games that spiced up the holiday
Posted: Thursday December 22, 2005 2:36PM; Updated: Thursday December 22, 2005 9:29PM
Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal battled on Christmas Day last season. They'll renew their rivalry this Sunday.
Victor Baldizon/Getty Images
Watching the NBA on Christmas Day has always been somewhat the guilty pleasure for me. My mother had a standing rule against watching sports on Christmas Day, formulated not on religious principles but on her absurd idea that the other 364 days of sports-watching could easily suffice.
So my father and I would sneak into my grandmother's bedroom, where there rested a small TV that put forth video as if transmitted from the moon. (This was the 1950s, after all.) Dad would play around with the rabbit-eared antennae and, eventually, we could get a picture, usually one showing, as I recall, the old Boston Celtics putting a hurting on someone.
In the spirit of the season, which Shaq and Kobe will no doubt demonstrate in the Miami Heat-Los Angeles Lakers doubleheader nightcap scheduled for this Sunday, here is a five-pack of NBA memories from Christmases past.
1. The 1970 Christmas Day game featured two of the most star-crossed players in NBA history. The Atlanta Hawks had a rookie named Pete Maravich, and the Phoenix Suns, in only their third year of existence, were powered by a veteran named Connie Hawkins, who had been deprived of the best years by trumped-up illegal recruiting charges. Pistol and the Hawk both had great games as the Suns won 127-115.
My favorite video memory, though, is of the Suns' rookie head coach, Lowell Fitzsimmons, known to everyone as Cotton, patrolling the sideline. Cotton's death in 2004 deprived the NBA of one of its all-time great characters.
2. My favorite team from the late '70s was the colorful Philadelphia 76ers. They were led by Julius Erving, still an NBA novelty, and the great, underachieving George McGinnis, who could usually be found smoking a cigarette in the locker room after a game. On Dec. 25, 1978, they went up against the New York Knicks, still boasting Earl "The Pearl" Monroe, the last remnant from the championship teams of '70 and '74, and beat them 109-94.
What I wonder, though, is whether the sons of two Sixers were playing with toy basketballs when their fathers left for the game. Probably not -- they were too young. Mike Bibby, son of Sixers guard Henry Bibby, was just seven months old, and Kobe Bryant, son of forward Joe "Jellybean" Bryant, was only four months old.