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Nothing Says 'Christmas' Quite Like a Knicks Game
From the Wall Street Journal of Tue, 23 Dec 2014 23:47:14 EST
Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder visited Madison Square Garden last Christmas.
Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder visited Madison Square Garden last Christmas. NBAE/Getty Images

Basketball fans can be forgiven if they believe Santa Claus is actually St. Knick—the Knickerbockers are to Christmas what the NFL’s Detroit Lions are to Thanksgiving.

Thursday’s 12 p.m. meeting with the Wizards at Madison Garden will mark the Knicks’ 50th appearance on the holiday, more than any other team. It will also be the 67th anniversary of the league’s first-ever Christmas game, a 89-75 Knicks win over the Providence Steamrollers in 1947.

If they’re lagging in the standings this season—and at 5-25, they most certainly are—well, at least they’ve provided lasting holiday memories in years past. In 1983, the Knicks and Nets played the first-ever nationally televised Christmas game, with the Knicks winning, 112-110, in overtime. The following year, Bernard King scored an NBA Christmas record 60 points against the Nets in a 120-114 Knicks loss. And in 1985, the floundering Knicks beat the defending Eastern Conference champion Boston Celtics despite trailing by 25 points in the second half, 113-104, in a game that became known as the Christmas Miracle.

Later, Patrick Ewing and Michael Jordan regularly faced off on the holiday as the Knicks-Bulls rivalry intensified from the late 1980s into the 1990s. And a Carmelo Anthony-led 106-104 win over the Celtics in 2011 became the highest-rated Christmas broadcast in cable history.

After last year’s 29-point loss to the Thunder—the biggest Christmas blowout ever—it’s hardly surprising that the Knicks no longer merit the more coveted later television slot. But the last Christmas meeting between the Knicks and Wizards, in 1973, would have merited a maximum audience. Then, the Knicks were the defending NBA champions. But the Capital Bullets played the Grinch, sending New York fans home unhappy after beating the Knicks, 102-100.

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