There is never a more watched regular-season game than when on Christmas, and now LeBron James can etch 'highest tally of points on Christmas day' onto his mammoth-sized wall of career accomplishments.
Updated for today, that list now reads:
All-time Christmas Day scoring leaders:
If Kevin Durant tested out of protocol, like how Giannis Antetokoumnpo did for the Celtics, it would have been his first head-to-head vs. LeBron James since Christmas day of 2018. But not only did the virus rob us of experiencing this battle, but KD's quest to one day pass Kobe was also stunted. Because if you read Basketball Network's piece on the greatest Christmas day performances of the last decade, you know that it wouldn't take many games either. Durant's 44 point slaughter of the Nuggets in '10 ranks first on that list but only filled up one spot for greatest scoring performances ever.
All-Time highest scoring games on Christmas Day:
Knicks vs. Nets
Warriors vs. Knicks
Warriors vs. Royals
Lakers vs. Knicks
Magic vs. Pistons
Warriors vs. Nationals
Celtics vs. Nationals
Hawks vs. 76ers
Thunder vs. Nuggets
Lakers vs. Pistons
But real fans know that points scored doesn't necessarily show the whole picture. For example, Dwayne Wade's 40 points, 11 assists won over the Lakers in 2006 was more impressive than some of even those biggest numbers. Evidently, Rick Barry is the only man on that list with at least 50 points and the actual win.
That's why LeBron's Christmas record is truly impressive, as he won 10 of 15 Christmas games, at one point winning 8 straight. One of the more memorable ones came during his first duel against Tracey McGrady and the Orlando Magic.
After notching 34 points (most by a rookie ever), and 6 assists in a loss, McGrady famously said, "he's not 18". T MAC continued that he, "can't possibly be. If he continues to work hard and stay hungry, it can be ugly. It's scary how good he can be. You just look at him, man. The poise that he has out on the basketball court. The confidence. He has that swagger."
Or in his second consecutive duel against Kobe Bryant, where he made more NBA history back in 2010. After smashing out a 27-11-10 night against the previous and soon-to-be NBA champions, LeBron became the fourth member ever to record a triple-double on the big day. Joining Oscar Robertson (who accomplished the feat four times), Billy Cunningham, and John Havlicek, the group has since expanded.
Sidenote: Underrated part about this game. The Heat was blowing out the Lakers, leading to an angry Kobe and a freshly hated Miami LeBron to trash talk each other as they walked up the court. When asked about what was being said postgame, LeBron simply replied, "Just asked him what he got for Christmas".
However, his most memorable game definitely came in 2016, when he played a Kevin Durant-led Warriors team for the first time. They won the game by one point after a Kyrie Irving buzzer-beater. Even Richard Jefferson got his moment with a dunk over Klay Thompson. That was a good day for Cleveland fans.
LeBron James will undoubtedly throw this record out of reach for a decade since no contemporaries seem to be closely trailing. His 39 point bomb yesterday would have been greater if Harden and Patty Mills didn't pick the rugged Lakers apart. Today proved that the Lakers need a healthy Anthony Davis more than the Nets need a healthy Kevin Durant and a playing Kyrie Irving, for that matter. The loss means the Lakers have a five-game losing streak, the biggest now in the league. Maybe there really isn't much to prove from beating the Lakers, even on Christmas day.