We should all do more to stan the traditionally overlooked small-market players and teams that dazzle throughout the NBA’s regular season. Sure, Nikola Jokic isn’t going to windmill dunk, and Kyle Lowry’s spin cycle won’t take a defender to the floor, but both are wonderful to watch and really good at what they do. So too are the teams they play for — heck Lowry was a big reason why the Raptors won the title. For 364 days of the year, we should shout them out and get our more casual hoops fan friends to give them a chance on TV.
Just not on Christmas Day.
Throw all basketball morals out the window on this date. Every year on Dec. 25, I just want to park myself on the couch and watch petty-as-hell beef, with big names giving me stuff to retweet. Christmas is a 24-hour fantasy land of holiday goodness, and our basketball should be no different. This day is all about the league’s occasional viewers and luring them to watch on Dec. 26 and beyond, after all.
That’s why it’s disappointing to see the NBA’s best bad shot-maker and weird quote-giver absent from the Christmas slate this season. Believe it or not, Kyrie Irving and the Brooklyn Nets are nowhere to be found on the schedule. Irving is the King of Highlights, good for at least one “oh my god” shriek from fans per game, and the biggest postgame wildcard the league has. He makes the best TV. And now he’s in New York, the league’s biggest market! But he still won’t be on our TVs for Christmas. Did the NBA forget Irving was its 2018 Dec. 25 star with 40 points in an overtime win over the Sixers?
For the most part, the NBA gave us a high-upside day of games this Christmas that are ripe for big moments and hot takes. We won’t know the order until the league announces the full schedule on Aug. 12, but the five games will reportedly be:
That’s pretty good! But here’s how I’d make it better.
We don’t need the best teams playing on Christmas, nor do we need the best players. We need the most exciting players, and Trae Young and Luka Doncic fit that bill. Plus, there’s history in the form of the their teams famously swapping them on draft day. That move will follow their careers forever, so let’s give them a platform to add talking points to it.
Also, let’s show the league’s casual fans that new rivalries are here in the making.
Game 2: Warriors at Rockets
Keep this game right where it is. Hype surrounding Warriors vs. Rockets already sparks debate on its own with its (lopsided) history, and this year will feature the teams in a much different light. For starters, no Kevin Durant in Golden State and an injured Klay Thompson means we get to see Steph Curry launch into oblivion on Christmas. Will he go for 50? 60?
Plus, James Harden is now joined by RUSSELL WESTBROOK in the backcourt for Houston after one of the most absurd offseason trades saw Chris Paul go to the OKC Thunder. This is going to be an incredible matchup.
Game 3: Clippers at Lakers
This is the main event. The league got this game perfect. The Battle for L.A., as it’s sure to be branded, features the two title favorites and four probable Hall of Famers. LeBron James and Anthony Davis vs. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.
Oh hell yeah.
Game 4: Pelicans at Nets
Kyrie Irving vs. Zion Williamson is the game both we and Instagram deserve. Sure, the Nets and Pels won’t be Finals contenders this year, but their two stars are premier entertainers. Williamson’s slams and Irving’s crossovers are two elements that help make the NBA as popular as it is.
And you have to bring this game to Barclays.
Game 5: Bucks at Blazers
Let your stars play on Christmas! Giannis Antetokounmpo is soon to be the most popular player in the league and is coming off an MVP year. Let him end the night against Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, for those still awake enough to watch as the day comes to a close.
There you have it, the perfect NBA Christmas in 2019.