Come Christmas Day 2018, LeBron James and his new team, the Los Angeles Lakers, will be in the national TV spotlight. They have a date with Golden State (8 ET, ABC/ESPN), a team James knows plenty well after matching up with the Warriors in each of the last four NBA Finals.
For James, though, playing on Christmas Day has become a habit. This will mark the 11th consecutive Christmas in which a James-led team has played on the holiday and the 13th Christmas Day game in James’ 16-season career. As the big showdown approaches, let’s take a look back at James’ past Christmas Day games.
* * *
Final score: Magic 113, Cavs 101 (OT)
LeBron’s stats: 34 points, 13-28 FG, 4-10 3pt FG, 2 reb, 6 ast, 2 stl in 47 minutes | Box score
The buzz: In a matchup of two of the NBA’s youngest and most brilliant scoring phenoms, Tracy McGrady and the Magic powered past the rookie James and the Cavs. And, in another blast from the past, Juwan Howard teamed with McGrady in overtime to score 14 of Orlando’s 16 points.
Final score: Cavs 96, Heat 82
LeBron’s stats: 25 points, 9-19 FG, 0-3 3pt FG, 6 reb, 12 ast in 38 minutes | Box score
The buzz: After three years out of the Christmas Day spotlight, James made his presence felt in vanquishing good friend Dwyane Wade and the Heat. Cleveland turned up its defense in the third quarter to spark the win, a run that was capped by a monster James jam with 1:50 left in the quarter.
Final score: Cavs 93, Wizards 89
LeBron’s stats: 18 points, 6-13 FG, 0-2 3pt FG, 5 reb, 6 ast, 3 stl in 38 minutes | Box score
The buzz: This matchup looked enticing before the season began, but by Christmas Day it was hardly that. Injuries had Washington off to a 4-22 start and although the Wizards put up an admirable fight, the Cavs held on late to improve to 15-0 at home.
Final score: Cavs 102, Lakers 87
LeBron’s stats: 26 points, 9-19 FG, 2-7 3pt FG, 4 reb, 9 ast, 2 stl in 40 minutes | Box score
The buzz: This showdown matched two of the NBA’s best teams at the time — remember, the Lakers would go on to win the 2010 Finals — and two of its best players in LeBron and Kobe Bryant. This game, however, was about LeBron’s help (Mo Williams and Shaquille O’Neal, in particular), the Cavs’ physical play and their defense that frustrated the Lakers time and again.
Final score: Heat 96, Lakers 80
LeBron’s stats: 27 points, 8-14 FG, 5-6 3pt FG, 11 reb, 10 ast, 4 stl in 38 minutes | Box score
The buzz: Two months into his debut season with Miami, the reigning two-time Kia MVP James put on a show at Staples Center. He logged a triple-double — the 31st of his career — and traded words with Bryant throughout the game, which had a decidedly playoff-type atmosphere.
Final score: Heat 105, Mavericks 94
LeBron’s stats: 37 points, 11-19 FG, 10 reb, 6 ast, 2 stl, 2 blk in 36 minutes | Box score
The buzz: A lockout-shortened season got started with a rematch of the 2010 Finals and James’ loss in that series was clearly on his mind. James and Wade fueled the Heat blowout as James flirted with another Christmas Day triple-double, all of which got his eventual Kia MVP season off to a roaring success.
Final score: Heat 103, Thunder 97
LeBron’s stats: 29 points, 12-20 FG, 0-3 3pt FG, 8 reb, 9 ast, 2 stl in 41 minutes | Box score
The buzz: This Finals rematch lived up to the hype, as OKC’s Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook each missed potential game-tying 3-pointers in the final 15 seconds. As for James, he racked up his sixth straight win on Christmas, all while barking back and forth at Durant throughout the game.
Final score: Heat 101, Lakers 95
LeBron’s stats: 19 points, 7-14 FG, 0-4 3pt FG, 8 reb, 4 ast in 35 minutes | Box score
The buzz: Bryant wasn’t able to suit up for this game due to a knee injury, but the role player-laden Lakers gave the Heat a game nonetheless. James did most of his damage in the first quarter (10 points on 4-for-5 shooting) as Miami improved to 8-2 in Christmas games (in what was their final LeBron-led game on the holiday).
Final score: Heat 101, Cavs 91
LeBron’s stats: 30 points, 9-16 FG, 2-8 3pt FG, 4 reb, 8 ast in 40 minutes | Box score
The buzz: Five months after returning to Cleveland via free agency, James got his first shot at the Heat as an opposing player in eight-plus years. James, however, was upstaged by a former teammate (Wade) and the guy who took his old job (Luol Deng) in a much-hyped Christmas matchup.
Final score: Warriors 89, Cavs 83
LeBron’s stats: 25 points, 10-26 FG, 1-5 3pt FG, 9 reb, 2 ast in 38 minutes | Box score
The buzz: The Cavs and Warriors provided plenty of thrills in the 2015 Finals, and their rematch six months later kept that theme going. Although James and Co. faltered, both teams were fully healthy for this contest (which wasn’t the case in the 2015 Finals). Outcome aside, this game was a harbinger for an epic 2016 Finals that Cleveland took to claim its long-sought first NBA title.
Final score: Cavs 109, Warriors 108
LeBron’s stats: 31 points, 12-22 FG, 4-8 3pt FG, 13 reb, 4 ast, 2 stl in 40 minutes | Box score
The buzz: This game had to feel like deja vu for the Warriors, as they watched a lead in a key game against the Cavs dwindle in heartbreaking fashion (much like Golden State’s Game 7 in the 2016 Finals). This marked the first matchup between James and Durant on Christmas since 2012 as well. And, with his performance in this game, James became the third player to surpass 300 points on the holiday, joining Kobe Bryant (395) and Oscar Robertson (377).
Final score: Warriors 99, Cavs 92
LeBron’s stats: 20 points, 7-18 FG, 2-7 3pt FG, 6 reb, 6 ast in 40 minutes | Box score
The buzz: James’ final Christmas Day game with the Cavs turned out to be a classic showdown with the rival Warriors. LeBron had a chance to cut the Warriors’ lead to one with 24.5 seconds left, but his shot was blocked by Durant. The ball went off James and Golden State iced the game from there at the free-throw line.