It’s that time of year again and what better gift can the NBA give us than marquee players playing in prime time creating Christmas memories? Be honest, you totally forgot about those nice wool socks aunt Myrtle gave you a few years back, but those yuletide performances by MJ, Kobe and LeBron are frozen in your memory like Ralphie shooting his eye out. Whether it’s the 40 point games by your favorite player or simply a glimpse at their Christmas kicks, December 25th is a special day that the NBA spends with its fans. Here’s a look at some of the best Christmas Day performances in league history and the kicks that accompanied them.
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No. 10 – Carmelo Anthony x Jordan Brand Melo M8 "Olive and Orange"
Game: Knicks 106, Celtics 104 (2011)
Key Technical Feature: Flywire upper, Air Max Units
With the lockout just ending, NBA fans needed something to be hype about. So the NBA said we’re sorry by bringing basketball back on Christmas Day. To start his new beginning in the Big Apple, Carmelo Anthony wore his Olive and Orange Melo M8 and left the Celtics a cool 37 points and eight rebounds under the tree. The Nike Air and Air Max units absorbed everything Melo could dish out. <!--nextpage-->
No. 9 – Brandon Roy x Nike Air Max Rise "Christmas PE"
Game: Trail Blazers 107, Nuggets 96 (2009)
Key Technical Feature: Max Air heel, Herringbone traction patterns
Even though it was just three seasons ago, Brandon Roy giving the Denver Nuggets a 41-piece seems like something from a distant Christmas past. In a fashion smoother than a Motown Christmas album, Roy shot 16-for-26 en route to his 41 points. Getting to the paint and scoring from 18 feet and in, had become something Roy was known for and the herringbone traction patters made coming off screens and sudden stops pretty easy to do.<!--nextpage-->
No. 8 – Kevin Durant x Nike Zoom KD III "No Yield for Yellow"
Game: Thunder 114, Nuggets 106 (2010)
Key Technical Feature: Zoom Air, FlyWire Construction
Christmas not only marks the end of the year, but also the start of a new one. Of the three signature Nike athletes to get a Christmas PE, KD was still playing the role of Tiny Tim. Fresh off his first scoring title, Durant needed something to let everyone know the Swoosh made the right choice by making him marquee guy number three. In his “No Yield for Yellow” Zoom KD III, which introduced the Flywire material to the KD series and added the Zoom Air bag to the forefoot of the shoe to match his running style (he usually comes down on his toes), Durant hung his NBA holiday scoring stocking next to the greats. <!--nextpage-->
No. 7 – Tracy McGrady x adidas The Tmac II
Game: Magic 104, Detroit Pistons 99 (2002)
Key Technical Feature: Torsion System, adiPrene+
Tracy McGrady may not have been very fond of the first round of the playoffs, but he damn sure loved playing on Christmas. He dropped 43 against Indiana in 2000, gave the Cavs 41 lumps of coal in 2003 and scored his career Christmas Day High of 46 points (he also grabbed six boards and had three steals) in 2002 against the Pistons. Rocking the T-Mac II, he scored every point with the assist of the Torsion system allowing for stability and the adiPrene+ forefoot that provided maximum control when T-Mac made moves off the pivot, which he did frequently.<!--nextpage-->
No. 6 – Kobe Bryant x 2K5 Huarache
Game: Miami Heat 104, LA Lakers 102, OT (2004)
Key Technical Feature: Neoprene sockliner, Zoom Air
Before we judge Kobe for coming up short in 2004, let’s think about this: his second option was Lamar Odom (who had 24 points) and his third option was Chucky Brown. Chucky. Brown. This was supposed to be Bryant’s statement game, with Shaq making his first return to the Staples Center since he broke out to South Beach, but Miami was too balanced. Dwyane Wade, Eddie Jones, Udonis Haslem and the Diesel were too much. Kobe, wearing his Zoom Air Huarache 2K5 with signature sockliner and newly added outrigger for balance when attacking, did manage to score 42 points and dish six assists—with Chucky Brown as his third option.<!--nextpage-->
No. 5 – Michael Jordan x Air Jordan VII
Game: Bulls 89, Knicks 77 (1992)
Key Technical Feature: Neoprene sock-liner
After capturing his second NBA title and Olympic run with the Dream Team, Jordan returned to the 1992-93 season with an all gold everything mentality. Two days before meeting up with the Knicks, MJ recorded 57 points, had 10 assists and three steals against the Washington Bullets. Still rocking the Jordan VII’s, which had the neoprene sockliner for a custom fit, Jordan dominated New York from inside and out for 42 points, eight rebounds, five assists and three steals. Here’s a Christmas challenge: Watch this clip and find a spot on the floor Jordan didn’t score from other than the three point line. (Sidenote: Scottie Pippen had 16-9-5-5-3. No other Bull scored more than eight.)
No. 4 – Scottie Pippen x Nike Air Up 94
Game: Bulls 107, Knicks 104 (1994)
Key Technical Feature: Nike Air Unit
Christmas is about giving, family and, if you ask Scottie Pippen, sweet, sweet, revenge. New York beat Pippen’s Bulls (MJ was playing minor league baseball at the time) and robbed him of his moment to escape the G.O.A.T.’s shadow. So before MJ could fax “I’m Back,” Pip put the beats on the Knicks in the form of 36 points, 16 rebounds and five steals. Those numbers sound quite LeBron-ish, but remember, at the time, Pippen was arguably the best small forward to play the game. <!--nextpage-->
No. 3 – Dwyane Wade x Wade 1.3 "Candy Cane"
Game: Heat 101, Lakers 85 (2006)
Key Technical Feature: Poron Foam
One game scheduled, one match up anticipated, one player showed up. With Shaq sidelined and the Christmas lights shining bright, a holiday duel seemed likely, but D-Wade dominated Kobe Bryant, who shot 4-for-17. After capturing a finals MVP and a title with the aforementioned O’Neal, Wade, in his Converse Wade 1.3, went off for 40 points and a Christmas W. The Wade 1.3 was a real ball player friendly shoe, featuring double stitching to ensure security and Poron inserts in the forefront for comfort. A great fit D-Wades style because, at the time, he drove to the basket so hard and ferociously.<!--nextpage-->
No. 2 – Rajon Rondo x Nike Hyperfuse 2011
Game: Celtics 106, Knicks 104 (2011)
Key Technical Feature: Hyperfused Upper
When the NBA returned last Christmas, Rondo gave the league a show. While some had come close, no other player in league history has ever gone 31-13-5-5 on Christmas. Playing in the 2011 Hyperfuse, with its Zoom unit for comfort and herringbone traction pattern, he was equipped to deliver anything. Thirteen gifts for his teammates? Just call him Rondo-Clause.<!--nextpage-->
No. 1 – LeBron James x Nike Air Max LeBron 8 V.2 "Christmas"
Game: Heat 96, Lakers 80 (2010)
Key Technical Feature: FlyWire Upper
LeBron’s “Decision” had been made by the time he and the Heatles hit the Staples Center. MVP caliber seasons were not yet enough to make everyone quit bickering over the new trio in South Beach, but a Christmas day triple-double (27 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists and four assists) was a good way to start. Always a brand about detail, Nike actually made the “Run on Red” LeBron’s an ounce lighter with the all mesh and fly wire upper, in order to fit James’ in season form.