A Guide for NBA Stars Stuck Playing on Christmas Day
The NBA's Christmas day slate is great for fans, but most players are stuck away from home and their families for the holiday. Here are some ways to spend the downtime for those unlucky souls.
Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports
The NBA released its Christmas Day schedule for the upcoming season last night and everyone is very excited about the Milwaukee Bucks big matchup against the New York Knicks. But are their hidden costs here? Sure games on Christmas are good for you, the sports viewer looking to hide somewhere, but they are bad for almost everyone responsible for coaching, playing, refereeing, stadium-staffing, or floor-waxing on the big day.
Waking up on a day that, for most of the western world, is meant to be a day of family, celebration, trees, things of that nature. It’s the holiday EVERY fucking person celebrates to some degree or another, be it as a religious sacrament and celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, an exploration of the bottom of capitalist impulse and an opportunity to teach children how to consume so the economy can stay big and healthy, an excuse to gather the family and eat ham or some other pig product, or, if you’re a real traditionalist, a Pagan Celebration of the birth of the sun, the source of all life and matter in the universe, the only TRUE observable God, a fiery ball of indifference hovering off in the distance, waiting for the ozone layer to collapse so it can burn us all to a crisp.
LeBron James, the floating ball of energy the NBA currently revolves around, has been vociferous in his criticism of the tradition:
“If you ask any player in the league, we’d rather be home with our families,” James said in 2010 before his Miami Heat were set to play the Los Angeles Lakers on the road. “I think the people that even set the games up would rather be home with their family during this day. It’s not just a regular holiday. It’s definitely one of those days that you wish you could wake up in the morning with the kids and open up presents.”
Ahh, the double-edged blessing and pain of the Christmas Day game! Certainly, playing in one implies that you are a member of a certain class of team, a squad who accomplished big things the year before and seems poised to accomplish much more in the year to come. BUT, the price of this fame and success is alienation—from your family, from the the traditions of your youth, and from the celebration of the broader world.
It’s tremendously sad, in its way, but the cost of success is inconvenience. And anyway, not all hope is lost: the human mind and spirit are ingenious, and there is plenty of holiday joy to be found out there on the road, in whatever strange city you may find yourself in. And so, for the convenience and edification of the players who will be stuck away from their families on December 25, we offer some suggestions for how they can cope.
12:00 PM ET: Milwaukee Bucks vs. New York Knicks
This is a big moment for the NBA’s kind, long-limbed, muscular boy, Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Greek Freak. It's an opportunity to absolutely lay waste to a team full of chumps and bums in front of an increasingly irritable crowd who will absolutely be looking for an opportunity to turn on the Knicks somewhere around Giannis’s thirty-seventh or so point. The rush of demolishing your opponent while they slowly lose support from their home is the biggest shot of adrenaline you can possibly feel, it’s basically the thrill of winning a war.
There’s no reason for Giannis to leave this feeling behind once he steps off the hardwood. Instead of shuffling back to the hotel and playing Fortnite or whatever it is youths do in hotel rooms, I implore Giannis to take to the Manhattan streets, steal cars, and declare homes and businesses to be “The Property of the Freak, Now.” He should recruit anyone he sees drifting on those cold Christmas streets to come inside the warm arms of the Freak, to huddle together and create a mass of human beings that will lead a movement to make Giannis the King of New York. Not in some corny-ass sports way but, like, actually the king, owning the fiefdom. He will knight dudes and dole out lands to vassals and arrange marriages to remain powerful and rich. The whole domain of the City is within your reach, Giannis… you just need the followers, sitting there on the streets for the taking.
3:00 PM ET: Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Houston Rockets
After taking a beating at the hands of the vastly superior Houston Rockets, Russell Westbrook is going to go back to his hotel room and carve everything he did in the game into his mattress, so he can more deeply engrain his various minor accomplishments into his mind and soul, as he does after every game.
For everyone else, though, a cleansing will be needed from the pure filth that builds inside the mind and spirit when you play for the Oklahoma City Thunder. They will need to get in a car and drive out to the Texas desert—no water, only a big block of salt and some cold pre-game buffet raviolis for sustenance—sit on the sand and just sweat, sweat until there's nothing left in you, sweat until you've drained out all the hatred and loathing and complicity in lining the pockets of a dude who made his fortune fracking, leaving you an empty vessel. Watch the sun set off into the distance and spend some time just, like, looking at the stars, alone and empty and happy for a split second. Then get back into the car and drive back to civilization, where you will suck in all that evil once again.
5:30 PM ET Philadelphia 76ers vs. Boston Celtics
Woof, Boston. No one wants to be ANYWHERE less, but on Christmas, it really takes it out of you. A rational person would fake an injury, chill at home and read a book, but professional athletes live to compete, so that’s probably out of the picture.
The only MORAL thing you can do, here, is walk out of that stadium and go door to door, barging in on every Christmas celebration you can find, and trying your damnedest to convince everyone you talk to that it’s time for them and their family to move anywhere—ANYWHERE—to get away from Boston. Ben Simmons can talk about Australia, with its Kangaroos and outbacks, neither of which Boston has. Joel Embiid can celebrate the virtues of the great nation of Cameroon, which might not be perfect, but is, at the least, not Boston, Massachusetts. J.J. Redick, unfortunately, will try to convince a poor family that they would be better off in North Carolina, but accidentally be slowly sold on Boston and wake up the next day with a gross haircut and his number retired in the Garden. Tragic, really, but so is LIFE.
8:00 PM ET Los Angeles Lakers vs. Golden State Warriors
The Bay Area: really lovely, if not for all the wind. LeBron James, separated from his family and annoyed at the ritual he gets forced into every year, can find some peace in one of San Francisco’s many municipal parks, where he can take advantage of the winter weather and gently fly a humble kite while wearing a massive, Nike branded pea-coat. As he looks at the kite, getting yanked to and fro by the wind, his mind will naturally drift to his broader life, like that kite up there, staying afloat only by the providence of his tremendous control.
Sooner or later a gust or a dip will hit, and the kite will fall or somehow lose control. In this moment, LeBron will feel the chill of fate, pulling at his soul. Was that wind?, he will think. Will the Lakers make a move that will plunge them into the bottom of the league while he’s still there and make him look like a colossal asshole? Is it the vagaries of injury, which can strike at any second? The bottom falling out of one of his many projects, some shit beyond his control sending him scattering in the wind? Is it his children, disappointing him? His wife or a business partner leaving out of nowhere? Certainly, the kite can’t stay up forever, he will think. I am in control now, but the gusts of life will come, and then what will I do? Can I keep the kite afloat, or raise it in the air once more?
10:30 PM ET Portland Trail Blazers vs. Utah Jazz
Well hey, if you’re gonna be traveling for work on Christmas, there’s no better place to be than Utah. The Mormons are the last practitioners of The Great Christmas Kitsch Arts, and they will fill your mind and your heart with holiday joy as you listen to their choir, devour their unnervingly perfect Christmas cookies, and go caroling in their beautiful neighborhoods, each more immaculately decorated than the last.
And, bonus: since you, as an NBA player, are a millionaire, you can purchase access to the basement of the Mormon Tabernacle, where the yearly orgy designed to establish balance in the broader world will be happening. Butts and dicks and limbs, flying everywhere, getting inserted into everything, holiday themed bread puddings falling into your mouth and onto your privates, ALL FOR THE PURPOSE of exorcising the impurities and sins of the world and burying them deep under the ground and away from the surface. No one does Christmas like Utah, you better believe it.