The first NBA game played on December 25 came in 1947, a year after the NBA’s inception, when the New York Knicks Defeat the Providence Steamrollers at Madison Square Garden 89–75.
Since then, the NBA has played with games each year on Christmas Day except in 1998 (if a lockout canceled half the 1998–99 season). In contrast, Major League Baseball is in its own off-season throughout Christmas, the National Football League only schedules Christmas games when Christmas falls on the weekend (and even then only programs games on Christmas sometimes ) and the National Hockey League’s collective bargaining agreement forbids playing matches on Christmas Day (and, except if it falls on a Saturday, Christmas Eve too ). In college football, the only bowl game traditionally scheduled for Christmas has become the defunct Aloha Bowl (and for a single season, its replacement, the Hawaii Bowl). Therefore, the NBA is the only league.
In the early days proximity dictated the majority of the matchups. Teams would usually perform with their rivals to cut down on holiday travel and also to let them have time with their families. According to Dr. Jack Ramsay, who coached the Portland Trail Blazers from 1976–77 (their sole tournament season) into 1986,”Christmas supposed being at home with all the family and using a match we always won. This was a perfect Christmas for me personally.” He also set the record for most coaching victories on Christmas Day with 11, an achievement that Phil Jackson later matched in 2008.
The New York Knicks put on a show three years. In 1 match (1984), hall-of-fame forward Bernard King scoring 60 points–the most ever scored by a participant on Christmas Day, Together with the advent of television and the excitement brought on by these games, the NBA decided to scheduled matches over the vacation that showcased the best teams and players.