As a kid, Christmas usually ended with me in front of the telvision watching the Chicago Bulls play basketball, which in those years, was one of the few times I could watch them play a live game. I enjoyed my favorite holiday with the Bulls during the 1990s, when they played almost every year. During their first 2 decades in existence, the Bulls played 7 Christmas games, their first one being in 1966, a 133-132 loss to the Knicks in New York. The Bulls did not win on Christmas Day until 1971 (their 4th game) when they beat Portland 109-88, and the Bulls’ only other win before the 1990s came against Kansas City in 1976. This year the Los Angeles Lakers will visit Chicago, and I wanted to use “This Week in Bulls History” to feature the best of the Bulls on Christmas Day.
1986: The Bulls spent Christmas in New York where Michael Jordan finished with 30 points and Patrick Ewing scored 28 and pulled in 17 rebounds. However, it was Ewing’s last two points at the buzzer that, in the words of Bob Sakamoto, put Ewing in the “roll of Scrooge and ruined the Bulls Christmas” with and 86-85 loss. Sam Quinn at Bleacher Report ranked this game as #3 on his list of the best Christmas Day games in NBA History.
From 1990-1997 the Bulls were a constant feature on Christmas and they dominated the holiday. They won all 7 over the course of the decade and treated Bulls fans to the most memorable Christmas Day games.
1990: The Bulls were at home on Christmas for the first time when the Detroit Pistons visited in 1990. Despite being Christmas, the game had the typical hostility that accompanied a Bulls/Pistons matchup in the late 80s and early 90s. Horace Grant was ejected, Michael Jordan scored 37 points, and the Bulls beat the Pistons 98-86. Jordan, whose son was born the previous day, summed up his feelings on the Christmas win by saying, “I figured the only way it would get better is if we went out and beat up on the Pistons.”
1992: I remember watching this game from a brand new Bulls bean bag chair (which I still own) wearing every piece of Bulls clothings I recieved Christmas morning. In 1992 the Knicks came to Chicago and Michael Jordan delivered a 42 point performance. The Bulls won 89-77 for their 13th straight regular season win over the Knicks in Chicago Stadium.
1993: The Bulls and their fans celebrated Christmas without Michael Jordan in 1993 but the Orlando Magic came to Chicago Stadium with the Bulls on an 8 game winning streak. Scottie Pippen played all 48 minutes and finished with 28 points while rookie Toni Kukoc, who had 11 of his 17 points in the 4th quarter, which included the game-winner with 2 seconds left to give the Bulls a 95-93 win. “I made some bad decisions before the last one,” said Kukoc, “but we won and that’s the most important thing-to keep winning and for all the guys to have a happy Christmas.”
1994: This was the first Christmas in the United Center where a struggling Bulls played the New York Knicks. Scottie Pippen, who, for the 2nd straight Christmas played the entire game, had 36 points and 16 rebounds. He also scored all of the Bulls points in overtime and sealed the game with 2 straight blocks in the final seconds that sealed the 107-104 victory. However, it was Steve Kerr who recieved the best present of all, redemption from an embarrassing mistake at the end of regulation that put the game into overtime. “It was embarrassing,” said Kerr. “And not only does it happen on Christmas night but on national television.”
I have 2 questions: First, I wonder how many brand new gadgets and other gifts were destroyed at the end of this game? Second, which is worse: the Hinrich foul against Dallas a few weeks ago or Steve Kerr’s Christmas mistake?
The Bulls played on Christmas again in 1997, a 90-80 win over Miami, but were not featured in the NBA’s Christmas lineup again until 2010. Since 2010, with the exception of the thrilling 88-87 win over the Lakers to open the 2011-2012 season, the games have been forgettable. However, the Bulls have once again become a permanent feature of the NBA’s holiday tradition which hopefully will result in more memorable games that give us all a reason to cheer on Christmas.
Complete list of Bulls Christmas games
Christmas Record: 11 Wins and 7 Losses
1966 at New York 133-132 L
1968 at Cincinnati 103-98 L
1970 at Baltimore 128-112 L
1971 at Portland 109-88 W
1972 at Phoenix 155-108 L
1976 at Kansas City 96-91 W
1986 at New York 86-85 L
1990 vs Detroit 98-86 W
1991 vs Boston 121-99 W
1992 vs New York 89-77 W
1993 vs Orlando 95-93 W
1994 vs New York 107-104 W
1996 vs Detroit 95-83 W
1997 vs Miami 90-80 W
2010 at New York 103-95 L
2011 at Los Angeles 88-87 W
2012 vs Houston 120-97 L
2013 at Brooklyn 95-78 W
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