So what does a traditional Christmas Day in America mean anymore? Glad you asked. It means the birth of Christ, presents, wreaths, Kobe Bryant, evergreen trees in the family room, kids, David Stern, Santa Claus, lights, the Celtics, chestnuts roasting on an open fire, the Lakers, tinsel, dunks, hot cocoa, the NBA on TV, "It's a Wonderful Life," the Knicks ...
Does that about cover it?
Look, I hate to snow on the parade here, but how did the NBA horn in on Christmas Day?
The NBA opens its lockout-delayed season with five games on Christmas Day, which falls on Sunday this year. They played five games on Christmas last season, as well.
I know, this isn't going to be popular with everyone — I can feel your Internet comments already — but enough already.
The NBA on Christmas Day means people will have to leave their families and go to work on Christmas — players, coaches, referees, concessionaires, ushers, parking attendants, local businesses, dancing girls, TV and radio employees, reporters, the mascot, water boys, custodians.
How about skipping Christmas Day and giving everyone a break?
How about following the NFL's lead? NFL officials moved their full schedule from Sunday to Saturday afternoon, so players (and fans) could be home with their families. They have only one game scheduled for Sunday, and it will be at night. But, then, the NFL is always one step ahead of the NBA anyway.
Look, during the winter and spring, NBA and college basketball games are televised almost every day of the week, and the NFL is on three nights a week — Sunday, Monday and Thursday — and last week Saturday was added to the list. Do they really need more sports on Christmas Day?
Former Laker coach Phil Jackson, whose parents were ministers, complained to ESPN about the situation last year.
"It's like Christian holidays don't mean anything to them anymore," he said. "We just go out and play and entertain the TV. It's really weird."
The NBA has been playing games on every Christmas Day since 1947, except for the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season. Now the trend is to add games to the Christmas schedule.
"It used to be two teams," Jackson said. "It used to be Phoenix and L.A. and New York and Boston or New York and Philly or somebody on the East coast. Now I see that they have like (five) games on Christmas."
Coming to the point, he said, "I don't think anybody should play on Christmas Day ... I don't understand it."
It's simple and predictable: TV ratings are high for Christmas Day games, and that means money, and that's reason enough to do anything anymore.
In 2009, Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy, noting that Christmas should be spent with family, told reporters that the NBA shouldn't play on Christmas.
"I actually feel sorry for people who have nothing to do on Christmas Day other than watch an NBA game," he said.
Van Gundy was just getting warmed up. "I think we get a little carried away with ourselves with sports thinking we're more important than everything else," he said. "But that's the way it is. There's nothing more important than the NBA on Christmas Day.
"Obviously basketball is very important to me, but there are some days of the year where it's got to take a back seat to something ... if I had my way, we'd take a five-day break at Christmas."
The Magic were fined for the coach's comments. A year later, according to the Orlando Sentinel, he sarcastically suggested the NBA should have more games on Christmas Day, which earned him another fine from the league.
"I think the NBA is so important to Christmas that what we really need to do is increase from five games to 10," Van Gundy said last December. "And we need to start them at midnight on Christmas Eve and play 'em all through the day so there's not a minute of Christmas Day where there's not a game on TV. The NBA is Christmas."
And how do the players feel about it? LeBron James told reporters last December, "If you ask any player in the league, we'd rather be home with our families. 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."
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