Now that we are in the midst of the holidays, I thought it would be fun to take a look back at some historic Chicago Bulls moments and games played on Christmas. This list is subjective and has no particular order, but here are some moments, that come to mind.
Lakers vs. Bulls - December 25, 2011
It was a lock-out shortened season, so the season started on Christmas day. It was the first Lakers season after Phil Jackson retired from the team. Chicago Bulls was coming out of Derrick Rose MVP season, where the team won 62 games and lost in the Eastern Conference finals to the Miami Heat.
Understandably, this created great hopes for the upcoming season. In the offseason, the Bulls have added Rip Hamilton, who should've been the last piece to the puzzle. Meanwhile, the Lakers entered the next stage after Phil Jackson. The team was different, but they still had Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol.
Boy, was it a fun game? Kobe scored 14 points in the first half. Rose responded with 10. Early in the second half, Chicago had a 7-point lead, but the Lakers made a comeback. At one point they've outscored Chicago 27-12.
Late in the fourth quarter with 3:30 left on the clock, the Lakers were up by nine. But then Chicago made a comeback. With under a minute to go, Kobe hit a tough mid-range jay and put LA up six. But Luol Deng scored five in a row and put Chicago down one, with 20 seconds to go. In Chicago's final possession, Derrick hoisted up a shot that anyone who witnessed live won't ever forget...
Bulls vs. Knicks - December 25, 1994
In my opinion, this is the most memorable Bulls Christmas game ever. The historical context at play here as the Bulls took on the Knicks simply made this game an all-time classic.
Prior to that season, Chicago lost Horace Grant, Scott Williams, and Bill Cartwright. Their core interior line guys. Without them, the Bulls struggled and were hovering around .500. Scottie Pippen was sensational and led Chicago in points, rebounds, assists, minutes, steals, and blocks. He was doing everything. Chicago also had Toni Kukoc, B.J. Armstrong, and Ron Harper featured in prominent roles. Their starting bigs in that game were Dickey Simpkins and Will Perdue.
Coming into that game against the Knicks, the Bulls didn't have a longer win streak than 2 games in a row and have lost three out of their last 4 before that game against New York.
On the other side, the Knicks also had a rollercoaster season. They had lost five in a row coming into that game against Chicago but they still had a star-studded roster that made them dangerous on any given night. Patrick Ewing, Charles Oakley, and Derek Harper were the leaders of this team that established itself as one of the favorites in the East.
This ended up becoming one of Pippen's best games of the season, maybe even in his career. He scored 36 points and grabbed 16 rebounds alongside with 5 steals and 3 blocks. Kukoc contributed with 25 points off the bench and a poster on Ewing. Patrick Ewing scored 30 points along with 13 rebounds, and Oakley added 20 in that game. John Starks was thrown out during the game.
The game itself was close. Neither team could've grabbed a bigger lead. New York had a nine-point lead late in the third quarter, but they couldn't push that lead, since Chicago made a quick comeback.
The end of the fourth quarter was insane. With less than a minute left, Chicago had a two-point lead. But then Kukoc took Oakley off the dribble stopped at a free throw line and scored and one, which gave Chicago a five-point lead with about 26 seconds to go.
After that, Ewing dunked the ball, Kukoc made one of the two free throws, and Hubert Davis made a tough mid-range jumper over Pippen, which put New York down two. Then B.J. and Derek Harper traded free throws, Toni once again made just one and Chicago was up by 3 with about three seconds to go. New York had no timeouts.
Anthony Mason threw the ball down the court. The pass was going nowhere, but then Steve Kerr instead of catching the ball, pushed it, Hubert Davis caught the ball and hit a tough three to tie the game.
In overtime, Scottie Pippen took over. He scored seven points and blocked a last shot by Hubert Davis. It was sort of revenge for the 1994 conference semi-finals and that last foul during game five committed by Scottie, which was very controversial at the time. This loss was also the first time ever, that Pat Riley had lost five games in a row.
Bulls vs. Heat - December 25, 1997
The game itself wasn't that memorable, since the Bulls won pretty convincingly, but it was the last Christmas game ever by Michael Jordan wearing a Chicago uniform.
He scored 24 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Toni Kukoc added 19. On Miami's side, Jamal Mashburn scored 20. Tim Hardaway got 18, but it wasn't enough, since Chicago won 90-80. It was also the last game the Bulls would play on Christmas for over a decade, not appearing again until 2010.
It was the last hurrah of the Bulls' dominance because, after that, Chicago went into irrelevancy for quite a long time.