A long time ago in a galaxy far away, the NBA played games on Thanksgiving.
No, seriously. The last NBA Thanksgiving games were Nov. 25, 2010. That was only 11 years ago.
Times have changed and the NBA has ceded Thanksgiving to the all-powerful NFL, and that’s not all the NBA has given up to the NFL. But we digress…
Rather than go head-to-head with Thursday night NFL games, @NBAonTNT entered this season having shifted Ernie, Shaq, Kenny and Charles and the weekly doubleheader they present to Tuesday nights for the rest of 2021 for the first time. https://t.co/EjxXlOUpfN
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) October 27, 2021
As we fill our bellies with all sorts of Thanksgiving fixins and overdose on mediocre football games, let’s take a moment to look back at some pretty amazing NBA Thanksgiving day performances.
#5. Chris Mullin (Indiana Pacers)
Yup. Remember when Mullin ended his career playing in Indiana?
On November 27, 1997, a past-his-prime Mullin lit the expansion Vancouver Grizzlies up for 27 points on 12-19 shooting and 3-for-4 from three.
This was significant, as the Pacers were slow out the gate during the 97-98 season, and this was a win that kept them afloat at .500. They eventually turned the season around and made it to the Eastern Conference finals where they lost to the Chicago Bulls in seven.
#4. Keith Van Horn (New Jersey Nets)
On November 22nd, 2001 Van Horn led the Nets to a 95-90 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers. He finished with 34 points and 13 rebounds while shooting 12 of 21 from the field. Van Horn was the team’s second-leading scorer that season. He helped lead the team to an Eastern Conference championship and a berth in the NBA Finals, where they were swept by the Los Angeles Lakers.
In that same season, Van Horn hit what at the time was the “biggest shot in New Jersey Nets’ history.
That was the first season with point guard Jason Kidd at the helm for the Nets, and Van Horn was a big beneficiary of Kidd’s addition to the team.
#3. Andre Miller (Los Angeles Clippers)
One year later it’s the Nets and Clippers again. But this time the outcome was different. On Nov. 28, 2002, Andre Miller scored 37 points and dished out 16 assists in a Clippers 126-118 OT win over the Nets.
Miller was one of the more underrated NBA players throughout his NBA career, but he had his superstar moments.
This was a big-time performance by Miller for a team that was going nowhere against the defending Eastern Conference champs.
#2. Oscar Robertson (Cincinnati Royals)
What?! There was an NBA team in Cincinnati? Yup. It is the franchise that is the modern-day Sacramento Kings.
Back then they were led by a man who until recently (Russell Westbrook) had been the only player in NBA history to average a triple-double for an entire season, Oscar Robertson.
On Nov. 28, 1963, in a win versus the Philadelphia 76ers, “The Big O” scored 38 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and handed out 16 assists. Robertson was ahead of his time and one of the greatest players to ever play the game.
#1. Wilt Chamberlain (San Francisco Warriors)
A lot of you youngsters turn up your noses at any basketball pre-Steph Curry. But basketball did exist before Steph. We can get into the merits of the quality of play and even the players. But there was a man who dominated his era unlike any other.
On November 26, 1964 “The Big Dipper” played all 48 minutes and scored 63 points and grabbed 32 rebounds. His Warriors lost to the Philadelphia 76ers 128-117, but who cares. That stat line and minutes logged is absurd. The thing is Wilt routinely put up monster numbers like that.
All the questions about would Wilt be as good in today’s game, etc. can never be answered. But in his time he was a giant amongst men.
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