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Most Expensive Christmas Games in Recent NBA History

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When you’re running down the grand Christmas traditions that define the season, you’re likely to hear plenty about ostentatious lighting displays, stockings and seeing Santa Claus at the local mall. But for some Americans, it’s the NBA games on Christmas Day they’re looking forward to almost as much as opening gifts. The NBA has been playing basketball on Christmas Day since the league’s second season in 1947 — and the games are often premier matchups.

Of course, scoring a ticket to actually attend these high-profile, nationally televised games in person can be extremely pricey. A recent blog post from event ticket search engine TicketIQ logged the priciest Christmas Day games to attend during the nine-year period from 2011 to 2018, revealing that the average price for spending a couple of hours with LeBron James, Steph Curry, James Harden, et al can often run into the hundreds, even thousands of dollars.

So, here’s a closer look at the games TicketIQ identified as the most expensive Christmas Day NBA games from the last nine years — as well as a look forward at this year’s games and what it’ll cost you to watch one in person.

Last updated: Dec. 20, 2019

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Boston Celtics vs. Philadelphia 76ers

  • Year: 2018
  • Get-in price: $117
  • Average price: $459

Ktr101 / Wikimedia Commons CC-BY-SA 3

What Made It Great

After years of being the league’s punching bag, the resurgent 76ers met the Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals at the end of the 2017-2018 season. Boston eventually won that playoff series in five games. The two teams met again on Christmas the following season, and the Celtics once again topped the Sixers in a 121-114 overtime game.

Marco / Flickr.com

New York Knicks vs. Boston Celtics

  • Year: 2016
  • Get-in price: $130
  • Average price: $461

littlenySTOCK / Shutterstock.com

What Made It Great

Typically, Christmas Day games feature the top teams from the previous year — particularly the ones that garner enough attention to shoot ticket prices into the stratosphere. And then, sometimes it’s just teams from two of the nation’s largest media markets that proves a huge draw. The Knicks were coming off a dreary 32-50 season in 2015-2016 — and were en route to an even drearier 31-51 finish for the 2016-2017 season — when they faced off with the Celtics during Yuletide 2016. The end result was a five-point Celtics win, 119-114.

Andrés Nieto Porras / Flickr.com

New York Knicks vs. Philadelphia 76ers

  • Year: 2017
  • Get-in price: $167
  • Average price: $469

Frank Franklin/AP / Shutterstock.com

What Made It Great

The Knicks were among the most sought-after draws on Christmas Day in 2017, in spite of the fact that they were in the midst of a 50-loss season. Again. The 76ers were also struggling when the game was played — coming into the contest at 15-18. The Sixers would defeat the subpar Knicks 105-98, though, en route to turning their season around and finishing third overall in the Eastern Conference by season’s end — making the playoffs for the first time since 2012.

Elliott Cowand Jr / Shutterstock.com

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Chicago Bulls

  • Year: 2011
  • Get-in price: $100
  • Average price: $492

simonkr / Getty Images

What Made It Great

Not only did this game match two of the best teams of the 2010-2011 season, it also represented the first game of the strike-shortened 2011-2012 season. In this case, even though the Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks were facing off in the traditional Christmas Day Finals rematch that same day, getting a seat at the Staples Center to watch the Bulls edge the Lakers 88-87 was the bigger draw.

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New York Knicks vs. Boston Celtics

  • Year: 2011
  • Get-in price: $149
  • Average price: $515

Ajay Suresh / Wikimedia Commons CC-BY-SA 2

What Made It Great

The rematch of the 2011 NBA Finals this Christmas wasn’t even the second-most sought after ticket of the day. In addition to the Lakers-Bulls matchup, the Celtics and Knicks at Madison Square Garden also saw tickets go for more. And while the Celtics ended up kicking off the strike-shortened season with a loss — 106-104 — they wound up winning their division and making it all the way to game seven of the Eastern Conference finals before they were eliminated by the Heat.

Better Stock / Shutterstock.com

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Miami Heat

  • Year: 2013
  • Get-in price: $124
  • Average price: $536

jcamilobernal / Getty Images

What Made It Great

The star wattage of the Miami Heat in the 2013-2014 season — not to mention the fact that they were coming off of back-to-back NBA titles — made them an easy pick for this prime slot. This was also the last season before LeBron took his talents away from South Beach and broke up the big three of himself, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. The Lakers, however, limped into this game with a 13-16 record and an injured Kobe Bryant — ultimately losing 101-95. Those paying customers who parted with over $500, on average, saw a combined 65 points from Miami’s talented trio.

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Los Angeles Lakers vs. Los Angeles Clippers

  • Year: 2015
  • Get-in price: $157
  • Average price: $787

aimintang / Getty Images

What Made It Great

One wonders how the Clippers managed in such a difficult road environment. But, manage they did, defeating the Lakers 94-84 behind double-doubles from DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin. So, anyone whose big Christmas wish for 2015 was getting to watch Jack Nicholson get really upset on live television owes the Clippers some milk and cookies.

wellesenterprises / Getty Images

Golden State Warriors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

  • Year: 2017
  • Get-in price: $197
  • Average price: $818

Rich Lonardo / Shutterstock.com

What Made It Great

This marked the third straight time the Warriors and Cavaliers met on Christmas Day after clashing in the prior season’s NBA Finals. But, if basketball fans were getting sick of seeing King James and the Cavaliers tilt with Curry, Klay Thompson and the rest of the Warriors, it wasn’t reflected in the ticket prices. This 99-92 Golden State win saw an average ticket price of over $800.

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Golden State Warriors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

  • Year: 2015
  • Get-in price: $265
  • Average price: $1,011

Guillaume Meunier / Flickr.com

What Made It Great

Had the league any idea that 2015 was just the first of four straight NBA Finals meetings between the Cavs and the Warriors, they might have taken this Christmas off. But, back in 2015, James’ glorious return to Cleveland and Golden State’s death-from-behind-the-arc offense were still pretty fresh. The Warriors edged out the Cavs in a low-scoring affair, 89-83, but James and the Cavs would have the last laugh later in the season, coming back from a 3-1 deficit to beat Golden State in the Finals for the franchise’s first — and to this date, only — NBA championship.

Golden State Warriors vs. Los Angeles Lakers

  • Year: 2018
  • Get-in price: $280
  • Average price: $1,292

nikk_la / Flickr.com

What Made It Great

The NBA’s tradition of having LeBron James play on Christmas Day continued in 2018. This game marked the 12th consecutive year in which James played on Christmas — and he’s scheduled to play again this Christmas when the Lakers take on the Clippers.

Even though James was on Cleveland when he last met the Warriors, seeing him square off against his old foes in his new Lakers uni proved too big of a draw for deep-pocketed fans. This 127-101 road win for the Lakers was the single priciest Christmas Day ticket from 2011-2018.

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A Look at Christmas Day 2019

The classic Finals rematch on Christmas Day won’t be taking place this year. But, once again, the day will feature the biggest star of the previous season’s Finals — Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, who jumped ship from the Toronto Raptors to sign with the Clippers — and plenty of other matchups containing some of the game’s biggest names.

Ticket pricing information pulled from StubHub on Dec. 12, 2019.

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Milwaukee Bucks vs. Philadelphia 76ers

  • Get-in Price: $62.97
  • Best Available: $5,940

Dphilmore / Wikimedia Commons CC-BY-SA 3

What Will Make It Great

These two Eastern Conference giants will cross swords on Christmas with both teams off to hot starts. It will see some of the top big men in the game battling down low with Milwaukee’s reigning league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and the 76ers’ towering talent Joel Embiid.

JHVEPhoto / Shutterstock.com

Boston Celtics vs. Toronto Raptors

  • Get-in Price: $92.95
  • Best Available: $3,254.07


Shaheen Karolia / Flickr.com

What Will Make It Great

Without Kawhi Leonard, the reigning NBA champs will likely have their hands full matching up with the Celtics. The game will feature plenty of young talent on both sides, including Pascal Siakam — who leads the Raptors in points and rebounds — and the Celtics’ dynamic duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.

franckreporter / Getty Images

Los Angeles Clippers vs. Los Angeles Lakers

  • Get-in Price: $291.83
  • Best Available: $24,000

Joan Campderrós-i-Canas / Flickr.com

What Will Make It Great

Two words: beanie giveaway. Why else — aside from a complimentary promotional knitted cap — would some tickets be going for over 20 grand? Oh, sure, the game will feature a tilt between James’ Lakers — now red-hot due to the offseason addition of Anthony Davis — and the Clippers with their own new additions in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. But come on. Beanie giveaway.

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New Orleans Pelicans vs. Denver Nuggets

  • Get-in Price: $18.60
  • Best Available: $3,345.60

Katherine Welles / Shutterstock.com

What Will Make It Great

With the now-Anthony Davis-less Pelicans bringing up the rear in the Southwest Division — not to mention the absence of phenom Zion Williamson, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 draft, who has yet to suit up in the regular season after undergoing knee surgery in October — this game might not stir up the same level of excitement as the day’s other matchups. However, the Nuggets finished second in the Western Conference last season in an extremely competitive year and remain among the top teams this year, so NBA fans are likely still looking forward to the chance to see Denver in action.

Eric Risberg/AP / Shutterstock.com

Houston Rockets vs. Golden State Warriors

  • Get-in Price: $81.59
  • Best Available: $32,226.34

Sundry Photography / Shutterstock.com

What Will Make It Great

With the Warriors down both Klay Thompson and Steph Curry to major injuries, this might not be quite the marquee matchup NBA schedulers were imagining when they penciled it in. But the Rockets parted ways with Chris Paul this offseason and replaced him with Russell Westbrook — one of the league’s most dynamic talents. Seeing him and James Harden — arguably two of the best guards in the game — play the Warriors on Christmas Day might still qualify as event television for basketball fans.

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Photo Disclaimer: Please note photos are for representational purposes only. As a result, photos reflect where each Christmas game was played and not the specific games listed in the article.