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Was LeBron James justified to complain about Miami Heat’s Christmas road game?

Dec 26, 2013, 10:15 AM EDT

The Miami Heat beat the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday, extending Miami’s win streak to six games, an active NBA best.

The Heat should feel good.

The Heat do feel good.

But there was still a little griping before Miami’s Christmas title with the Lakers, played in Los Angeles.

Ethan Skolnick of Bleacher Report:

Truth be told, LeBron James didn’t really want to be here. None of them did. It never made much sense, a viewpoint that Dwyane Wade—among others—made clear to Adam Silver last month, when the commissioner-in-waiting visited the Miami Heat. Silver promised the players that, if they won another championship, they would be home for the next Christmas.

“Great incentive, huh?” James quipped prior to Miami’s mostly uneven but occasionally electric 101-95 win against the Los Angeles Lakers. “Growing up, I thought that was a rule. I don’t know if it was a rule, but I just thought that was like given. I don’t remember ever, besides, I guess, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen M.J. play on the road on Christmas. Maybe in the Garden, maybe.”

“I always thought if you win a championship, you kind of get some perks,” James said. “But we’ve been on the road, we’ve definitely been on the road. But it’s alright. Whatever.”

I’d never heard of the defending NBA champion being entitled to a home game on Christmas before reading this, but recent history supports LeBron’s claim.

The previous four defending champions – including LeBron’s Heat in 2012 – played at home on Christmas.

But before that, there was hardly a definitive Christmas schedule for the defending champion.

Since the league began scheduling Christmas games in 1947, defending champions have been more likely to not play at all on Christmas than play at home. Here are the splits:

  • Home: 23
  • Road: 20
  • None: 24

The defending champion usually playing on Christmas is just a recent phenomenon. Between 1978 and 1987, no defending champion played on Christmas. Since then, the splits favor more home games, but hardly definitively:

  • Home: 13
  • Road: 8
  • None: 5

Here’s the Christmas location for every defending champion in league history (click to enlarge):



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Trying to find a way to give LeBron the benefit of the doubt proves difficult. Not even back-to-back defending champs, like the Heat, get a guaranteed home Christmas game.

The 1998 Chicago Bulls – featuring Michael Jordan, whom LeBron cited – had just won back-to-back-to-back titles, and they didn’t even get a Dec. 25 game. In 1995, the Houston Rockets were defending champions, and they had to play on the road, as did the Detroit Pistons in 1990 and Lakers in 1988.

LeBron is correct that defending champions get perks. This just isn’t one of them.

  1. pfic15 - Dec 26, 2013 at 10:20 AM

    Millionaires being millionaires. Easy solution: don’t win it all this year and see what happens next Christmas.

    • asimonetti88 - Dec 26, 2013 at 10:57 AM

      LeBron can afford to fly his family out to Los Angeles with him and put them up in a nice hotel and still have a relatively nice Christmas Day.

      What about the people at Staples Center who are working minimum wage on Christmas Day? I feel much worse for them.

      • pfic15 - Dec 26, 2013 at 11:09 AM

        Same here. Life on the mountain tops ….what about those of us in the valley?

  2. basketballhooper1 - Dec 26, 2013 at 10:33 AM

    All this little queen does is complain, please stop reporting stories on his complaints, makes it kinda hard to ignore.

    • gofinsgoheatfloria - Dec 26, 2013 at 10:47 AM

      Please stop commenting about stories on his complaints, males you kinda hard to ignore.

    • antistratfordian - Dec 26, 2013 at 2:29 PM

      Cry more.

    • money2long - Dec 26, 2013 at 4:35 PM

      I find it funny that people can state their case of what irritates them and this and that, and then end it by saying, it’s alright, whatever. aha. which one is

      • 00maltliquor - Dec 26, 2013 at 7:17 PM


  3. flyrocket31 - Dec 26, 2013 at 10:40 AM

    I think its the NBA trying to make more money. they know the Heat sellout when theyre on the road so they schedule them on christmas for road games cause they know not many Miami “fans” are going to go to the game if its there.

    • gofinsgoheatfloria - Dec 26, 2013 at 11:06 AM

      Right, on how the Heat draw on the road:

      but if Miami fans don’t go to games, please explain why NBA GMs say the Heat enjoy the 4th best home-court advantage in the league::

    • kinggw - Dec 26, 2013 at 11:14 AM

      How exactly does the Heat playing in LA make the league more money? That doesn’t make any sense.

      • redbaronx - Dec 26, 2013 at 12:51 PM

        @kinggw – I think the Lakers are pretty much sold out for all their home games. I don’t think the Heat playing would bring out any more fans.

  4. 1972wasalongtimeago - Dec 26, 2013 at 10:58 AM

    What perks? Don’t forget their being on the road (Cleveland…blech) for Thanksgiving too.

    Look, worse things can happen than playing in LA on Christmas, but he’s right. The league needs to remember who been buttering their bread for 3+ years.

  5. metalhead65 - Dec 26, 2013 at 11:12 AM

    this why fans outside of the miami hate the heat. all they do is whine! oh Michael and the bulls never played a road game ob

    • metalhead65 - Dec 26, 2013 at 11:15 AM

      sorry computer problem. the bulls also never whined about uniforms or all the other things the heat cry about. they were champs and let their winning do the talking for them. these guys are not happy unless they are being talked about. shut up and let your playing do the talking! nobody wants to hear spoiled millionaire complain about anything!

    • blueintown - Dec 26, 2013 at 12:08 PM

      The above link will literally take you to a story about the Bulls complaining about uniforms.

      • cwilson6843 - Dec 27, 2013 at 1:53 PM

        Yea wasn’t mj responsible for the change of shorts? I mean I’m glad he did but still

  6. Craig W. - Dec 26, 2013 at 11:14 AM

    This was the first time Kobe didn’t play on Christmas in 14 years – many of them on the road – and he was there this year for his team. I think Lebron should concentrate on more important things. Playing on Christmas – regardless whether it is home or away – means your team is relevant to NBA viewership and this is something to be glad for.

  7. mat9844 - Dec 26, 2013 at 11:17 AM

    Doctors, Nurses, Policemen, Soldiers, and others all work Christmas day and don’t get the kind of money LBJ gets. To quote the Good Book ‘to whom much is given, much is required’

  8. 1972wasalongtimeago - Dec 26, 2013 at 11:41 AM

    Oh and the Super Bowl is in NY on Sunday, Feb 2. So what does the league to to try to take away some attention? Why the book the Heat to be in NY on Sat night, Feb 1.

    Don’t worry league, we’re here for you 24/7/365. Whatever you need.

  9. cantonbound13 - Dec 26, 2013 at 11:42 AM

    Cleveland wasn’t on the road Christmas Day. Go back, problem solved.

    • soflasfinest - Dec 26, 2013 at 11:49 AM

      You should go back into hiding like you always do after the Heat win the ship. Problem solved for the rest of us.

      • leahcima1 - Dec 26, 2013 at 4:15 PM

        Cantonjerk0 can’t, he just mastered the spelling of Cleveland. It’ll take fat boy years to master the spelling Cavaliers. Beside that the sanitation department threw him out of his sewer and he’s homeless.

      • cantonbound13 - Dec 27, 2013 at 5:41 AM

        I never went into hiding, loser. I was one of the first ones on here after they won congratulating them. Next time you open your fat mouth, know the facts, idiot!

  10. jadaruler - Dec 26, 2013 at 12:37 PM

    I don’t care about the Heat being at home or the road, just give us better matchups. An exciting, young Pacers team sat at home so we could watch the Brooklyn Nets. I understand the Knicks game, but why wasn’t the second game Clippers vs. Heat? Showcasing the league’s 3 biggest pitchmen (Griffin, James, and Paul).

  11. fotydaze - Dec 26, 2013 at 2:21 PM

    It’s more than fans in the seats and sellouts, it’s advertising dollars. A team from NY is a much bigger draw than a team from Indiana. And Lebron, no matter how many titles Jesus Shuttlesworth wins for you the Lakers will always be the gold standard of the NBA

  12. antistratfordian - Dec 26, 2013 at 2:26 PM

    Well it should be one of them. It doesn’t seem right for the defending champs to have to go play on the road in some bad team’s house on Christmas.

    The numbers here show that the champs are slightly more likely to play at home anyway – the league should just fully commit to it.

  13. tombstone7 - Dec 26, 2013 at 6:01 PM

    LBJ shouldn’t complain about anything. I am not a hater, but LBJ gets his waymore often than not.
    Case in point—during the Lakers game, LBJ is seen hanging from the rim, to get personal attention and no”technical fould was called. I turned the game offbecause it’s bs when players do that and it’s not about safety…..The NBA are enablers of this behaviour of grown ass men. I have watched baasketball since the 60’s and the players then were real men playing a man’s game. The players today are not interested inthe social issues of today…don’t want to mess up their contracts and/or images. It’s all window dressing…football is even worse!
    Takle this game and shove it.

  14. cwilson6843 - Dec 26, 2013 at 6:40 PM

    Money has nothing to do with this….. the man wants to be home to celebrate Christmas with his family and loved ones. Who doesn’t complain about having to work on Christmas? Oh yea Jehovah’s witnesses. But I mean this is where our morals are as human beings. Taking entertainment so serious that these people can’t have a normal holiday with family. None of yall worked Christmas so how can u downplay his complaint? I see nothing wrong with wanting to be home for Christmas

  15. shaggytoodle - Dec 27, 2013 at 1:37 AM

    Well most people I know try to make plans around their schedule… and since the league doesn’t have ANY games Xmas eve. They should celebrate it then.

    Maybe he could even bribe Santa to bring Christmas presents early while they are out to at church service or checking out holiday decorations.

    He may not have been at home because of traveling… but it isn’t WHERE you spend the holidays its with WHOM.

    • cwilson6843 - Dec 27, 2013 at 2:06 PM

      Do you celebrate Christmas on Christmas eve? No, why should you? I wouldn’t want to be miles away from home celebrating Christmas in a hostile environment where everyone hates me. Would you? That’s like going to your girlfriend house for Christmas and you know her family despises you. Its not a good celebration

      • shaggytoodle - Dec 27, 2013 at 2:58 PM

        How do you know when I celebrate Christmas?

        I absolutely have celebrated Christmas on the eve of.. because its important to for me to spend it with family. Sometimes family has to work on Christmas… that’s life.

        If the Lakers fans, or you’re GFs family can’t be cordial on the holidays. That’s flat out pathetic.

      • cwilson6843 - Dec 28, 2013 at 2:24 PM

        @shaggy you’re an idiot

      • shaggytoodle - Dec 29, 2013 at 1:31 AM

        and you seem to be clueless.

  16. losanginsight - Dec 27, 2013 at 1:28 PM

    Not 3 not 4 not 5 not 6… The queen should back up his comments if he wants to play at home on Christmas. Lakers have 16 banners and will be back on top soon enough.

  17. program33 - Dec 28, 2013 at 9:02 PM

    The people in charge of scheduling NBA games where obviously hoping/thinking that Kobe would be back and playing by Christmas. Truly there are not that many opportunities left where these two future basketball hall of famers get to compete against each other.

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