Oscar Robertson’s triple-doubles and the NBA’s most memorable Christmas Day performances

Oscar Robertson was a Christmas star.

A triple-double in his first Christmas game in his NBA rookie season in 1960. A Christmas-record four triple-doubles. The league’s all-time leader in assists on Christmas (145, ahead of LeBron James’ 107) and the highest per game Christmas scorer of any player who has played at least seven Dec. 25 games.

In 12 Christmas games, Robertson was 8-4 and averaged 31.4 points, 12.1 assists and approximately 7.9 rebounds, including a 40-point, 17-assist, 12-rebound game in his fourth season.

“Actually, I really didn’t know they were that special to be honest,” Robertson told USA TODAY Sports of his memorable Christmas performances.

He remembers playing against quality teams: the Los Angeles Lakers, the Milwaukee Bucks, the Boston Celtics.

“My wife and I would always have the Celtics over for dinner before the basketball game,” Robertson said. “We had Bill (Russell), Sam (Jones), K.C. (Jones) and have a nice home-cooked meal for them and we’d go out and fight on the court. We certainly enjoyed it.”

Of his triple-doubles, Robertson said, “I really didn’t understand what a triple-double was at that particular time. I thought everybody was playing the same way, honestly. I’m happy I was able to do those things. It meant that I was having great competition, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Basketball was to me a lot of teamwork. You’re in it together. You’re not in it alone. We tried to win.”

Robertson will watch some of the Christmas games, and in February he will be honored by the league when it celebrates its 75 greatest players during All-Star Weekend.

“It means I put in the time and the work and was a player of such esteem that people think I should be on the list,” Robertson said. “It’s great to be honored and recognized for what you’ve done in the game.”

Here’s a look at some the NBA’s most memorable Christmas Day performances:

Wilt’s monster game (1961)

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Hall of Fame center Wilt Chamberlain dominated for the Philadelphia Warriors to the tune of 59 points and a Christmas-record 36 rebounds. It still wasn’t enough against the New York Knicks, who got 40 points from Richie Guerin to win a 136-135 thriller in double overtime. Chamberlain went on to average 50.4 points per game during his historic 1961-62 season.

King’s Christmas record (1984)

Knicks star Bernard King poured in 60 points against the New Jersey Nets to break Chamberlain’s record and set a new Christmas Day scoring standard. King was superb, shooting 19-of-30 from the field and 22-of-26 on free throws, but he got little help from the rest of the Knicks as the Nets rallied in the fourth quarter to win 120-114 at Madison Square Garden.

Knicks shock Celtics (1985)

One of the Boston Celtics’ few stumbles as they went 67-15 during their 1985-86 championship season came on Christmas Day against the Knicks. Boston led by as many as 25 in the second half before rookie center Patrick Ewing and New York rallied to win 113-104 in double overtime. Ewing finished with 32 points and 11 rebounds for a Knicks team that finished a league-worst 23-59.

Pippen does it all (1994)

Scottie Pippen was everywhere for the Chicago Bulls during a stellar all-around show against the rival Knicks, finishing with 36 points and 16 rebounds in a 107-104 overtime victory. Pippen played all 53 minutes, scored all seven of Chicago’s points in the extra period and sealed the win with a block on Hubert Davis in the closing seconds.

T-Mac outduels LeBron (2003)

Tracy McGrady spoiled rookie LeBron James’ first Christmas Day game with 41 points to lead the Orlando Magic to a 113-101 overtime win against the Cleveland Cavaliers. McGrady added 11 assists, eight rebounds and three steals. James didn’t back down and finished with 34 points while going toe-to-toe with McGrady, the NBA’s defending scoring champion.

Shaq vs. Kobe (2004)

Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant faced off for the first time since their acrimonious breakup with the Los Angeles Lakers and O’Neal’s trade to the Miami Heat. Bryant poured in a game-high 42 points, but O’Neal prevailed on the scoreboard when the Heat held on for a 104-102 overtime win. O’Neal had 24 points and 11 rebounds, while Dwyane Wade had 29 points and 10 assists in his first Christmas Day game.

Cavaliers stun Warriors (2016)

In the first meeting since their epic NBA Finals matchup in the spring, the Cavaliers and Warriors put on another thriller. The defending-champion Cavs rallied from 14 down early in the fourth quarter to win 109-108 on Kyrie Irving’s go-ahead jumper with 3.4 seconds left. Irving had 25 points and 10 assists for Cleveland, while LeBron James had 31 points and 13 rebounds. Kevin Durant finished with 36 points and 15 rebounds for Golden State.

Follow on Twitter: Jeff Zillgitt @JeffZillgitt and Matt Eppers @meppers_.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NBA on Christmas Day: Most memorable performances in league history


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