The Bulls were not inaugurated as a franchise until 1966 and played in a Christmas Day game in their initial season. Christmas basketball in Chicago predates the Bulls by almost 30 years and two other Chicago franchises. Both the Stags and the Chicago Packers/Zephyrs(now the Washington Wizards) both played in Christmas Day games. Here is a look at the history of Christmas Day games in Chicago.
Baltimore Bullets 87 Stags 70, 1946
In one of the inaugural Christmas Day games, the Stags were outscored 20-6 in the first quarter against ironically the Baltimore Bullets. They would eventually fall 87-70. Max Zaslofsky who led the NBA in scoring a season later led the NBA in scoring a season later, led the Stags with 16.
Stags 70 New York Knicks 64, 1948
Behind rookie guard Andy Philip's 18 and Zaslofsky 16, the Stags used a 22-14 third quarter to take control of the game. George Mikan's brother Ed was also a rookie on the 1948-49 Stags and contributed 11 points. This was the last game by a Chicago team on Christmas Day for 13 years. Despite success on the court, the Stags folded following the 1950 season.
Packers 118 Detroit Pistons 97, 1961
The Packers used dominant second and fourth quarters to pull away to a blowout victory. Rookie Center Walt Bellamy paced the Packers with 35 points and was supported by Slick Leonard and Ralph Davis who each scored 20.
Bellamy was the 1962 NBA Rookie of the Year. He led the league in field goal percentage and averaged 31.6 PPG and 19.0 RPG.
Knicks 133 Bulls 132, 1966
After the Bullets moved to Baltimore for the 1963-64 season, it would be five years between Christmas basketball in Chicago.
In their first Christmas day game, the Bulls were unable to hold on to a six point lead after three quarters. They were outscored 41-32 in the fourth to fall. Five Bulls had at least 17 points, led by Bob Boozer's game high 40 and Erwin Mueller's 27.
The Knicks had six players in double figures, including 28 from Bellamy and 27 from Chicago native Cazzie Russell. Bellamy was in his first year with the Knicks after moving with the Packers to Baltimore.
Bullets 128 Bulls 112, 1970
The Bulls fell behind 33-20 after one quarter and never recovered. It was 68-42 at the half and the Bullets just cruised from there. Four Baltimore players finished with at least 20 points, led by Earl Monroe's 25. Bob Love led the Bulls with 42.
Bulls 109 Trail Blazers 88, 1971
After leading by 46-42, the Bulls outscored Portland 63-46 in the second half. Love once again led the Bulls (with 26), but five Bulls scored in double figures to secure the victory. Sidney Wicks led Portland with 24.
Suns 115 Bulls 108, 1972
The Suns outscored the Bulls 38-25 in the fourth quarter to secure the seven point victory. Dick VanArsdale had 32 and Charlie Scott 26 to pace the Suns. Love led the Bulls with 29 and Chet Walker had 20.
Future Sun Garfield Heard had 16 for the Bulls. Heard would later hit one of the most memorable shots in NBA history for Phoenix in game five of the 1976 NBA Finals. His shot sent the game into triple overtime. The Suns eventually lost to Boston.
Bulls 96 Kings 91, 1976
The Bulls prevailed in a game that was tight throughout. Diminutive guard Wilbur Holland led the Bulls with 22 and first round pick Scott May had 18.
May was the second pick in the 1976 NBA Draft. His NBA tenure was stricken with injuries. He achieved career highs in his rookie season. He played only four years with the Bulls before stints in Milwaukee and Detroit before retiring after the 1983 season.
Knicks 86 Bulls 85, 1986
Michael Jordan's 30 points wasnt enough as Patrick Ewing rebound basket at the buzzer gave the Knicks a one point victory. Dave Corzine contributed 14 points and nine rebounds.The Bulls first appearance on Christmas in ten years was a heartbreaker.
Ewing led the Knicks with 28 points and 17 rebounds. Gerald Henderson had 19 points eight rebounds and four assists and Bill Cartwright 14 for New York. Charles Oakley whom the Bulls would later trade to the Knicks for Cartwright had five points and 12 rebounds.
Bulls 98 Pistons 86, 1990
After being eliminated by Detroit the previous three seasons, the Bulls made it a priority to get home court for the 1991 season. After losing by 21 six days earlier in Detroit, the Bulls avenged that that loss with a decisive third quarter. The Bulls outscored the Pistons in the first 12 minutes after halftime.
The Jordan Rules did not work that day as MJ scored 37 points on 14 of 23 from the floor. Joe Dumars led Detroit with 24 and Isiah Thomas had 23.
It was a pivotal game. The Bulls came in one game ahead of Detroit. The win was part of a stretch which the Bulls won 14 out of 17. They would finish 61-20, 11 games ahead of Detroit. They secured the home court and would sweep the Pistons on their way to the first title in franchise history.
Bulls 121 Celtics 99, 1991
The Bulls took a nine point lead into the locker room and used a 37-26 third quarter to extend the lead to 20 entering the fourth. Jordan struggled with only 14 points. Scottie Pippen picked up the slack with 27 points, four rebounds, four steals and eight assists. Six Bulls finished in double figures. Rick Fox led Boston with 21 and Reggie Lewis had 20. At the end of their careers, the Celtics Big Three of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish finished with only 27 points combined.
Bulls 95 Magic 93, 1993
After a year off, the Bulls returned to Christmas sans Jordan. Toni Kukoc hit a runner in the lane off B.J. Armstrong penetration for the game winner with two seconds left. Nick Anderson's runner at the buzzer that would've tied the game was ruled late.
Pippen finished with 28 points, eight rebounds, six assists and four steals.
Bulls 107 Knicks 104 (OT), 1994
The Bulls were out once again looking to get a small measure of revenge on Christmas Day against the team that eliminated them from the previous season's playoff. Scottie Pippen once again stole the show. He posted 36 points, 16 rebounds, three assists, five steals and two blocks. Kukoc finished with 25 points three rebounds and six assists. Ewing had 30 and Oakley 20 for the Knicks.
Bulls 95 Pistons 83, 1996
With Jordan back, the Bulls once again ascended to the top of the NBA. They were coming off their fourth NBA title in six seasons and a record 72-10 season. The Pistons and Bulls rivalry seemed to be renewed with the Bulls entering the game at 24-3 and the Pistons at 20-5 behind former Bulls coach Doug Collins.
The game turned into a duel of the versatile games of Pippen and Pistons small forward Grant Hill. Pippen had another amazing Christmas with 27 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. Hill matched Pippen 27 and also had eight rebounds.
Bulls 90 Heat 80, 1997
With Pippen missing the first half of the season due to back surgery, Jordan and Kukoc teamed up to give the Bulls their sixth straight St. Nick's Day victory. Jordan had 24 and Kukoc had 19 points, six rebounds and five assists. Jamal Mashburn, Alozno Mourning and Tim Hardaway combined for 54 points and Hardaway added 11 assists to pace the Heat.
Knicks 105 Bulls 93, 2010
The Bulls returned to Christmas Day for the first time in the post Jordan era. The Stars came out for both teams. All five Knicks starters finished in double figures. Four of them finished with double-doubles in the Christmas Day opener. Amare Stoudemire had 20 points, ten rebounds and six blocks, Landry Fields and Wilson Chandler posted double figure points and rebounds and Raymond Felton had 20 points and 12 assists.
Rose had 25 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and six steals and Carlos Boozer had 26 points and 19 rebounds. Both of them committed seven turnovers.
The Knicks outscored the Bulls 51-41 in the second half to pull away.
Bulls 88 Lakers 87 2011
The NBA lockout pushed the season back to Christmas Day openers. After leading the Bulls to the Eastern COnference finals in 2010, the previous season, the expectations were high for the 2011-12 season in Chicago.
The Bulls rallied from an 82-71 deficit with 3:44 remaining to steal the opening day victory in Los Angeles. Rose hit a floater with 4.8 seconds for the win. Rose finished with 22 points and five assists, while Luol Deng had 21 points, seven rebounds, three assists and four steals.
Kobe Bryant led the Lakers with 28 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, but also turned the ball over eight times.
Rockets 120 Bulls 97, 2012
In one of the most shocking losses of the Thibodeau era, the Rockets outscored the Bulls in the first three quarters. Houston led 58-41 at the half and 94-68 after three quarters.
Four Rockets finished with at least 20 led by former Bull Omer Asik. Asik had a dominant performance with 20 points, 18 rebounds, and three blocks in his return to Chicago. Jeremy Lin had 20 points and 11 assists. James Harden had 26 and Chandler Parsons 23.
Nate Robinson led the Bulls with 27.
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