Why Does the NBA Not Have Any Games on Thanksgiving Day?

Published 11/24/2021, 10:15 PM EST
Nov 24, 2021; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (6) shoots in the first quarter against the Indiana Pacers at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports


The NBA players often want a well-deserved break from their intense schedules of basketball. And Thanksgiving Day is one opportunity for them to take a break and spend time with the ones they are thankful for. It often makes you wonder why the NBA is not off on Christmas or New Year’s but is especially on Thanksgiving Day.

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And there are several possible reasons this could be the case. But the most commonly acknowledged one is that basketball is just not the sport for this holiday. Rather, it is American Football, and hence NFL games are stacked up on this day. As opposed to no NBA games being played at all that day.

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The actual story of Thanksgiving Day off for the NBA

Now, Thanksgiving Day games in the NBA are held a day before the actual day of Thanksgiving. Whereas, they reserve some prime fixtures of NFL games for the day of Thanksgiving. This year they have saved the iconic Lions vs Bears fixture for thanksgiving day. A classic fixture that has been played 13 times before on Thanksgiving.

Oct 3, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1) hands the ball off to Chicago Bears running back David Montgomery (32) in the first half against the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

According to ESPN Insider Bobby Marks, until around 2005, the NBA held Thanksgiving games. Since there were no NFL games in the evening. However, with time, the American culture started associating football with this holiday. Families started making traditions around Thanksgiving Day football games and the big corporations noted that.

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Therefore, eventually, the NBA stopped reserving games for this holiday as they were not yielding good ratings on Thanksgiving Day.

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What does this mean for the league?

Nov 5, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant (7) pumps his fist during the fourth quarter against the Detroit Pistons at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

It’s possible that the NBA wishes to give their players a break, given that the NBA’s Christmas Day schedule is always quite full. After a month and a half of nonstop play, a day off is much appreciated by the league’s top teams.

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Chaitanya Dadhwal

366 articles

Chaitanya Dadhwal is an NBA writer at EssentiallySports. Even though his journalism is driven by his desire to understand both sides of an argument and give a neutral perspective, he is biased towards Houston Rockets and Arsenal, and he has shown exactly how loyal he can be through tough times. Currently a Law student at Jindal Global Law School, he aims to have his own sports management firm one day and enjoys rap music during his time off.

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