INDEPENDENCE, Ohio – LeBron James will play in the 10th Christmas Day game of his 13-year career Friday when the Golden State Warriors host his Cleveland Cavaliers in an NBA Finals rematch. It’s become a showcase day for the league, with five games scheduled this year.
It only stands to reason that the powers that be at the NBA’s Olympic Tower offices in Manhattan would want one of their most marketable players in James attached to their marquee event.
However, James’ holidays usually involve more than just a game. There’s a plane ride, too. Friday will be the seventh road game out of the 10 games he’s played. Has having Dec. 25 tied up allowed James and his family to develop any alternative traditions?
"Not at all,” James said Wednesday morning after the Cavs' shootaround in preparation for the New York Knicks on Wednesday night. “I won’t be with my family on Christmas, unfortunately. ... They’re not even here [in Ohio] right now. They’re in L.A. right now, actually. So, no, we have no traditions. If I can get a home game on Christmas, then we’ll have a tradition.”
While James’ stance was critical of the disparity in the scheduling of home vs. road games, his comments were actually milder than what he’s said in the past regarding holiday hoops.
“If you ask any player in the league, we’d rather be home with our families,” James said in 2010 before his Miami Heat were set to play the Los Angeles Lakers on the road. “I think the people that even set the games up would rather be home with their family during this day. It’s not just a regular holiday. It’s definitely one of those days that you wish you could wake up in the morning with the kids and open up presents.”
A few years later, after Miami played in Los Angeles on Christmas once again after coming off of a championship, Adam Silver – then the deputy commissioner, and currently the NBA’s top commander -- reportedly told James and his teammates the league would try to ensure that the defending champ always plays at home on Christmas in the future. The issue was reportedly first broached by James’ former teammate, Dwyane Wade. Ironically, it’s that conversation that came back to haunt James this season, as the Cavs are traveling to Golden State because the Warriors beat them in the Finals in June.
The Cavs’ Christmas Day game is the start of a four-game road trip for Cleveland, continuing through Portland, Phoenix and Denver. Cavs coach David Blatt said this week that he recognizes the stress the travel can have on his team’s families and is trying to account for that.
“We try to take it into consideration that this is holiday time for everyone,” Blatt said. “Our players are no different. We do what we do and that’s part of our job and responsibilities to deal with that.”
While James is 7-2 on Christmas Day in his career, more family time around the holidays is something he'd like to add to that winning record.
“We’ll have a get-together when we’re out West on the holiday game and perhaps we’ll give them some consideration afterwards in terms of time that they can spend with their families when we get back, that sort of thing," Blatt said, before adding the reality that comes with working in professional sports. "We’ve got to try to play games and try to win games.”