Kobe Bryant is expected to play his 16th and final Christmas Day game tonight when the Los Angeles Lakers play host to the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center.
Bryant, who announced on Nov. 29 that he will retire at the end of the season, has played in the most Christmas Day games and holds the NBA’s Christmas Day scoring record with 383 points — that’s six more than the runner- up, Hall of Fame guard Oscar Robertson. Miami Heat guard Dwayne Wade is second among active players with 258, fourth all-time.
“It’s been a wonderful experience,” Bryant said about playing on Christmas Day following Wednesday’s 120-85 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. “I’m looking forward to playing this last one.”
When asked if any of the Christmas Day games stood out to him, Bryant responded the 2008 game against the Boston Celtics, a rematch of the previous season’s NBA Finals, won by Boston in six games. The Celtics clinched the title with a 131-92 victory, the widest margin in a championship-clinching victory.
“That was really special,” Bryant said. “We were really looking forward to it. Most of the time you enjoy the time in the morning with your family, but for that game, we were all a little chippy. We were all kind of Grinch-like.”
The Celtics entered that game with a team-record 19-game winning streak and a 27-2 record, the best start in NBA history before a team lost its third game. The Lakers were 23-5, the first time in NBA history that two teams met that late in the season with so few losses.
Bryant scored a game-high 27 points in a 92-83 victory. The Lakers are 1- 5 in Christmas Day games since then, with their only victory coming in 2012, when Bryant scored a game-high equaling 34 points in a 100-94 victory over the New York Knicks, the last time Bryant played in a Christmas Day game. He missed the last two Christmas Day games because of injuries.
This is the Lakers first of four games against the Clippers this season. They have lost their last seven games against the Clippers.
“We’ve got to be very competitive,” Lakers coach Byron Scott said following Thursday’s practice at the Toyota Sports Center. “We’ve got to understand that we’ve got to play for 48 minutes. I’m sure they would love nothing more than to try to beat us by 40. They’re going to come after us. It’s going to be a very physical and aggressive game.”
Both teams will wear new, special Christmas uniforms. The Lakers will wear white jerseys with purple lettering of the team name and white shorts. The Clippers will wear a red jersey with white lettering and red shorts. Both teams will wear socks reminiscent of Christmas sweaters.