The Bullets-Wizards Franchise History on Christmas Day | Wizards Blog Truth About

The Bullets-Wizards Franchise History on Christmas Day

Updated: December 25, 2014


The Wizards last played on Christmas Day six years ago, a four-point loss to the Cavaliers in Cleveland on TNT (8 pm start). Washington was without the injured Gilbert Arenas, coached by the passive and philosophical Ed Tapscott (Eddie Jordan was fired on Thanksgiving Day), and led by a starting lineup of Mike James, Caron Butler, Dominc McGuire, Antawn Jamison, and Andray Blatche (Jamison led the way with 28 points and James had 26).

It was a recipe for disaster, sort of. The Wizards lost 89-93 but actually led the Cavaliers, 89-82, with 1:40 left to play. Suddenly, and somewhat expected, Cleveland benefitted from referee whistles as the game got sloppy and out-of-hand for Washington down the stretch. The Cavs closed the game by making 8-of-9 free throws (plus a Mo Williams 3-pointer), while the Wizards didn’t score again—Jamison and Butler were each whistled for offensive fouls in the last 100 seconds. I’m not usually one to search for reasons to blame referees, but I recall this game fairly vividly, and the Wizards got hosed.

Before 2008, the Washington franchise played 19 games on Christmas Day, but not within 20 years prior to 2008. From 1964 to 1982 they played on Christmas Day every year, with the exception of 1972. They played again on Christmas Day in 1986 and 1988 (both times against Charles Barkley and the Philadelphia 76ers), but once the NBA started marking Christmas Day games more primetime, exclusive in the 1990s, Washington went without an appearance until that 2008 game in Cleveland.

According to the database (BBR), Washington (actually, Baltimore) played their first Christmas Day game against the Knicks in New York 50 years ago (but not in today’s Madison Square Garden, which didn’t open until 1968, but a previous version of the Garden). The Bullets beat the Knicks, 114-108, lead by Walt Bellamy’s 31 points while Willis Reed led New York with 26.

Overall, Washington is 13-7 on Christmas Day, 9-5 at home and 4-2 on the road. They are 2-0 versus the Knicks, both in New York; 3-3 versus the 76ers (three have come in Philly, three in D.C./Baltimore); 3-1 versus the Hawks (all away from Atlanta); 1-1 versus the Cavaliers; and they faced off one time against six other teams (4-2). All games with links to BBR box scores are listed below.

Washington’s all-time leading scorer on Christmas Day: Don Ohl, 41 points in an overtime loss to Detroit in 1966. Greg Ballard next scored 37 points in a loss to Atlanta in 1982.

Today’s game time is at 12 noon on ESPN (or CSN)—looking forward to it, and Merry Christmas to all.

[UPDATE/NOTE: I saw a stat tweeted, which I can’t find right now, conveying that the franchise has played in 21 Christmas Day games, not 20 as outlined above. Technically, 21 is correct. The 1961-62 Chicago Packers played the Detroit Pistons at a neutral site in New York, NY on Christmas Day of 1961, and won, 118-97. Walt Bellamy led the Packers with 35 points.

When, at one point, the Washington franchise was considering celebrating an anniversary of its existence, I was told by a member of the team’s PR staff that they were not counting the first two seasons that the franchise existed in Chicago—in ’61-62 as the Packers and in ’62-63 as the Zephyrs—before moving to Baltimore for the ’63-64 season. However, the franchise did not end up celebrating what would have been its 50th season in existence in 2012-13.

Instead, the 35th anniversary of the 1977-78 Washington Bullets NBA championship team was honored. It seemed odd to me at the time (and still does) that the team would ignore all years that came prior to 1977-78, and I previously wrote about such here on TAI. So, now you are updated—with a win over the Knicks, Washington/Baltimore is now 14-7 on Christmas Day, and with their history in Chicago, they are 15-7.]

[READ: I answer some questions about the Wizards for Knickerblogger as part of a game preview.]

Christmas Day Games:

  1. 1964: BAL @ NY – 114-108 W

  2. 1965: BAL vs BOS – 99-113 L

  3. 1966: BAL vs DET – 127-129 L (OT)

  4. 1967: BAL vs PHI – 105-108 L

  5. 1968: BAL vs SEA – 118-112 W

  6. 1969: BAL vs PHI – 121-113 W

  7. 1970: BAL vs CHI – 128-112 W

  8. 1971: BAL @ PHI – 117-114 W

  9. 1973: CAP @ NY – 102-100 W

  10. 1974: WSB vs ATL – 110-92 W

  11. 1975: WSB vs ATL – 99-94 W

  12. 1976: WSB vs CLE – 117-99 W

  13. 1977: WSB vs ATL – 100-93 W

  14. 1979: WSB vs PHI – 92-95 L

  15. 1980: WSB vs NJN – 109-94 W

  16. 1981: WSB vs IND – 115-98 W

  17. 1982: WSB vs ATL – 91-97 L

  18. 1986: WSB @ PHI – 102-97 W

  19. 1988: WSB @ PHI – 110-125 L

  20. 2008: WAS @ CLE – 89-93 L


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Kyle Weidie
Founder / Editor / Reporter / Writer at TAI
Kyle founded TAI in 2007 and has been weaving in and out the world of Wizards ever since, ducking WittmanFaces, jumping over G-Wiz, and avoiding stints on the DNP-Conditioning list. He has covered the Washington pro basketball team as a member of the media since 2009. Kyle currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.