Christmas Day is the best slate of games in the regular season. The slots on this joyous day are reserved for the brightest stars, the best teams, or the biggest markets.
As we’re all waiting for the NBA to unveil schedules for all 30 teams, it’s fair to say the Memphis Grizzlies should be on the short list of teams that should play on Christmas Day.
Memphis isn’t the biggest market; though in recent reports, the city delivered the 3rd-highest ratings on nationally-televised NBA games. The Grizzlies are high up in the other two “criteria” though.
Last season, they finished with a 56-26 record, which was the NBA’s 2nd-best record by 3 games. They also accomplished this in impressive fashion. All while being one of the youngest squads in the league, the Grizzlies paced the league in several major statistics.
The ‘21-22 Memphis Grizzlies led the league in 8 major stat categories:— Steven Adams Stats (@funakistats) August 7, 2022
- Off REB
- Total REB
- 2nd chance pts
- Fast break pts
- Pts in the paint
No other team has led the league in more than 4 of these stats in the same season (data available since ‘96-97) pic.twitter.com/5N4eoGTWAW
Stats aside, they also play a fun style of basketball. The opposite case was the argument against the “Grit ‘n’ Grind” Grizzlies never getting a Christmas Day game. The same excuse can’t be made for this era’s Grizzlies. They fly up and down the court, seek opportunities to tear down the rim, and they play an unselfish brand of basketball. On top of that, they play the game with an immense amount of audacity and swagger, blending their flashy style of play with copious levels of trash talk.
They’re a good basketball team that’s fun to watch from both a stylistic and entertainment point of view. Why wouldn’t you want to advertise a squad like that on national television?
Christmas Day games also feature the league’s brightest stars, and the Grizzlies have one of them in Ja Morant. His breakout into a superstar is well-chronicled — averaging 27.4 points, 6.7 assists, and 5.7 rebounds. Not only did he become a superstar with his style of play, but he emerged into a mainstream status.
Morant's 52 point outing against the Spurs last year became a viral hit for the league — spearheaded by his vicious poster jam on Jakob Poetl, as well as his sideline jumper from the Steven Adams fullcourt pass to close the first half. Up until their elimination, Morant dominated social media metrics by a wide-margin. His electrifying ja-breaker on Malik Beasley is going to be an all-time playoff dunk. He also had a collection of big-time moments in the playoffs, taking over 4th quarters and connecting on winning shots in the process.
Via the NBA: Ja Morant has generated the most views on the league’s social media platforms this postseason so far.— Evan Barnes (@evan_b) May 5, 2022
That’s a wide gap between 1 and 2, folks. Ja’s box office status is still booming, especially from that vicious Game 5 dunk pic.twitter.com/Ga1Dqed2ei
Ja Morant is one of the league’s most popular stars, and he’s also one of the most fun players to watch any given night. Combine that with the fact he’s on one of the NBA’s best teams, and you have a marquee team meant to be in primetime spots.
The question shouldn’t be on if the Grizzlies should be on the Christmas Day slate. The only question should be, against whom.
Let’s start with the most obvious fun candidate here. The Grizzlies and Warriors have the makings of becoming the NBA’s next great rivalry. Not only do they provide some great content for Twitter banter, but the basketball is sensational. In addition, Ja Morant and Steph Curry are two of the best point guards in the league — both playing with a contrasting style of play that captivates the audience. There are other enticing matchups with the battle of the Spartans, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Draymond Green — two of the NBA’s best defenders. Desmond Bane and Jordan Poole are two representatives this wave of young, rising two-guards. Taylor Jenkins and Steve Kerr also deploy a similar system with ball movement, good pace, and quick decision-making.
It’s always a blast to see these two teams match up. It’s obviously a money matchup for the NBA too, as their Game 1 showdown this season was the highest-rating semifinal opener in over a decade. Give the people what they want. We all want it. Ja Morant wants it. Draymond Green wants it. Let’s book it yesterday.
Another team to watch here is the New Orleans Pelicans. With Zion Williamson’s return this season, it’s highly likely the league and TV executives have him and the Pelicans high up on the list of teams to slot for these marquee matchups.
If they’re planning to get Zion on Christmas Day, why not have them go up against the team with the 2nd pick in his draft? Especially when that 2nd pick has also emerged as one of the league’s brightest young stars. They also have history together as former AAU teammates in the same state. I mean, the narrative is right there.
The two division rivals also have a bit of recent history together beyond having the 1st and 2nd picks in the draft. They made a big trade in 2021, swapping starting centers (Jonas Valanciunas and Steven Adams) and draft selections. It became quite the polarizing topic on Twitter. Though it’s not the most captivating element of these two teams, it’s still a cool footnote between these two young squads.
The Grizzlies and Pelicans are two young teams poised to take over the mid-2020’s. They’re division foes with the potential to develop a collection of big battles over time, behind their young stars. Why not write another chapter on Christmas Day this year?
I don’t see the Minnesota Timberwolves getting a Christmas Day game quite yet. There are 10 teams with slots here, and I don’t think they’re going to be in that echelon this season.
However, wouldn’t it be great to run it back with one of the most fun playoff series this past year?
Anthony Edwards seems poised to be the next guy to make the superstar leap. Karl-Anthony Towns is an All-Star with a unique skillset, with a trajectory towards being one of the most prolific shooting big men we’ve seen all time. The Timberwolves are looking for a giant leap after trading for Rudy Gobert.
So let’s run it back. The Grizzlies and Timberwolves put on one hell of a series, and a Christmas Day showdown could be the next chronicle in an eventual rivalry as well.
In addition, the league needs to put this on the dock for Christmas Day — for the sheer possibility Morant might gift us an all-time highlight by going for the poster dunk on Gobert.
The Lakers are going to play on Christmas Day. That’s not a prediction; it’s a spoiler. If the Grizzlies aren’t going to play at home on Christmas Day, why not have them go to Hollywood and face off against the Lakers?
There’s already a little bit of spice between these two squads — as the young, audacious Grizzlies were chirping with LeBron James in a game last season.
ok so Desmond Bane said something that LeBron was extremely displeased about so he decided to do this after the free throws at the other end pic.twitter.com/E5PDFo7Vue— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) January 10, 2022
In addition, Ja Morant provided two stellar highlights with a chase-down block and an electrifying alley-oop jam. Moments like that on Christmas Day in one of the country’s most prolific sceneries (Crypto.com Arena, fka Staples Center) could be special — truly Christmas sports moments we surely wouldn’t forget.
Could a revamped Lakers team give the Grizzlies — and the fans — a better showing this time around? Let’s hope so, because it’d be a fun Christmas Day showdown.
- Dallas Mavericks: The matchup with the Dallas Mavericks isn’t the most enticing one, but they fall into a similar criteria as the Grizzlies. They were in the Western Conference finals last season, and they possess a top-10 player in Luka Doncic. The two teams are also division rivals as well, so it all makes sense. However, it’s more likely the league looks for other matchups for these two teams.
- Atlanta Hawks: If there’s a recipe for cross-conference rivalries, the Grizzlies and Hawks have the ingredients. Both teams are upstart young teams looking to breakthrough towards an elusive championship. Ja Morant and Trae Young are two point guards who are spectacular and would also be compared to each other for their entire careers. I pit this here, because I want to see Trae Young go to Madison Square Garden as a villain every Christmas.
After years of wanting a Christmas Day games, 2022 seems like the opportunity every Grizzlies faithful gets this present. The Grizzlies need to be on the slate — and who they battle could set up fascinating showdowns with ripple effects of existing, or future, rivalries.