By Dave Wischnowsky–
Dasher and Dancer. Cookies and Milk. Mistle and Toe.
And … NBA and Basketball?
There are some things that just go together on Christmas. Then there are some things that don’t – well, at least not if you ask Phil Jackson and LeBron James.
This week, the Lakers coach and the Miami Heat star created a stir in pro basketball circles when they griped to the media about their teams having to shoot hoops on Christmas Day.
“It’s like Christian holidays don’t mean anything to (the NBA) anymore,” said Jackson, who noted that the league has a whopping five games slated for Christmas this year. “You just go out and play and entertain (on) TV. It’s really weird.”
Meanwhile, James, whose Heat square off with the Lakers this afternoon, added: “It’s definitely one of those days that you wish you could wake up in the morning with the kids and open up presents.”
Well, there’s no doubt about that. But, you know, not everyone is getting paid $14.5 million a year to do their job, as LeBron James is. And with such a hefty paycheck a guy should expect to make a few sacrifices, including perhaps hitting the office on the holidays.
The same goes for Jackson, who could have retired at any time during the past few years in order to spend the holidays however he wants. But, since he’s instead decided keep coaching – and hauling in his own huge salary – the former Bulls coach really shouldn’t complain so much.
Because, it isn’t “weird” at all that NBA players are expected to “go out and play and entertain (on) TV,” as Jackson said. Heck, entertainment is the entire point of the league – and that might go doubly so for holidays. After all, the NBA has been playing games on Christmas since 1947. It’s as much of a Yuletide tradition as eggnog and “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Now, I do think that having five NBA games on Christmas is overkill. Two or three are more than enough. But, Jackson also shouldn’t be so melodramatic when he says that NBA games on Christmas infringe on Christianity. They don’t. And claiming they do really smacks of tackiness.
Like many other Christian families, my own attended church on Christmas Eve. NBA players and employees could most certainly do the same.
On Christmas Day, my family will be spending time with just each other – and some of it will no doubt include watching NBA basketball. In fact, many of my fondest holiday memories from my youth include sitting with my dad and brother while we watched Michael Jordan and the Bulls play on Christmas Day.
While I don’t like how Jackson played the religion card this week to complain about Christmas games, I don’t blame him for airing a complaint. Since 1999, Jackson’s Lakers have played on every Christmas, and that’s simpy ridiculous. The NBA needs to cut the team – and the “Zen Master” – a holiday break.
But Jackson, as burned-out as he might be, also needs to respect that Christmas Day basketball is “for the fans,” as the Bulls’ Carlos Boozer pointed out this week.
“I think it’s an honor and a privilege to be playing,” added Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, whose team kicks off the NBA’s holiday slate today vs. the Knicks. “I know it’s tough on the away team, particularly the players who have kids. But that’s all part of it.”
That it is.
So, let’s have a Christmas ball and leave the complaints for another day.
Do you agree with Dave? Post your comments below.
If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com.