Watch your back, Santa Claus. Houstonians report sightings of another beard farmer who flies through the air in a red work suit, bringing joy to the hearts of children. He’s perennial NBA MVP candidate James Harden, and his knapsack of gifts this holiday season includes a big one for Red Nation fans: an actual Christmas-night game at Toyota Center.
NBA teams have coveted this prime-time slot since the tradition started in 1947, which perhaps explains why the Rockets have played December 25 just eight times in their entire history, hosting exactly once … in 1967 … in San Diego, where the franchise was born. But now, almost half a century later—and just as their sweater-clad relations are starting to wear out their welcome—fans can get out of the house to see the Rockets in a matchup against division rival San Antonio. The game’s as rare for Houston as a white Christmas.
And that’s not the only holiday cheer the team will be spreading. Playing on New Year’s Eve has become a tradition for the Rockets, who are set to host their 14th straight December 31 game. It’s always a family-friendly affair, but the early start time of 6 p.m. means there’s still plenty of time for parties afterward. This year the team takes on another bitter rival: Golden State. Not only did the Warriors knock the Rockets out of the playoffs last year, but their star player, Steph Curry, edged out Harden in the MVP race.
The Rockets winning both games would be sweeter than our favorite holiday sugar cookies. Saint James, if you promise to deliver, we’ll leave a plate out for you.