Why are there no NBA games on Thanksgiving?

The NBA regular season is just getting into full swing in November. So why doesn't the league play any games on Thanksgiving?
Golden State Warriors v Los Angeles Lakers - Game Six
Golden State Warriors v Los Angeles Lakers - Game Six / Kevork Djansezian/GettyImages

The NBA calendar has long made a point of trying to own certain holidays.

Ten teams play on Christmas Day on national television, making it one of the league's showcase events. This year we'll get matchups between the Bucks and Knicks, Warriors and Nuggets, Celtics and Lakers, 76ers and Heat and Mavericks and Suns.

In recent years, they've tried to align their messages of social justice, scheduling heavily on MLK Day. This year's schedule for the holiday includes four national television games and seven others, putting 22 of the league's 30 teams in action.

So why doesn't the NBA play on Thanksgiving?

No one from the league has ever answered this question explicitly but the obvious answer is they don't want to compete with the NFL, which usually has three games scheduled on Thanksgiving. The NBA also avoids scheduling games on the night of the NCAA men's basketball championship game, presumably for the same reason.

The league has worked to reduce travel and back-to-backs in their schedule over the past few years, trying to prevent wear-and-tear and injury risks for their players, so there is also some benefit to placing a day off for all 30 teams roughly a month into the season.

Besides Thanksgiving and Apr. 8, the day of the NCAA Championship Fame, the league has just three other windows on the calendar with no games between Opening Night and the end of the regular season.

Days with no NBA games during the 2023-24 season:

  • Nov. 7 — Election Day
  • Nov. 25 — Thanksgiving Day
  • Dec. 24 — Christmas Day
  • Feb. 16-21 — All-Star Weekend
  • Apr. 8 — NCAA Men's Championship Game

The NBA season kicks off on Tuesday, Oct. 24 with a star-studded doubleheader — Lakers vs. Nuggets and Suns vs. Warriors. The regular season ends on Sunday, Apr. 14.

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