Dec 25, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis (3) controls the ball against Boston Celtics guard Jrue Holiday (4) during the second half at Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA got a football sized lump of coal in their stocking for Christmas this year.

While the NFL was busy setting ratings marks not seen in decades for the Christmas holiday, the league that has held onto a Christmas tradition since a year after its inception is seeing their regular season marquee showcase slowly slipping away.

On Wednesday the NFL ratings news came out for the league’s Christmas Day tripleheader across CBS, Fox, and ABC. Raiders-Chiefs drew 29 million viewers, CBS’s most watched Christmas Day broadcast ever. Eagles-Giants on Fox drew roughly the same, and ABC’s massive Ravens-49ers tilt in primetime drew 27 million viewers, the second most-watched Monday Night Football game since 1996. Not only were the numbers astronomically high, they were significant increases from last year.

On the other hand, the NBA featured a quintuple-header mostly on ESPN. And with the association going up against a huge slate of all-day NFL action and losing some ABC simulcasts, the ratings were understandably disappointing.

The most-watched game was Lakers-Celtics with 5 million viewers, followed by Warriors-Nuggets in the early afternoon window at 4.1 million. Knicks-Bucks at Noon ET drew 2.5 million while the two evening games – Heat-Sixers and Mavs-Suns barely cracked the 1 million mark.

Even at its peak, the NBA fell behind the NFL by a 6-1 margin in viewership numbers.

All of the NBA games dropped double digits in percentage according to Sports Media Watch ranging from 18% for Lakers-Celtics to a cringe-inducing 73% for Sixers-Heat. Some of that is due to not being on ABC and ESPN and being sidetracked for Monday Night Football, but it’s still a huge decline. The only bright spot for the NBA might be that Lakers-Celtics is still the most-watched game of the season so far, just beating out the Lakers-Pacers In-Season Tournament championship game.

It’s almost sad that the NFL has gobbled up what once was the NBA’s showcase day of regular season action. While the Association’s numbers are headed in the wrong direction, the league can take some solace that 5 million viewers is still a huge number relatively speaking compared to any non-football sport for a regular season game. But it’s a far cry from what the NBA was pulling less than a decade ago, when it got multiple Christmas Day games above 10 million viewers… without NFL competition.

Much like everything else in sports and entertainment, the NBA’s future success on Christmas will be decided by whether the NFL decides to play games or not.