Christmas is about one thing and one thing only—presents. All right, I guess family and tradition and the spirit of giving are important, too. But we’ll let the Hallmark Channel original movies handle those. We’ll talk about the good stuff.
Before they became multimillionaires, professional athletes had childhood Christmases like the rest of us. Once upon a time, players like LeBron James, J. J. Watt and Kobe Bryant couldn’t wait to jump out of bed, run downstairs and discover what Santa had delivered. In celebration of the holiday season, let’s check out the favorite Christmas gifts of nine star athletes.
Shooting Guard for the Los Angeles Lakers
Favorite Christmas Gift: NBA Official Leather Basketball
Kobe Bryant’s favorite gift isn’t all that surprising in hindsight. The Black Mamba is now one of the best players in NBA history. “My best gift was my first-ever NBA official leather basketball. Because it was my first one. I had one just like the guys were playing with on TV,” Kobe told JET Magazine. If he was anything like he is now, we’re guessing Kobe wasn’t too keen about sharing his gift with friends.
Forward for the Minnesota Wild
Favorite Christmas Gift: Wayne Gretzky Easton Aluminum Hockey Stick
Like any hockey player who grew up during the Wayne Gretzky era, Zach Parise idolized the Great One. Fittingly, his favorite Christmas gift was Gretzky’s signature stick. “I’ll always remember it. When I was really young, the Easton aluminums had just come out, and there was the Gretzky black and silver one. My parents got it for me for Christmas, and I thought it was the greatest thing ever. I promised them I would score more goals,” Parise told NHL.com.
The Gretzky Easton aluminum stick was released in 1990, so Parise was roughly 6 years old when he got one as a gift. A native Minnesotan, he no doubt spent countless hours ripping shots and practicing decks with it. Twenty-five years later, he’s starring for the hometown Wild.
Point Guard for the Cleveland Cavaliers
Favorite Christmas Gift: Laser Tag Set
Kyrie Irving is a deadly long-range shooter and one of the shiftiest players in the NBA. That skill set makes him perfectly suited for a different type of game—laser tag. “My favorite Christmas memory, I would say, was playing laser tag with my dad when I was like 6 in Newark, New Jersey,” Irving told Ohio.com. “That is my fondest one.”
Quarterback for the New York Giants
Favorite Christmas Gift: Bo Jackson Oakland Raiders Uniform
Like every kid born in the early 80s, Eli Manning grew up idolizing Bo Jackson. So what did his parents buy him for Christmas? Why, a full Bo Jackson uniform, of course.
“I got a Bo Jackson Oakland Raiders full uniform when I was 8 years old or so. Number 34, full Raiders uniform, pants and shoulder pads and jersey,” Manning told the MMQB. “Wore it right away. Fully padded up and running outside, running routes. Had my brothers throwing me passes and playing a little Christmas day football outside.” During his NFL career, Archie Manning was winless against Oakland, so he had to feel a little weird watching his own son run around the yard in Raiders gear. The things parents do for their children.
Forward for the Cleveland Cavaliers
Favorite Christmas Gift: Little Tikes Basketball Hoop
LeBron James routinely throws down vicious dunks that threaten to snap NBA rims, which is a skill he started working on at a young age. Speaking to Ohio.com, James revealed that his favorite Christmas gift was a Little Tikes basketball hoop. Everyone had this hoop at one point—it’s the one with the white backboard, the blue pole and the orange break-away rim. LeBron won’t participate in the official Slam Dunk contest, but maybe he’ll accept my challenge to a one-on-one Little Tikes jam-off? I’m ready whenever you are, King James.
Defenseman for the Montreal Canadiens
Favorite Christmas Gift: Playstation 3
P.K. Subban is a two-time NHL All-Star and one of the best defensemen in the game. His life is probably pretty awesome, but he still likes to escape to the virtual world now and again. Subban recently revealed to NHL.com that the best Christmas gift he ever received was a Playstation 3. If he’s still gaming, we’re guessing he likes to play as himself—Subban is rated a 91 overall in NHL 16.
Guard for the Chicago Bears
Favorite Christmas Gift: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
How did two-time Pro Bowler Kyle Long fill his free time when he was 10 years old? With video games, of course. Long’s favorite Christmas gift was The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for the Nintendo 64. “I remember getting Ocarina of Time for N64. It was a time consuming game for a kid, I got stuck all the time. Frustrating,” Long told the MMQB. Stupid water temple.
J. J. Watt
Defensive End for the Houston Texans
Favorite Christmas Gifts: TurboMan action figure and Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots
The fact that J. J. Watt plays like a superhero and constantly beats up on offensive lineman makes his two favorite gifts logical choices. Since Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots and TurboMan haven’t been popular since the mid 90s, you are probably assuming that Watt got these gifts when he was 7 or 8, right? Wrong. This happened last year.
Quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks
Favorite Christmas Gift: Wilson A2000 Baseball Glove
Russell Wilson is now a Pro Bowl quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks, but his first love was baseball. He continued to play baseball during college and even spent time in the Colorado Rockies’ farm system, tallying a .366 on-base percentage and 15 stolen bases in 61 games for the Class A Asheville Tourists in 2011. Fittingly, Wilson’s favorite Christmas gift was a simple baseball glove. “I got [a glove] when I was really, really young. It was an A2000 Wilson baseball glove. I played baseball all the time, so I used it all the time growing up,” Wilson told the MMQB.