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Folks flying into Sioux Falls for hoops on Christmas Day

A Christmas Day tradition, often resulting in a sellout crowd, has been going on in South Dakota for 26 years.

OVER THE LAST 26 years, a basketball tradition has evolved in Sioux Falls, S.D.

No matter what league the Sioux Falls Skyforce was playing in - the Continental Basketball Association (1989-2000, 2001-06), the defunct Intercontinental Basketball League (2000-01) or the NBA Development League (2006 to present) - it has usually played on Christmas Day and just about sells out the home gym.

Sioux Falls Skyforce owner and president Mike Heineman isn't quite sure how his D-League team wove itself into Sioux Falls' Christmas Day plans for 25 of the past 26 years. But the team keeps scheduling games on Christmas, and the local folks keep coming.

"When we first pitched it to the leagues, they all kind of thought we were crazy, like, 'Who would go on Christmas?' " Heineman said. "But for some reason, it works in Sioux Falls."

The only thing that stopped nearly 4,500 fans from heading to the old Sioux Falls Arena was 10 inches of snow in 2009, which forced the event's only cancellation. The Skyforce now plays in the Sanford Octagon, which seats just 3,200.

The team hosted the Rio Grande Vipers last night and won, 135-129, improving their Christmas record to 14-11.

"It's always a different crowd than we have at a normal game," Heineman said of the holiday matchup. "It's the one game people come with their families to."

Or as a former media relations director put it: "It's the one thing going on in town that night."

Packing a punch

Sports Illustrated noticed when local fighter Amir Mansour knocked out Fred Kassi on Nov. 8 at the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem. Mansour (21-1, 16 KOs), a heavyweight contender, delivered a bone-crunching seventh-round knockout over Kassi (18-3, 10 KOs), which SI cited as the "2014 Knockout of the Year."


"It was a devastating punch that left Kassi motionless for several minutes and reaffirmed Mansour's place as one of the biggest punchers in the heavyweight division."