In its attempts to mitigate some financial losses during the COVID-19 pandemic, satiate social-distancing basketball fans in desperate need of distraction and raise charitable funds for coronavirus response efforts, the NBA announced on Thursday morning its official lineup for the upcoming televised HORSE Challenge.
The lineup features four active NBA players, WNBA All-Star Allie Quigley, recent Hall of Fame selection Tamika Catchings and a pair of former Finals MVPs turned ESPN analysts. Contestants will be separated into two groups, and the winners of each group advance to the championship round. The quarterfinals will air on ESPN at 7 p.m. on Sunday, with the semifinals and title matchup to follow on Thursday at 9 p.m.
The 2004 Finals MVP turned ESPN analyst retired from the Detroit Pistons in 2014 with a career 38.7 three-point percentage. Nicknamed Mr. Big Shot, his 1,830 career three-pointers rank 16th in NBA history. During NBA All-Star Weekend in 2006, Billups was eliminated from his only three-point contest in the first round.
The 2011 WNBA MVP, 2012 Finals MVP and 10-time All-Star was selected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame’s Class of 2020 this past weekend. She retired from the Indiana Fever in 2016 with a career 35.5 three-point percentage. Her 606 career three-pointers rank seventh in WNBA history.
Mike Conley Jr.
The 13-year NBA veteran was traded from the Memphis Grizzlies to the Utah Jazz this past summer. He is a career 37.5 three-point shooter, converting at the same rate on 5.2 long-distance tries a game this season.
The second-year Atlanta Hawks point guard has been one of the NBA’s most scintillating scorers this season, often stretching the floor to 30 feet and earning favorable Stephen Curry comparisons. An All-Star for the first time in February, Young has averaged 29.6 points per game and shot 36.1 percent from beyond the three-point arc this season. He was eliminated in the first round of this year’s three-point contest.
The NBA’s two-time slam dunk champion is in his sixth NBA season and third with the Chicago Bulls. Often criticized as a gunner, LaVine has shot 38 percent from distance on 8.1 attempts a game this season, right around his career average. LaVine was also eliminated in the first round of this year’s three-point contest.
A 10-time All-Star point guard and the leader of the surprising Oklahoma City Thunder this season, Paul is a career 37 percent three-point shooter, making just below that mark in his 15th NBA campaign. A notoriously crafty competitor, he has lost all four of the skills challenges he has participated in during All-Star Weekend.
The 2008 NBA Finals MVP turned ESPN analyst officially retired as a member of the Boston Celtics in 2017 with a career 36.8 three-point percentage. A 10-time All-Star eligible for the Hall of Fame’s Class of 2021, Pierce’s 2,143 career three-pointers rank ninth in league history. Nicknamed The Truth and considered one of the most clutch scorers of his generation, Pierce won the three-point shootout at 2010 All-Star Weekend.
A three-time All-Star and two-time Sixth Woman of the Year for the Chicago Sky in 11 WNBA seasons, she has twice won back-to-back three-point shootouts in 2017 and 2018. Quigley is a career 39.9 percent three-point shooter whose 360 career triples are only a dozen away from breaking into the all-time top 25.
How will the HORSE Challenge work?
If you are unfamiliar with HORSE, participants will go head-to-head, with each failure to match the other’s shot resulting in a letter for the errant shooter. The first participant to accumulate the letters H-O-R-S-E will be eliminated. Dunking is outlawed in this competition, which puts everyone on equal footing with LaVine.
The isolated participants will attempt shots from their respective home courts. Each matchup will start with a coin toss to decide who shoots first, with the older participant calling heads or tails. Prior to shooting, they must describe their attempts in detail, including whether or not they intend to bank or swish the shot.
State Farm is serving as the sponsor for the event and will donate more than $200,000 to charities benefiting coronavirus response efforts on behalf of the participants. The NBA has already donated more than $74 million to support efforts through its NBA Together campaign, according to the press release.
Is this a good idea?
Yes! Granted, the NBA eliminated its HORSE competition from All-Star Weekend festivities in 2010 after just two seasons due to a lack of interest, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Complaining about a HORSE competition with sports on an indefinite hiatus would be like Andy Dufresne complaining about what kind of beer he got after tarring the roof in “Shawshank Redemption.” Enjoy these simple pleasures.
It might have been better had the NBA coaxed commitments from the likes of Curry, Ray Allen and a few of the other all-time great shooters, but again — you take what you can get at this point. Surely the NBA is considering a number of similar productions the longer this lasts. Think you have a better idea? Sent it over.
HORSE Challenge schedule
Sunday, April 12, 7-9 p.m.
Group 1 quarterfinal: Trae Young vs. Chauncey Billups
Group 1 quarterfinal: Tamika Catchings vs. Mike Conley Jr.
Group 2 quarterfinal: Zach LaVine vs. Paul Pierce
Group 2 quarterfinal: Chris Paul vs. Allie Quigley
Thursday, April 16, 9-11 p.m.
Group 1 semifinal
Group 2 semifinal
HORSE Championship Game
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