We Got Some NBA Action… Sort of

13 Apr, 2020

Without actual games to look forward to for the foreseeable future, the NBA has turned to alternate forms of competition during the coronavirus quarantine. After putting together an NBA 2K players-only tournament, the next event was a HORSE Challenge consisting of current and former NBA and WNBA players, which tipped off on Sunday evening. 

Chauncey Billups came back from an H-O-R deficit to defeat Trae Young in the first game, then Mike Conley — shooting inside a pro-style gym — easily cruised past Tamika Catchings. Up next, Zach LaVine used his athleticism and trickery to take down Paul Pierce, while Allie Quigley scored an upset over Chris Paul. 

Each player took their shots from their own respective and isolated homecourts. While holding the contest remotely was necessary, it may have prevented some star players from participating. Giannis Antetokounmpo, for example, said recently he doesn’t have access to a hoop at his house. 

Kudos to the NBA for continuing to try to bring entertainment to the masses during what is an extremely tough time. Obviously everyone would rather be watching real games right now, but that’s simply not possible. Putting together an actual athletic competition involving players is the next-best thing, and will serve as a solid distraction for the millions of people forced to remain in their homes in order to help curb the spread of COVID-19. 

The HORSE Challenge will help more than sports-starved fans as State Farm plans to donate more than $200,000 on behalf of the participants to charities focused on coronavirus response efforts. Here are some key takeaways from Sunday’s action:

It’s now been over a month since the NBA suspended the season, and that’s a long time to go without any new form of competition, especially when it’s supposed to playoff time. Now obviously a HORSE tournament isn’t the same as real games, but it’s definitely better than nothing. 

The process was a bit strange to get used to, but it was nice to watch a live contest between some of the best athletes in the world and to get to do it collectively. One of the best aspects of live sports is that everyone is enjoying it in real-time, and it creates a connection between friends, family and even strangers online. 

Getting a little taste of that back in our lives was a nice change from the normal day-to-day dread of a deadly pandemic. 

Everyone who loves basketball grew up playing HORSE, or some variation of this classic game. But no matter the word you ended up choosing to spell out, or where you played, be it the park, the driveway or the street, one constant was that you were outside. HORSE is an outdoor game, and it always has been.

So it was a bit of a shock when they moved to the second game of the night, and there’s Mike Conley standing in a beautiful, state of the art, pro-style gym, which was apparently attached to his house. Now, obviously that’s sick, and everyone wishes they could have that kind of setup too, but that’s not where you’re supposed to play HORSE. 

There needs to be fences and garages getting in the way, cracked concrete creating spots for shots, wind blowing around and sun in your eyes. It’s just not a real HORSE game if those elements aren’t part of the deal. Unfortunately for Tamika Catchings, she was playing by those rules on her freezing driveway in Indianapolis and was quickly eliminated. 

Conley might cruise to the title if he gets to keep playing inside his cozy gym while everyone else is outside.

One of the disappointing aspects of the competition, at least in some of the early games, is that there weren’t a lot of HORSE style shots going on. The whole point of the game is to try and trip up your opponent with weird shots you would never take in a game, but instead, there were a lot of pretty generic jumpers or runners getting thrown up. 

In game No. 3, Zach LaVine started upping the ante, and Paul Pierce paid the price, but Chris Paul really brought out the tricks in the shot of the night. Heading to the free throw line, he turned his back to the basket and balanced on one leg. Then he reached back and grabbed his other leg as if to stretch his quad. From there, he turned and shot it with one hand. Nothing but net. 

Allie Quigley didn’t even come close on that tricky one, but she did score the major upset, taking down the 10-time NBA All-Star. Quigley had the second-worst odds to take home the title coming into the competition, but her pure shooting helped her advance to the semis and set up an all-Chicago matchup against Zach LaVine. 

CBS Sports

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