This Sunday, April 12, ESPN and the NBA have partnered up to help satisfy our desire for live competition by airing the first round of the NBA HORSE Challenge, a single-elimination shooting competition featuring eight NBA and WNBA players and legends.
MORE: HORSE Challenge Info | Best HORSE Shots this season
Headlined by All-Stars Chris Paul and Trae Young, the field features stars of the past and present and has been put together, with various proceeds going to coronavirus relief efforts.
Live sports competition for a great cause, what could be better?
Before the challenge gets going, we've got you covered with a primer for each head-to-head matchup to help you get a better idea of who could advance to the Semifinals.
All odds per BetOnline
Trae Young vs. Chauncey Billups
Odds to win the tournament: Young (+200), Billups (+600)
Mr. Big Shot.
It's New School vs. Old School as the challenge opens with a battle between the Atlanta Hawks All-Star point guard of the future and a Finals MVP that earned an iconic nickname with his shot-making ability.
Opening odds have tabbed Young as the favourite to win and a look at the highlight reel from his NBA career up to this point would make it pretty clear why. The 21-year-old is one of a few NBA players with true video-game range, something that can come in handy depending on the length of the isolated home courts that he and Billups will be doing respective shooting from.
Trae's range is DIFFERENT. pic.twitter.com/hk3zvqGB0Y- Atlanta Hawks (@ATLHawks) February 11, 2020
But dont be fooled - Billups, who made his NBA debut nearly a year before Young was born, made a living beyond the arc as a career 38.7% 3-point shooter. Who could forget his game-tying triple from over 40-feet out during the Pistons' title run in 2004?
But HORSE is much more than just distance, and this one will more than likely come down to who can get the most creative. Trae might be the favourite, but don't count out Mr. Big Shot… he earned that nickname for a reason.
Tamika Catchings vs. Mike Conley Jr.
Odds to win the tournament: Conley (+300), Catchings (+1000)
After a Utah Jazz win over the Charlotte Hornets in late December of 2019, Mike Conley Jr., who was inactive for the game, sat in the visitor's locker room of the Spectrum Center and enjoyed some North Carolina barbecue, fork in his right hand.
Weird anecdote? Probably. Relevant? Definitely.
Conley, widely known for his pure lefty jump-shooting stroke is just about as ambidextrous as they come. While he shoots jumpers with the left, his ambidexterity would explain the potency of his signature right-handed finishes.
💜 @MCONLEY10 💜 pic.twitter.com/PHkrHvyHdk- utahjazz (@utahjazz) October 31, 2019
That he can switch it up from his dominant hand to his 'off hand' could be something that comes in…handy.
Let's not sleep on Catchings, though, who has recently re-entered into the news cycle as one of nine members of the epic Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2020. The 2011 WNBA MVP is third all-time on the WNBA's scoring list and first in all-time Win Shares, by a lot.
There are two takeaways from the above facts: Tamika Catchings is a bucket and Tamika Catchings is a winner.
When you score as much as Catchings did in her WNBA career, you're gonna be able to do it with both hands. She's been retired for four years now, but the wisdom that comes with retirement and being the veteran in this situation could work in her favour.
Considering she has the lowest odds in the field, Catch is definitely a sleeper.
Zach LaVine vs. Paul Pierce
Odds to win the tournament: Pierce (+400), LaVine (+600)
Based on odds, this is the closest thing to a toss-up that we'll see in the opening round of the HORSE challenge.
Again, it's Old School vs. New School as LaVine takes his shot at The Truth, yet another former Finals MVP that is soon to take the stage in Springfield, MA in the coming years.
In a way, this is an opportunity for LaVine to even the score.
How, you may ask? Well, in LaVine's second season with the Minnesota Timberwolves, he faced off with Pierce's LA Clippers three times. LaVine did much more scoring than Pierce, but the Clippers took two of the three meetings in which both players suited up.
Does LaVine remember this? Probably not. But it's a fun narrative to think that he'd try to tie the all-time series with Pierce. It also feels like these two wouldn't have met, but is a reminder that LaVine is in the middle of his sixth NBA season.
As for the actual meeting, since Trae Young wanted to make sure LaVine wasn't able to use his dunking ability to his advantage, this will probably come down to 3-point shooting and creativity.
LaVine has hit 13 triples in a game this season and his epic dunk contest performances suggest he can tap into a deep creative side.
Pierce was ahead of his time, sinking eight triples in a 2002 playoff game but as far as dunk contest creativity… things didn't go so well for him back in high school.
When it comes down to it, Pierce is still the favourite here. He is The Truth, after all. If he taps into that 2002 playoff mode, LaVine might be in trouble.
Chris Paul vs. Allie Quigley
Odds to win the tournament: Paul (+250), Quigley (+800)
The 34-year-old Paul and 33-year-old Quigley are the closest things to contemporaries that we'll see in the opening round.
CP3's been doing it at the highest level since 2005, while Quigley has held things down in the WNBA since 2008, establishing herself as one of the league's best sharpshooters most recently with her hometown Chicago Sky.
Both seem to be getting better with time.
This past season, Paul returned to the NBA All-Star stage after a three-year hiatus while Quigley has made three straight All-Star appearances after making her debut on that stage at 31, also taking time out to win the 3-Point Contest in 2017 and 2018.
Now, they go head-to-head on the HORSE stage.
It's all in good fun, but expect these two competitors to be ready to bring the intensity. Paul has already shared with his 7.9 million Twitter followers that he's open to suggestions and Quigley has provided a sneak preview of something we might see during the competition.
.@alliequigley already prepping for Sundays #NBAHorseChallenge against @CP3 pic.twitter.com/fi87mD2jS9- UNINTERRUPTED (@uninterrupted) April 9, 2020
High intensity means high pressure, but if anyone is cut out for that, it's these two, which is perhaps the biggest parallel. At the time of the suspension of the 2019-20 season, Paul was leading the entire league in total points scored in clutch time. Last year, Quigley was fifth among all WNBA players in total clutch-time scoring.
No moment is too big for either of these two, so even when "HORS" piles up, you can't count either out. This will be a good one.
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