The NBA HORSE Challenge began with eight players with unique skill sets.
Two NBA All-Star point guards (Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks, Chris Paul of the Oklahoma City Thunder) didn't make it past the quarterfinals. Ditto for Hall of Famer Tamika Catchings and future Hall of Famer Paul Pierce.
Ultimately, Utah Jazz point guard Mike Conley Jr. was the trickiest of them all, outlasting Chicago Bulls shooting guard Zach LaVine to win the HORSE Challenge. Semifinalists Allie Quigley of the Chicago Sky and 2004 Finals MVP Chauncey Billups also put up valiant efforts after making it past the first round.
Here are grades for every semifinalist:
Semifinals: Defeated by Mike Conley Jr. (HO)
Quigley banks in shot sitting down
Allie Quigley gets a letter on Zach LaVine by banking in a shot from the ground.
After falling behind HOR to nothing, Billups told ESPN broadcaster Mark Jones that's when he gets started -- a reference to his comeback in the quarterfinals to knock out Trae Young. But "Mr. Big Shot" couldn't make enough of them this time to advance to the finals, drawing only a pair of letters on Conley before being eliminated.
Of course bro. We will definitely run it back. Proud of u kid. You are doing what most didn't think you could. Keep it goin and stay humble. 💯— Chauncey Billups (@1MrBigShot) April 13, 2020
Mike Conley Jr.
Semifinals: Defeated Allie Quigley (HO)
Finals: Defeated Zach LaVine (HO)
The HORSE Challenge champion went deep into his bag to beat Chauncey Billups in the semifinals, hitting his first three shots and making a variety of trick attempts. The ambidextrous Conley needed to use his "off" right hand only once against Billups, but then went heavily to it in the finals to comfortably defeat LaVine. Four of LaVine's five letters came on right-handed shots by Conley, who does everything but shoot jumpers and free throws with his right hand.
Conley ended up dominating the competition, picking up just five letters total across the three rounds while handing out 15 to his opponents. In addition to his versatility using either hand, Conley also showcased creativity. He drew a letter on LaVine by punching the ball in with his right hand while spinning it on his left, then finished his opponent off for the second time in three rounds with an off-hand layup from behind the backboard.
Semifinals: Defeated Allie Quigley (HOR)
Finals: Defeated by Mike Conley Jr. (HO)
As the ESPN broadcast brought in veteran NBA referee turned rules analyst Steve Javie to adjudicate, LaVine pushed the limits of the "no dunking" rule with his finishes above the rim that didn't technically see him grab it for a dunk -- tough to match for the 5-foot-10 Quigley and even the older Conley. Quigley still tested LaVine, grabbing the lead before he advanced by making each of his last three shots.
In the finals, LaVine battled both Conley and the elements, dealing with light rain at his home in the Seattle exurbs while Conley was in his climate-controlled home gym. He hung tough for a while, but couldn't make enough of his shots when he had control of the game to ever match Conley. After staying alive by making a potential closeout bank 3 from the left wing, LaVine succumbed to Conley's primary trick, off-hand shooting.
Good game, friends 👊 pic.twitter.com/YZOWx88Z0E— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) April 17, 2020
Semifinals: Defeated by Zach LaVine (HOR)
Going up against the hyperathletic LaVine was a tough draw for Quigley, who couldn't match LaVine's acrobatic finishes above the rim or his hops to hang in the air. "I really needed to win that coin flip," Quigley wryly lamented after going down early. She rallied to take the lead at one point, knocking down the Pistol Pete Maravich-inspired shot from the ground she made during Sunday's quarterfinals. But Quigley missed her last three shots, ending her strong run in the semifinals.
Haha pretty much. Nahhhh just kidding I had my chance!!!😂😬 https://t.co/0pKuXAdQM3— Alexandria Quigley (@alliequigley) April 17, 2020