NBA Horse Challenge – Grading every player in quarterfinals


Four players remain in the NBA HORSE Challenge after a first round that saw Atlanta Hawks All-Star Trae Young, 2020 Hall of Famer Tamika Catchings, 2008 NBA Finals MVP Paul Pierce and Oklahoma City Thunder All-Star Chris Paul knocked out of the tournament.

That sets up a final four that will include 2004 NBA Finals MVP Chauncey Billups taking on ambidextrous Utah Jazz point guard Mike Conley Jr. and athletic Chicago Bulls shooting guard Zach LaVine facing sharpshooting Chicago Sky All-Star Allie Quigley.

The semifinals and championship will air beginning at 9 p.m. ET April 16 on ESPN and streaming on the ESPN App.

MORE: How to watch the NBA HORSE Challenge

Trae Young vs. Chauncey Billups


Billups (HOR) defeats Young



Chauncey Billups pulls off three challenges in a row to knock Hawks star Trae Young out of the NBA HORSE Challenge.

Billups analysis (Grade: B+)

“Mr. Big Shot” started slowly, earning two letters in his first four shots and falling behind HOR to nothing before he found his legs. From then on, Billups’ variety of 3-pointers — two of them bankers from the top of the key, one of them off one leg and the last from the corner out of bounds — proved too much for Young to match.

Young analysis (Grade: B-)



Trae Young shares his phone number so he can stay in contact with fans during the NBA hiatus.

Among ESPN’s panel of writers, Young was the heavy pre-tournament favorite to win it all because of his distance shooting. As such, it was a surprise that he missed four 3-pointers on his way out in the opening round. With the score tied at HOR, Young missed his last two shots, an underhanded, one-handed free throw and a 3 off glass from the top of the key, sending him packing.

Tamika Catchings vs. Mike Conley Jr.


Conley (H) defeats Catchings



Mike Conley Jr. runs away with the game against Tamika Catchings.

Conley analysis (Grade: A)

Conley announced his presence as a serious contender to win this tournament, thanks to two big advantages: his off-hand dominance and an indoor gym in his Columbus home. Although primarily left-handed, Conley prefers to shoot floaters with his right hand, and he picked up four of the five letters on “off-hand” shots. It didn’t hurt that Conley was in controlled conditions indoors while Catchings was dealing with wind and other elements outside. However, Conley also showed off a classic HORSE trick shot, going over the backboard from behind on the run — with his off hand, of course.

Catchings analysis (Grade: D+)



Tamika Catchings reflects on her relationship with Kobe Bryant and how she will use her post-basketball legacy to impact her community.

HORSE doesn’t showcase the best aspects of the versatile game that landed Catchings in the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame, and a tough draw showed that Catchings’ off hand is not especially strong. When Catchings did have control of the game, her shots weren’t difficult for Conley to match, and he ended the game with only an H.

Zach LaVine vs. Paul Pierce

LaVine (flawless) defeats Pierce



Zach LaVine throws up some flashy shots as he takes down Paul Pierce easily in a game of HORSE.

LaVine analysis (Grade: A)

Although dunking is prohibited in this competition, LaVine still found a way to take advantage of the athleticism that made him the NBA’s dunk champion in 2015 and 2016, tapping the backboard with the ball and finishing on the other side of the rim twice and doing a left-handed layup getting above the rim without touching it. That earned two of Pierce’s letters, but LaVine also showcased his deep shooting ability and finished the game with a shot all the way off his concrete court and from the dirt.

Pierce analysis (Grade: D)



Paul Pierce might be the only man in L.A. with the Celtics logo on his court, but he says he’s a Celtic for life.

Shot-making was a key part of Pierce’s 10 career All-Star appearances, but it deserted him in this competition, as he knocked down just five shots and didn’t draw a single letter on LaVine.

Chris Paul vs. Allie Quigley


Quigley (HOR) defeats Paul



WNBA sharpshooter Allie Quigley shows Chris Paul how a game of HORSE is done, as she beats Paul with ease.

Quigley analysis (Grade: A-)

At one point during their competition, Paul remarked that all he was hearing from Quigley’s backyard hoop were swishes. Paul heated up late, opening the door for him to come back from an HORS-to-H deficit, but Quigley slammed it shut with a bank free throw. In addition to pure shot-making from the perimeter, the two-time WNBA 3-Point Contest winner showed off more classic HORSE tricks than anybody else involved in the competition, including a bank shot from the ground that drew one of Paul’s letters.

Paul analysis (Grade: B)



Chris Paul had a little extra help on hand from his son Chris Paul Jr. during the HORSE contest.

As compared to the other first-round losers, Paul put up a stiffer fight, drawing three letters on Quigley and denying her the winning shot with three matches after getting to HORS. Ultimately, a slow start cost Paul, and it must have been painful for a 90% free throw shooter to lose at the line when he was unable to bank home his attempt.


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