NBA Horse Challenge – Grading the final four as a champion is crowned


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 from every semifinalist:

MORE: Grading the upset-filled opening round of NBA HORSE

Chauncey Billups


Semifinals: Defeated by Mike Conley Jr. (HO)



Chauncey Billups describes what it’s like having his daughters home from school and filming the HORSE competition.

Grade: C+

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.

Mike Conley Jr.


Semifinals: Defeated Allie Quigley (HO)
Finals: Defeated Zach LaVine (HO)



Mike Conley spins on one foot and even lands a “granny shot” to ice the game as he makes easy work of Chauncey Billups in the semifinals of the NBA HORSE Challenge.

Grade: A

The HORSE Challenge champion went deep into his bag to beat Chauncey Billups in the semifinals, hitting his first three shots and hitting a variety of trick attempts. The ambidextrous Conley only needed to use his “off” right hand 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.

Zach LaVine


Semifinals: Defeated Allie Quigley (HOR)
Finals: Defeated by Mike Conley Jr. (HO)



Zach LaVine has to break out some creative shots out of his arsenal to take down Allie Quigley in the semifinals of the NBA HORSE Challenge.

Grade: A-

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.

Allie Quigley


Semifinals: Defeated by Zach LaVine (HOR)



Allie Quigley gets a letter on Zach LaVine by banking in a shot from the ground.

Grade: B

Going up against the hyperathletic LaVine was a tough draw for Quigley, who couldn’t match LaVine’s acrobatic finishes above the rim or using 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.


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