Eight current and former NBA and WNBA players will take part in a classic basketball competition from the safety of their homes when ESPN broadcasts the NBA HORSE Challenge beginning on Sunday, April 12.

NBA HORSE Challenge
Chris Paul will be among the NBA and WNBA stars playing in the NBA HORSE Challenge starting on Sunday, April 12. (Image: Michael Wyke/AP)

The tournament will benefit charity, with State Farm donating more than $200,000 to coronavirus response efforts on behalf of the competitors.

Traditional HORSE Rules, No Dunks Allowed

Players will compete against each other from home courts – either indoor or outdoor – and will attempt to match shots in the traditional HORSE format. The single-elimination tournament begins with the quarterfinals on April 12, with the semifinals and championship taking place on Thursday, April 16. All matchups will be aired on ESPN.

Current players in the field include Zach LaVine of the Chicago Bulls, Chris Paul of the Oklahoma City Thunder, Trey Young of the Atlanta Hawks, Mike Conley Jr. of the Utah Jazz, and Allie Quigley of the Chicago Sky. Also playing are NBA legends Paul Pierce and Chauncey Billups, as well as WNBA Hall of Famer Tamika Catchings.

The players are organized into two groups of four, with the quarterfinal winners from the same group playing each other in the semifinal round.

Each game will begin with a coin toss, with the “more senior” player making the call. Players must describe their shots in detail before they make an attempt. If a player makes a shot, their opponent must match it, or they’ll get a letter. A player loses when they spell H-O-R-S-E.

Dunks are prohibited by the contest’s rules, something Young made sure to point out to LaVine on Twitter.

Young will begin the competition by facing Billups, while Catchings and Conley face off in the other Group 1 quarterfinal. LaVine takes on Pierce while Paul battles Quigley in the Group 2 quarterfinals. ESPN’s Mark Jones will host the event.

Young, Paul Open as Tournament Favorites

While HORSE isn’t exactly a substitute for real NBA basketball, it will provide something for fans to watch – and potentially, for them to bet on as well.

While regulated bookmakers in the United States likely won’t be able to get approval to offer NBA HORSE Challenge betting, Bovada has already put up odds for the competition, with Trae Young and Chris Paul listed as the +300 co-favorites ahead of LaVine (+350). Bovada sees the WNBA participants as underdogs, though not exactly long shots: Quigley (+1000) and Catchings (+1200) are at the bottom of the table, but not far behind the rest of the pack.

NBA HORSE Challenge Odds

  • Trae Young (+300)
  • Chris Paul (+300)
  • Zach LaVine (+350)
  • Mike Conley Jr. (+450)
  • Paul Pierce (+750)
  • Chauncey Billups (+800)
  • Allie Quigley (+1000)
  • Tamika Catchings (+1200)

Odds via Bovada

While having the participants play HORSE in isolation is unusual, it is necessary during the COVID-19 pandemic. In some cases, government-issued stay-at-home orders would prevent face-to-face play. That aside, the NBA’s own isolation protocols currently prohibit any players from competing against each other in the same location, nixing any hope of live HORSE showdowns airing on ESPN.

The NBA suspended play on March 12 after Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus. There is currently no timeline for the league to resume.

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