The first NBA HORSE challenge is in the books. After an interesting two-day event, Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley took home the title thanks to his indoor gym and ambidextrousness. After cruising past WNBA legend Tamika Catchings in the first round, Conley beat retired guard Chauncey Billups in the semis, and Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine in the finals.

With real NBA games postponed indefinitely due to the coronavirus outbreak, the league tried to help basketball fans everywhere scratch their itch with a HORSE tournament. The action started on Sunday with the first round, and continued on Thursday with the semifinals and final. 

In the first semifinal matchup, Conley took down fellow point guard Chauncey Billups, while LaVine used his athleticism to outlast WNBA All-Star Allie Quigley. Unfortunately for LaVine, it started raining during the final, and he wasn’t able to pull out all of his tricks on the wet ground. With Conley inside, and able to use both hands, LaVine never really stood a chance. 

Here’s a recap of the entire bracket:

NBA HORSE Challenge final

  • Mike Conley defeated Zach LaVine

Semifinal results

  • Semifinal: Mike Conley defeated Chauncey Billups
  • Semifinal: Zach LaVine defeated Allie Quigley

Round 1 results

  • Chauncey Billups defeated Trae Young 
  • Mike Conley defeated Tamika Catchings
  • Zach LaVine defeated Paul Pierce
  • Allie Quigley defeated Chris Paul

And now, a few takeaways from the action

Good effort, but event falls a bit flat

The HORSE Challenge was a creative idea by the league, and it was fun early on to see some players out there competing and talking a little bit of trash. But overall the event fell a bit flat. It really wasn’t anyone’s fault, it’s just hard to make this kind of event entertaining in general, and near impossible when everyone is in different states and filming on phones and tablets. And that doesn’t even take into account the elements — Tamika Catchings was playing in the freezing wind, and LaVine was playing through rain in the finals — which made for uneven contests. 

Everyone is doing their best under the circumstances, so you don’t want to criticize those who participated or put it together, but this probably isn’t worth repeating. 

Call him Mike “Indoors” Conley

We already went through this in detail after the first round, so we don’t have to completely rehash the point, but it was such an incredible advantage for Conley to be playing in a gym when everyone else was outside. That became even more clear when during the final, it started raining in Washington where LaVine was playing, and the Bulls guard couldn’t jump around like he wanted to. Again, this isn’t some official or important event, so it’s not that big of a deal, but there should be some sort of asterisk next to Conley’s title.  

Karma comes for LaVine

LaVine is one of the best athletes in the league right now, but unfortunately for him, HORSE is a no-dunking game, and always has been. Despite not being allowed to rock the rim, LaVine was determined to use his athleticism to his advantage. His acrobatic layups quickly eliminated Paul Pierce in the first round, and in the semis he came back from a deficit to take down Quigley. The latter win was a bit controversial, however, as even though he wasn’t technically dunking, he was pulling off moves the Sky guard couldn’t physically complete. 

Unfortunately for LaVine, karma came back to bite him in the final. As he tried to compete against the crafty “Indoors” Conley, it started raining, which meant LaVine couldn’t fly around and pull out all of his tricks. As a result, he was only able to get two letters on Conley, and took the loss. 

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Congrats to Mike “indoors” Conley on winning the first — and hopefully last — NBA HORSE challenge

Still alive here and Conley goes back to the running layup behind the backboard and it’s in! That was all net too. Good luck to LaVine on this one. He’s conceding before even trying lol. Pretty good effort actually but it’s no good

Okay, Conley trying to close it out with a running layup behind the backboard, but that’s not even close. LaVine tried to go simple with a 3 but it’s short. Conley now chooses a banked 3 from the wing….. got it! LaVine needs this or it’s over…….. clutch!

Conley getting really tricky now. He flipped it behind his back to himself and shot a 3 but thankfully for LaVine it came up short. He’s LaVine now getting tricky himself with a reverse layup but he misses

Conley goes back to the spin and punch, and this time he’s got it! LaVine can’t even figure out how to take this one and Conley jokes it’s a shot clock violation lol. Finally tries it and it’s not close. LaVine is on S

LaVine now turns his back to the basket at the free throw line and turns and shoots it but it’s no good. Conley gets back to basics with a simple weak hand free throw. LaVine’s effort………. swish! Big time shot

LaVine tries to get crafty with a little between the legs layup but it doesn’t go down for him. Now it’s Conley going for a weak hand floater from 3….. no good. LaVine back in control now. He gets back to basics with a 3 from the wing that’s all net. Conley is up now and he sinks his attempt as well

LaVine now is throwing it off the side of the backboard, catching it in mid air and shooting it before landing….. no chance. Here’s Conley calling a banked 3 from the wing…. rims out. Back to LaVine now. He chooses a banked 3 from the top of the key and sinks it. Conley to match………. nope! H-O now for Conley

Conley going back to one he couldn’t make in the semis. He’s spinning it on his finger and punching it up to the rim…….. nope misses again.

It’s LaVine’s turn now and he goes for a deep corner 3 that rims out. Conley stays in the same spot and chooses a weak hand 3….. money ball. LaVine’s effort is nowhere close and now he’s up to H-O-R

We’re back now and LaVine calls out a tricky layup. He says jump, 360, switch from right to left hand and lay it in. Conley makes it look easy and matches. Now LaVine chooses a banked free throw which is way too strong. Conley has a chance now but his behind the backboard attempt is way off

LaVine calls out a tricky layup where he taps the glass on one side, then reverses it to the other. Not even close for Conley, who is at a distinct athleticism disadvantage here. That’s an H for Conley

Now Conley heads to the wing for a weak hand 3 but it’s no good and LaVine has a chance to take control now. He goes back to old faithful the all net layup that is essentially a dunk. Javie officially rules that it’s all good though. Now Conley has to match…. and he does!

Conley now calling out an eyes closed free throw and it’s money. LaVine bricks that one too and it’s an immediate H-O for the Bulls guard

Here we go. Conley is up first and he starts out in style! He goes in and flips up a layup behind his back and off the glass. LaVine now……. not even close and he has a quick H

Oh boy, Steve Javie is here as the rules expert lol

Okay the final is set now: Mike Conley vs. Zach LaVine. Each one has an advantage. For Conley it’s his indoor gym and for LaVine it’s his athleticism

LaVine throws it off the backboard, catches it, goes between the legs in mid air and flips it in. This is gonna be really tough for Quigley, especially with the backboard she’s working with. And……. yep no good. She never had a chance. It’s all over now

LaVine now turns his back to the basket at the free throw line, jumps and spins in mid air and shoots the jumper….. money ball. Here’s Quigley…… off the back rim! H-O-R-S for Quigley now, she’s down to her last letter

We’re back to the action now and Quigley chooses a step back jumper from the elbow that surprisingly doesn’t go down. LaVine now in charge and he says an off the backboard, reverse lefty layup…… wow he made that look easy. Quigley now to match him…….. nope! Her weak backboard let her down there, didn’t get a good bounce. H-O-R for each now

Quigley goes behind the backboard now and easily knocks that down. LaVine doesn’t like the looks of this one…… and that’s why! Two straight letters for LaVine and he’s up to H-O-R

LaVine goes back to the athleticism and tries a 360, switch hands layup but its no good. Door is back open for Quigley and she takes a seat. Goes for the classic Pistol Pete shot off glass and its cash. Here’s LaVine…….. nope! And it’s all tied up here at H-O

Back to LaVine and he’s going back to athleticism. Bounces it between his legs backwards, jumps up, catches it and lays it in. This one will be tough for Quigley….. or not! She easily matches

Quigley tries the same shot from the other side but can’t get it to go and LaVine is back in control now. He calls out an all net layup….. too easy. Technically not a dunk but might as well have been. Here’s Quigley now…… no good. She has H-O now

LaVine takes Quigley’s bait about shooting and calls out a banked free throw… misses! Quigley has control now. She takes a hop to the left and shoots a jumper off one foot at the elbow…. money. LaVine bricks his attempt. H for him and it’s all tied up

Now LaVine cruises in for a between the legs, reverse layup. Quigley gives a good effort on that one but it bounces out and she has an H

LaVine is up first and he says start at the free throw line, hop on left foot towards the basket and make a lefty layup. Quigley pretty easily matches that one.

Here we go now with the all-Chicago battle: Allie Quigley vs. Zach LaVine

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