Desperate to fill the programming void in a world without basketball due to the coronavirus pandemic, the NBA is turning to H-O-R-S-E. The league and its broadcast partners are plotting a televised H-O-R-S-E tournament involving several high-profile players competing in separate gyms, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports.
The league has experimented with H-O-R-S-E before. Back in 2009, the NBA turned to the event as a way to spice up All-Star Weekend, with Joe Johnson claiming the crown in a field that included Kevin Durant and O.J. Mayo. That competition has mostly been forgotten in the annals of time. Can the NBA do better in 2020? If it’s going to happen, the needs a strong cast of competitors.
These are the players we’d like to see when the NBA brings back H-O-R-S-E this year.
An event like NBA H-O-R-S-E needs star power to work, and there is no brighter young star in the basketball world than Doncic. The 21-year-old went from Rookie of the Year to a bonafide MVP candidate in his second season, pushing his Dallas Mavericks into the playoff picture by emerging as one of the league’s great offensive creators. In addition to being one of the most impactful superstars in the NBA today, Doncic is also a trick-shot magician. He already has a legitimate highlight reel of circus shots after only 126 NBA games.
If these are the shots Doncic can make in the flow of a game, what can do in a H-O-R-S-E competition? We need to find out. — Ricky O’Donnell
He’s the best three-point shooter of all time, and made his pregame routine a must-watch for fans by sinking shots from the damn tunnel. Who’s matching his shots from distance? — Matt Ellentuck
Jokic is one of the least conventional superstars in NBA history. He moves like a jellyfish, with a trillion brain cells that solely exist to spark moves that have never before been seen on a basketball court.
Most of what makes Jokic special doesn’t apply to H-O-R-S-E — most notably the anticipation of someone who’s already watched the very game he’s playing in 700 times and knows what’s going to happen next — but the man’s touch and creativity makes him a fearsome competitor.
To boot, Jokic seemingly lives with the same supernatural assistance that was in Angels in the Outfield.
This man probably dreams about lefty hook shots from behind the backboard that have to bounce four times before going in. He isn’t losing. — Michael Pina
Crawford badly wants back in the NBA, so what better way to give him a platform to make his case than including him in a competition right up his wheelhouse? Crawford’s defining NBA skill was his ability to make contested, off-balanced, circus shots from anywhere on the floor. He can compete with the long-range bombers, but can also frustrate them with no-look, leg-kick 16 footers drifting the opposite way. Seeing a bunch of stars lose to him would be high comedy. — Mike Prada
I spent the media availability portion of All-Star Weekend asking the NBA’s best players what they would think of the league experimenting with a four-point shot. The only player who was definitely interested was Young. And why not? Young is already making the “logo three” part of his regular repertoire. This man’s game is practically made for H-O-R-S-E, with the threat of unlimited range and endless creativity flowing through every possession.
How good would a H-O-R-S-E final between Young and Curry be? There are worse ways to spend time than watching the greatest shooter ever and his most promising young apprentice take turns draining 40-footers. Sign me up. — Ricky O’Donnell
H-O-R-S-E is a trick-shots competition, and this man made an entire multi-million dollar career off doing … trick shots. Put a defender in his face and it’s a wrap. — Matt Ellentuck
Irving has more in-game H-O-R-S-E shots than anyone in the last 15 years, so putting him on this list is a no-brainer. Segments of his warm-up routine are basically him playing the game against himself.
Just imagine how he’ll use the glass, the angles and arc and awkward spins he’ll put on the ball. Irving’s H-O-R-S-E shots will be to the laws of physics what RAID is to ants. — Michael Pina
You need a total wild card to spice up this competition, and Bertans fits the bill. He’s spent all season making announcers cringe with his shot selection — at least until those shots go down. He’ll pull up from anywhere, while running in any direction through any obstacle. If Curry tries to wipe out the field with one of his patented tunnel shots, Bertans will happily take it as if he’s shooting a normal jumper. Best of all, he’ll compete with the same steely stone face that’ll drive his opponents nuts. — Mike Prada