Kristian Winfield: Trae Young is the heavy favorite in H-O-R-S-E — unless dunking is allowed

Tribune Content Agency

The NBA is bringing back the H-O-R-S-E competition, and Trae Young is probably going to win it.

Young headlines an eight-person group of NBA and WNBA players, who will compete in a tournament-style series of games of H-O-R-S-E that will be streamed live from their homes. The other competitors include Thunder guard Chris Paul; 2020 Hall of Fame inductee and WNBA legend Tamika Catchings; Jazz guard Mike Conley; three-time WNBA All-Star and Chicago Sky guard Allie Quigley; Bulls guard Zach LaVine; and NBA stars turned television broadcasters Paul Pierce and Chauncey Billups.

It should be fun. It should be exciting. It shouldn’t even be close.

A refresher of the rules: It’s trick-shot central, with one player attempting a shot and the other matching that shot if it’s made. For example, if Young makes a corner three and his matchup misses it, that player is awarded an “H.” The first player to spell out the word “HORSE” by missing 5 shots is eliminated.

Young is a favorite because he’s a walking basketball cheat code. He has shooting range that extends further than any player we’ve seen in recent history not named Stephen Curry. He has a bag of basketball trick shots that he shows off regularly before tip-off on game days. He hit a half court shot at the buzzer of halftime of the 2020 NBA All-Star Game. He hits shots from sitting down on the bench with ease.

Young should be the favorite, unless he has to dunk with Zach LaVine, who has done a between-the-legs dunk from the foul line before. Dunks shouldn’t be allowed, though, because no one can jump with LaVine — especially Billups and Pierce.

Since the coronavirus outbreak has suspended basketball — along with life as we knew it — the NBA is exploring different avenues to keep its fan base engaged. Its first avenue was a video game tournament, featuring 16 players, including Nets star Kevin Durant, who went head-to-head in NBA 2K20. And on Sunday, the league will launch its first self-isolated H-O-R-S-E tournament, inviting players who have basketball courts in their homes.

Must be nice.

The NBA had H-O-R-S-E at All-Star Weekend in 2009 and 2010, and Kevin Durant won both years, beating O.J. Mayo and Rajon Rondo.

The NBA disbanded the HORSE aspect of All-Star weekend after 2010, and star big man DeMarcus Cousins called on Durant, still the league’s reigning champion, to join this year’s competition. “Defend your crown @KDTrey5,” Cousins tweeted.

Durant, though, was not included in this year’s competition, and he continues to rehab from a ruptured Achilles tendon that has cost him his entire first season in Brooklyn. He should absolutely get next if the NBA runs it back.

For now, here’s how the tournament is broken down:

Groups 1 and 2 will play against each other on Sunday from 7 to 9 p.m. In Group 1, Trae Young will go toe-to-toe with Chauncey Billups, and Tamika Catchings will take on Mike Conley. In Group 2, Zach LaVine will go head-to-head with Paul Pierce, and Chris Paul will scrap it out against Allie Quigley.

There will then be three days off in between rounds.

Round 2 will take place on Thursday, when the winners from each group will play against one another.

The championship H-O-R-S-E game will also be on Thursday. We could very well see a Young vs. LaVine championship game.

Young had better hope LaVine isn’t allowed to dunk.


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