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H O R S E is the gimmick we finally need

(Pete Maravich in a H O R S E competition against George Gervin during the 1977-78 season.)

The NBA is going to televise a H O R S E competition this Sunday at 7 p.m.

There will be four matchups, with the winners moving on to the semifinals on April 16.

The quarterfinals on Sunday will feature:

  • Trae Young vs. Chauncey Billups

  • Tamika Catchings vs. Mike Conley 

  • Zach LaVine vs. Paul Pierce

  • Chris Paul vs. WNBA player Allie Quigley

How it’ll work: Each player will be filmed in real-time on an isolated court, which the opponent will be able to see from their own respective isolated court. Regular H O R S E rules will proceed from there. Regardless of how it plays out, tons of people will watch, because, at this point, tons of people would watch a game of Go Fish between Chris Paul and Mike Conley.

The NBA has always been interested in the idea of H O R S E, though, even if the results have often been anticlimactic.

Most recently, in 2009 and 2010: 

  • The league worked the competition into All-Star Weekend for two years and, basically, it sucked. 

  • In the 2010 final -- the one that drove the stake into the idea -- Kevin Durant and Rajon Rondo couldn’t make a shot and started to run out of time, so the producers made the snap decision to turn it instead into a 3-point matching competition, at which junction the two started making 3s back-and-forth, thus prolonging the event even more. 

  • Charles Barkley was the “host,” and he tried to spice it up by yelling Chuck things, but the entire idea felt stale. 

  • It … didn’t return for the 2011 All-Star Weekend.  

It was first tried throughout the 1977-78 season:

  • Dreamed up by the NBA and CBS, then the league’s skeptical partner, it featured a 32-player bracket. 

  • The preliminary rounds were shot early in 1977 and televised over the course of the year.

  • There was some real star power: Pete Maravich, George Gervin, David Thompson, Rick Barry, Maurice Lucas, and so on. 

  • The finals were supposed to be Maravich vs. Paul Westphal, but Maravich had an injury and Rick Barry stepped in instead, eventually losing to Westphal. 

  • YouTube clips: Maravich vs. Gervin in round three; Maravich vs. Bob McAdoo in round two; Doug Collins vs. Bingo Smith in round one. 

The bottom line: We’ve all made fun of H O R S E competitions in the past. Now it’s here when we need it most. (H/t to this guy for the 1977-78 info.)


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