ESPN will televise its first live sports competition since the coronavirus pandemic shut down both the NBA and NHL seasons and delayed the start of baseball next week, and it features NBA and WNBA All-Star players playing a good old fashioned game of HORSE.
The network and the NBA are working together on televising the “NBA HORSE Challenge Presented by State Farm,” a competition featuring NBA players like Chris Paul of the Oklahoma City Thunder, Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks, Zach LaVine of the Chicago Bulls, and the WNBA’s Tamika Catchings, along with other WNBA and NBA alums. The NBA season currently remains on hold amid the spread of the COVID-19 disease.
The two-day event begins Sunday, April 12 at 7 p.m. ET. The players, which also include WNBA All-Star Allie Quigley of the Chicago Sky, Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley Jr., NBA Finals MVPs Chauncey Billups and Paul Pierce, will play a single-elimination game of HORSE — all from their respective home courts.
ESPN NBA commentator Mark Jones will host the competition, which will adhere to the NBA’s social-distancing protocol prohibiting players from competing together in the same location.
Here’s how it will work: participants will be divided into two groups of four, with the winners of the first two games in each group playing each other in the semifinals. The winners of those groups will move on to the championship round.
The games will start with a coin toss, with the more senior player calling heads or tails. Players must also call out what shot and score they intend to make before taking it, such as a bank shot or swish. Dunking is not allowed. The first player to accumulate the letters “H-O-R-S-E” after failing to match five shots loses.
ESPN will present the four quarterfinal games on Sunday, and the semifinals and the championship game will air on Thursday, April 16, at 9 p.m. ET.
For its part, State Farm will donate over $200,000 on behalf of the participants to charities catering to coronavirus response efforts.
The league suspended its season on March 12, the first U.S. sports league to do, after Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert tested positive for the disease (he has since recovered). In the ensuing days, nearly every major sporting event was either canceled, suspended or postponed, including the Tokyo Summer Olympics.
“NBA HORSE Challenge Presented by State Farm” airs Sunday, April 12 at 7 p.m. ET and Thursday, April 16, at 9 p.m. ET. on ESPN.