UTAH JAZZ

Mike Conley Claims NBA H-O-R-S-E Challenge Championship

Apr 16, 2020, 9:01 PM | Updated: 11:04 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley defeated Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine to win the NBA H-O-R-S-E Challenge tournament that was broadcast over two days. The tournament was hosted by ESPN with State Farm, who donate more than $200,000 on behalf of the participants to charities focused on coronavirus response efforts.

After defeating WNBA Hall of Famer Tamika Catchings Sunday night, Conley defeated former Detroit Pistons champion Chauncey Billups in the semifinals before taking down LaVine to take home the title.

Conley won the final battle HO to HORSE, knocking down a tricky over the backboard layup to hand LaVine his final letter.

Conley shot from his indoor court at his Colombus, Ohio, while LaVine was at his home outside of Seattle, Washington. LaVine, a two-time NBA dunk champion relied heavily on his athleticism, while Conley relied on his ambidextrous shooting skills to secure the victory.

The tournament began with eight competitors consisting of NBA, WNBA, and retired NBA legends.

En route to victory, Conley hit a series of circus shots to eliminate his competitors, rather than focusing on more traditional shots. Against LaVine, Conley’s first made shot was behind the back bank shot layup that found the bottom of the net with ease.

Conley followed it up by doing his best Michael Jordan impression. In a game against the Denver Nuggets, Dikembe Mutombo asked Jordan what made him so special. Jordan got Mutombo’s attention at the free-throw line and hit an eyes closed foul shot in-game.

Conley easily sunk his blind free-throw attempt, handing LaVine his second letter.

Mixed in with the contest Conley spoke to host Mark Jones about his life growing up. The Jazz guard spoke of his relationship with his father, Mike Sr, an Olympic gold medalist in the triple jump, who encouraged his namesake to put down the video games and focus on his game on the floor.

“I thank him every day,” Conley said of his father.

It’s not just the determination Conley gained from his father but also the elite athleticism. In the 1992 Footlocker Celebrity Dunk Contest, Sr. dunked from behind the free-throw showing off his Olympic athleticism.

It wasn’t just Conley’s father that made a cameo appearance. Jazz coach Quin Snyder also showed up for the broadcast. The bearded and bespeckled Snyder offeredΒ some words of encouragement for his star

“Just wanted to wish you luck, I know you’ve got an array of shots to pull from, make sure you don’t forget to about the ambidextrous package, it’s always hard for me to remember if the left or the right is the strong hand. So good luck, and we’re watching, take care and bring home the W.”

Perhaps Conley’s most technical shot of the contest came in his matchup with Billups. The Jazz guard threw the ball in the air, complete a full 360-degree spin, catch, and shoot the ball off of one leg from the right corner three.

Not all of Conley’s makes came so easily.

After missing the shot twice through the tournament, Conley finally got his signature layup to drop.

The Jazz guard sunk one-fingered, ball spinning, punched in the layup to give LaVine his second to last letter. Conley said he’s spent five hours in his gym practicing shots before facing the Bulls guards in the finals.

Though it was no replacement for NBA basketball, Jazz fans were treated to a tournament victory from their veteran guard. Hopefully, fans will get to see him back on a court with his teammates before the end of the summer.

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