This thing stunk
The H-O-R-S-E competition between NBA and WNBA players ESPN began airing last night was supposed to be the oasis in our sports desert. It turned out to be a mirage.
Maybe it was naive to think that watching people put up shots in their driveways could entertain us, even in such dire circumstances. But ESPN spent so much time hyping the tournament. Adrian Wojnarowski, citing “sources,” reported on April 4 that his own network was working with the league to make it happen. Four days later he reported the names of a few of the participants. News trickled out like rumors of a blockbuster trade in the works until ESPN officially announced the tournament on April 9. It gave the impression that this would be a can’t-miss television event.
You definitely could have missed it, though.
The main issue—which is inescapable and nobody’s fault—was the hostage video quality of the players’ streams. It looked like somebody rubbed Vaseline on the camera lens. It was clear that this made it awkward for the participants, too. The uncomfortable pauses after somebody’s audio glitched out will be familiar to anyone who’s spent the past month on conference calls.
The other problem was with the competition itself. It didn’t seem like the players put much thought or practice into their shots before the cameras turned on. They could have taken the past couple of days to come up with some unique trick shots to do, but for the most part they kept it simple. Zach LaVine even said he didn’t know he’d be asked to explain his shot before he did it.
After tweeting that he’d be taking “half-court shots only,” Trae Young’s opening matchup with Chauncey Billups was exceptionally tame. Young didn’t attempt anything nearly as ambitious as a half-court shot. He’s one of the best pure shooters in the NBA and he lost when he clanged a three-pointer off the top edge of the backboard.
The highlights don’t even show the most brutal part of the event, though. Significant portions of the broadcast were spent showing the players missing shot after shot.
It was enough to make J.J. Redick quickly turn off the TV.
The other two first-round games were at least a little more interesting. Zach LaVine had some creative shots, as did Chris Paul and Allie Quigley. LaVine ended up blanking Paul Pierce, who looked so stiff and old it’s incredible to think he played in the NBA three years ago.
It may have fallen flat, but this thing came together on short notice and had never been attempted before. It’s possible after yesterday’s practice run that Thursday’s semi-finals and finals are a better viewing experience. We can only hope.
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