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A look back at former Hawks playing HORSE on TV

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Trae Young is not only building his personal brand but continues a Hawks legacy by playing a game centered around trick shots.

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Utah Jazz Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta Hawks star Trae Young is all set to participate in his second nationally-televised competition during this NBA hiatus. The second-year guard was selected as one of four active NBA players to participate in the NBA Horse Challenge presented by State Farm. The other three active NBA players are Zach LaVine, Mike Conley, Jr. and, of course, Chris Paul.

Young is scheduled to open up round one on Easter night, April 12, at 7 p.m. ET against retired guard and Finals MVP Chauncey Billups. Atlanta’s point guard, known for routinely shooting from the logo during actual NBA games, is the early betting favorite to win the contest.

Although this marks the first official NBA Horse Challenge, it’s just the latest in the series of NBA players playing horse in team apparel on national TV.

Hawks fans specifically probably remember Joe Johnson competing in a revamped version of HORSE during All-Star weekend in Phoenix in 2009. Johnson went up against Memphis Grizzlies rookie O.J. Mayo and second-year man Kevin Durant from the Oklahoma City Thunder.

This All-Star trip was Johnson’s third consecutive for the rising Hawks, and this one is back in his old stomping grounds of Phoenix. Atlanta was even playing with the confidence of a team that took the reigning champions to seven games the season prior.

Super sixth-man Josh Childress took a huge deal to play in Greece in the prime of his career, but he was replaced by the backcourt combo of Maurice “Mo” Evans and Ronald “Flip” Murray. Mike Bibby was also in Phoenix, his offseason home, during that weekend to participate in the three-point contest. Al Horford played in the Rising Stars Challenge the night before.

Mayo was finding his way in the league after cruising on the enormous expectations to be the league’s next Kobe Bryant in high school and doing enough at USC to be picked in the top three of the 2008 draft.

Durant was coming off a controversial Rookie of the Year season that was only controversial to Hawk and Florida fans worldwide. He didn’t win many games with Seattle, but he did break the Hawks’ hearts with a buzzer-beater in double overtime for one of those 20 wins in the final season of Supersonics basketball. He was then the face of the Oklahoma City Thunder, along with Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook.

The three players competed outside in a half-court setting against the wind.

Johnson was the first participant eliminated after missing a shot from the stands and a granny free throw.

Even Johnson wasn’t the first at-the-time active Hawk to participate in a nationally-televised game of horse. In 1978, John Drew was a participant of HORSE, which was presented as a bracket-style tournament broadcasted during halftime of NBA games on CBS. Here’s about one minute of Drew’s matchup against Washington Wizards guard Phil Chenier.

Hawks legend Pete Maravich, then a member of the New Orleans Jazz, was also in the tournament, but Phoenix Suns guard Paul Westphal won the entire competition. Durant won the revamped version in both 2009 and 2010.

Fast-forwarding back to 2020, and State Farm is donating $200,000 to various charities on behalf of this year’s competitors, with the funds focused on coronavirus relief efforts. Hall of Famer Tamika Catchings, Finals MVP Paul Pierce and Chicago Sky guard Allie Quigley, who put up the most memorable three-point contest performance in league history, are also participants in the competition.