The Marvel Cinematic Universe is expanding to encompass the NBA — at least for one night.
ESPN and Marvel will present an alternate telecast of the May 3 NBA contest between the Golden State Warriors and New Orleans Pelicans game that will feature an in-game storyline featuring members of the Avengers and other superhero-themed elements. The broadcast will feature 3D virtual characters including Iron Man, Black Panther, Captan Marvel, Captain America, Black Widow and Doctor Strange, along with custom graphics and animation.
The Marvel-themed telecast, dubbed “Arena of Heroes,” will air on ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes and stream on ESPN+, alongside a traditional broadcast on ESPN.
“We’re eager for fans to experience this unique, innovative presentation that will pair Marvel and ESPN’s exceptional storytelling and production,” said Matt Kenny, vp programming and acquisitions at ESPN. “We are proud to showcase the ‘larger than life’ abilities of these NBA stars in a manner in which only Disney and Marvel can deliver.”
During the game, a parallel story will take place in which Black Panther and Iron Man (who’s apparently alive again?) receive word of an impending threat and seek to recruit new members from the players on the court — Space Jam, but make it Marvel.
Three players from each team — Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins of the Warriors, and Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball of the Pelicans — will be awarded “Marvel Hero Points” for each point, rebound, assist, block and steal they accrue, with points taken away for missed shots, free throws and turnovers.
Green, incidentally, is already committed to fighting intergalactic bad guys opposite LeBron James in Space Jam 2.
Commentators Ryan Ruocco and Richard Jefferson will call the game from a Marvel-themed studio in ESPN’s headquarters, and Marvel expert Angélique Roché will provide additional analysis.
“Marvel and ESPN have brought the worlds of sports and superheroes together for years through comics, documentaries, and other stories celebrating athletes and their extraordinary abilities,” said Mike Pasciullo, vp marketing and communications at Marvel Entertainment. “The new Marvel’s Arena of Heroes telecast will be the first of its kind to bring Marvel’s storytelling directly to the real-time experience of a NBA game, and we are excited for fans to be able to watch their favorite players through the lens of Marvel’s mightiest heroes.”
The Marvel-themed telecast is the latest in a line of alternate presentations of sports events both at ESPN — which regularly produces “MegaCasts” for big events that feature different elements for segments of the audience — and elsewhere, a la Nickelodeon’s kid-friendly broadcast of an NFL playoff game in January.