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ESPN & Marvel to Join Forces on ‘Arena of Heroes’ Alternate Presentation of Warriors/Pelicans

Jeff Kotuby

With the season Stephen Curry’s having, it’s no surprise ESPN and Marvel are teaming up for a super hero-themed broadcast of a Warriors game.

On Monday, May 3, Disney subsidiaries ESPN and Marvel will collaborate on an alternate broadcast of the Golden State Warriors/New Orleans Pelicans titled “Arena of Heroes.” The telecast will integrate elements from an original Marvel story and iconic characters including Iron Man, Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Captain America, Black Widow, and Doctor Strange throughout the live game, including 3D virtual characters, custom graphics and animation packages. The story is equal parts “Space Jam” and “Avengers” with beloved Marvel characters teaming up with players from both the Warriors (Steph Curry, Draymond Green, Andrew Wiggins) and Pelicans (Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball.)

Fans will be able to follow along as these athletes are put to the test, gaining Marvel Hero points for their achievements and performance during the game. Points are earned for every point, assist, rebound, steal, or block, but points are deducted for missed shots and turnovers. The player with the most Marvel Hero points on the winning team will be crowned as Marvel’s first Champion.

Rather than hearing the duo of Dave Pasch and Mark Jackson, this broadcast will be helmed by ESPN commentators Ryan Ruocco and Richard Jefferson, complete with a fully customized Marvel-themed studio at ESPN’s Bristol campus. Additionally, the special presentation will include commentary and analysis from Marvel expert Angélique Roché.

“Marvel and ESPN have brought the worlds of sports and Super Heroes together for years through comics, documentaries, and other stories celebrating athletes and their extraordinary abilities,” said Mike Pasciullo, vice president, marketing and communications, 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 whole event seems reminiscent of Nickelodeon’s NFL coverage. During the 2021 Playoffs, Nickelodeon hosted a Nick-themed playoff game between the Chicago Bears and New Orleans Saints helmed by Noah Eagle, Nate Burleson, and Nickelodeon actress Gabrielle Green. In lieu of crusty old-timey graphics and stats, the Nick broadcast incorporated popular characters, animated replays, and of course, slime. The broadcast was a critical success and drew 2 million viewers to the kid’s station. Disney, ESPN, and Marvel hope this project does the same for them.

They have to try something, as fewer and fewer young fans are watching full games these days and abandoning TV in general, a sign of massive change for the future of sports broadcasting.

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