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ESPN and Marvel to present Marvel’s Arena of Heroes on May 3

by Samantha Davis-Friedman

ESPN and Marvel announced a groundbreaking collaboration to launch the first-ever Marvel-inspired alternate presentation, “Arena of Heroes,” for the Golden State Warriors vs. New Orleans Pelicans game on May 3, 2021.

arena of heroes
Images courtesy of Marvel

The exclusive NBA Special Edition Presented by State Farm: Marvel’s Arena of Heroes will start at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2, ESPN+, and ESPN Deportes with the traditional game telecast on ESPN. This marks ESPN’s second live NBA game on ESPN+.

The latest in Marvel and ESPN’s history of sports content collaboration 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.

arena of heroes

“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 of marketing and communications for 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 an NBA game, and we are excited for fans to be able to watch their favorite players through the lens of Marvel’s mightiest heroes.”

Fans will be able to watch the Marvel storyline unfold during the telecast when, after a narrow victory over an invading alien army, the Avengers receive an ominous threat that the enemy vows to return in greater numbers and force. Realizing they need more help to fight the impending threat, Black Panther and Iron Man formulate a plan to expand their ranks. After identifying the superior physical abilities, agility, and tenacity of Earth’s greatest athletes, the Avengers begin their recruitment with the NBA elite and observe the battle between the Warriors and the Pelicans.

Focusing on three star players from each team, a series of contests will determine who will earn the right to train and fight alongside them as Marvel’s Champion.

Marvel’s Champion contenders from the Golden State Warriors:

  • Stephen Curry, three-time NBA Champion, and two-time NBA MVP
  • Draymond Green, three-time NBA Champion
  • Andrew Wiggins, 2014-15 NBA Rookie of the Year

Marvel’s Champion contenders from the New Orleans Pelicans:

  • Zion Williamson, 2019 NBA Draft top pick
  • Brandon Ingram, 2019-20 NBA Most Improved Player
  • Lonzo Ball, 2017-18 NBA All-Rookie Second Team

“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, ESPN vice president of programming and acquisitions. “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.”

Fans will be able to follow along as these six athletes are put to the test, gaining Marvel Hero Points for their achievements and performance during the game with one Marvel Hero Point awarded for every point, rebound, assist, steal, and block and one Marvel Hero Point deducted for every missed field goal, free throw, or turnover. The player with the most Marvel Hero Points on the winning team will be crowned as Marvel’s first Champion following the NBA Special Edition Presented by State Farm: Marvel’s Arena of Heroes.

ESPN commentators Ryan Ruocco and Richard Jefferson will provide commentary in a fully customized Marvel-themed studio at ESPN’s Bristol, Conn. campus. The special presentation will also include commentary and analysis from Marvel expert Angélique Roché.

“We are thrilled to work alongside ESPN and Marvel to present fans with the first-ever Marvel-inspired alternate NBA telecast,” said David Denenberg, NBA senior vice president of global media distribution & business affairs. “This fun and innovative game presentation builds upon our goal of providing personalized and compelling viewing options for our fans.”

The traditional telecast of the Warriors vs. Pelicans game will be exclusive in the New Orleans market and will air simultaneously on ESPN. Both the NBA Special Edition Presented by State Farm: Marvel’s Arena of Heroes alternate presentation and the traditional game telecast will stream via the ESPN app.

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