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Marvel's Avengers crash ESPN's NBA game and make all your hoop dreams come true

By Josh Grossberg

Hoop dreams indeed!

In a happy fusion of  basketball supermen and fictional superhero power, Disney and ESPN teamed up Monday night for a special NBA telecast dubbed "Marvel's Arena of Heroes" that saw everyone's favorite Avengers assemble for the Golden State Warriors/New Orleans Pelicans smackdown.

Also on hand was Mr. Captain America himself, New Orleans native Anthony Mackie, to root for his home team, while the Mouse House dropped a halftime teaser of Marvel's upcoming Disney+ series, Loki, with the titular trickster up to his usual mischief along with franchise newcomer Owen Wilson.

The broadcast featured a bevy of 3D virtual Marvel characters, animation, and comic book graphics along with Marvel and NBA trivia. It also weaved a fictional Avengers storyline into the on-court action, which was narrated by the trio of play-by-play man Ryan Ruocco, analyst Richard Jefferson, and Marvel's resident nerd and podcast host Angelique Roche dropping neverending Marvel references ("Andrew's up to 20 Hero points!" "That's the bicep of a superhero," "Wakanda forever for the dunk!" etc. etc.)

The Avengers' mission for the broadcast: recruiting a real-life hero from this contest of all-star athletes to train and help Earth's Mightiest Heroes -- including Iron Man, Captain America, Black Panther, Black Widow, and Doctor Strange -- fight off yet another alien invasion.

The fun started with the Avengers endorsing their favorite players. Depending on how many points, rebounds, and assists each racked up, the NBA icons earned "Hero points" with the winner taking the champion title by game's end.

Here's how the superheroes divvied things up:

Zion Williamson – Captain America
Brandon Ingram – Black Widow
Lonzo Ball – Iron Man

Steph Curry – Captain Marvel
Andrew Wiggins – Black Panther
 Draymond Green – Doctor Strange

After assuming the mantle of Captain America in Marvel's The Falcon and the Winter Soldier on Disney+, Mackie turned up on ESPN for an interview about the superhero story playing in and out of the arena, and touting Cap's pick, Zion Williamson.

When asked about his character, Sam Wilson, aka Falcon, picking up Captain America's shield in last Friday's finale and taking over for Steve Rogers, Mackie spoke about being the first African American to play him in the MCU.

"The idea is it's representation for every generation," the actor said, adding that he's "excited to see where it goes."

"There are so many different storylines we can take from the comic books. I just wish I became Cap at 25," cracked Mackie, who at 42, is no spring chicken anymore. "It's a lot of Advil and yoga and sauna time to get me through."

The big question of the night though, was whether Doctor Strange knew the outcome of the game from the start. As in the end, Doctor Strange's pick Draymond Green scored a triple double to edge out Captain America's pick, Steph Curry. Apparently the Warriors won the game too.