A Marvel 'Avengers: Endgame' timeline: This decade in sports and superheroes

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Marvel's immersive cinematic universe may have nothing directly to do with sports, but it's hard not to pay attention to something when it's been around for more than a decade.

If you're like me and would prefer to pretend Marvel does pertain to sports, we've already compared all 32 NFL quarterbacks to "Avengers: Endgame" superheroes in advance of this week's big release.

But in further and more elaborate celebration of the expansive "Avengers" universe-- the unprecedented movie series that kicked off in 2008 and has remade box-office charts ever since -- we decided to look back at every single release in the 21-film spectrum. The kicker: We've done it while reflecting on how much things have changed both on screen and on the ball courts, playing fields and ice rinks over the last 11 years. (Told you this was sports!)

We present: A timeline of every Marvel movie, starting with "Iron Man" and ending with "Captain Marvel," the final film before "Endgame," coupled with a look at what was happening in sports during each adventure's run in theaters.


Iron Man (2008)

The world looked a lot different when the Marvel Universe kicked off than it does now, and there might not be a clearer example than the Detroit Red Wings winning the Stanley Cup Final. The New York Giants were also fresh off their helmet-catch Super Bowl upset of the 16-0 New England Patriots. Matt Ryan had just been drafted, and James Harden and Stephen Curry had just finished their rookie seasons.

The Incredible Hulk (2008)

It's fitting that the Hulk is green, because when he hit theaters after "Iron Man," none other than the Boston Celtics were celebrating their first NBA Finals title since the Larry Bird era, a 4-2 decision over Phil Jackson's Los Angeles Lakers. Tiger Woods was also in the middle of a U.S. Open championship -- his last major win for almost the entire duration of the Marvel Universe.

Iron Man 2 (2010)

Phil Mickelson was not far removed from his third Masters title when Tony Stark returned to the big screen. A few months prior, the New Orleans Saints captured their first Lombardi Trophy with an upset of the Peyton Manning-led Indianapolis Colts, while the United States broke a record for most medals won at a single Winter Olympics in Vancouver, headlined by golds from Bode Miller, Lindsey Vonn and Shaun White.

Thor (2011)

The NFL was two months into a lockout when the Asgardian hero was first introduced to the world, and its offseason was already delayed because of the labor dispute. Cliff Lee was just getting started in his first season with the New York Yankees. And Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks were preparing for the team's first-ever NBA Finals victory, an upset of the Miami Heat trio of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Even Captain America's arrival couldn't end the NFL lockout in time for training camps to start on schedule. The NBA was also tipping off its own lockout around this time. In the NHL, the relocated Atlanta Thrashers had just been introduced as the Winnipeg Jets for the first time.

The Avengers (2012)

Marvel started raking in the cash with the anticipated crossover of its first four big-name heroes, while Floyd Mayweather Jr. was using his big name to top the highest-paid athletes list for the first time. Russia was just beginning an undefeated run to an IIHF hockey championship. Kyrie Irving had just wrapped up his first NBA season with the Cleveland Cavaliers. And Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III had just gone back-to-back at the top of the NFL draft.

Iron Man 3 (2013)

Iron Man's third go-round predated Rafael Nadal's historic French Open win by just a few weeks, with the tennis star ultimately becoming the first man to win the same Grand Slam event eight different times. Alex Rodriguez was at the heart of a public feud with the Yankees over the Biogenesis performance-enhancing drugs scandal. Tim Tebow had just been axed by the New York Jets after the team drafted Geno Smith. The Boston Marathon bombing had occurred just weeks earlier. And Aaron Hernandez was about to be charged with first-degree murder.

Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Darkness wasn't just present in the first "Thor" sequel, as the NFL's biggest fall headline may have been the bullying scandal involving Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito. On a much lighter note, the Boston Red Sox were fresh off their third World Series victory in nine years, riding postseason dominance from David Ortiz and Jacoby Ellsbury.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Captain America's return came two months after the Seattle Seahawks' "Legion of Boom" embarrassed the Denver Broncos with a 43-8 Super Bowl win. Bubba Watson was preparing to win his second Masters title in three years.

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

When Star-Lord and his misfit gang of mercenaries took their first steps in the Marvel Universe, LeBron James had just returned to the Cleveland Cavaliers, reuniting with his original team after four years in Miami. The Heat, meanwhile, were on their way to a 4-2 NBA Finals loss to the San Antonio Spurs. In golf, Rory McIlroy was en route to a one-stroke PGA win, his fourth career major at the time. Vincenzo Nibali had just posted the biggest Tour de France margin of victory in almost 20 years.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

A 21-year-old Jordan Spieth had just become the second youngest person to ever win the Masters. American Pharaoh was just about to take the Kentucky Derby to give legendary trainer Bob Baffert his fourth win at the race, not to mention the start to an American Triple Crown title. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had just drafted Jameis Winston first overall.

Ant-Man (2015)

When Scott Lang first downsized to become Marvel's next big hero, the Chicago Blackhawks were just coming off their third Stanley Cup Final win in six years, topping the Tampa Bay Lightning in a 4-2 series. The Golden State Warriors, meanwhile, defeated LeBron James' Cavaliers in the NBA Finals for their first championship in four decades. Masters champ Jordan Spieth was weeks away from his first U.S. Open win -- and a consecutive major title.

Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Peyton Manning was only retired for a few months when "Civil War" broke out. Kobe Bryant's sneakers had been hung up for even less time. Canada had just won its 26th gold medal at the IIHF hockey championships.

Doctor Strange (2016)

When Stephen Strange brought his magic to the theater, sports audiences were still trying to grasp the strange reality that both Arnold Palmer and Muhammad Ali had passed away in recent months. Mo Farah and Usain Bolt had lit the Summer Olympic track on fire a few months earlier, while Joe Maddon and the Chicago Cubs were about to end a 108-year championship drought with their historic World Series win over the Cleveland Indians.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

Tom Brady was still basking in the glory of his 25-point Super Bowl comeback against the Atlanta Falcons when the Guardians made their own comeback. Sergio Garcia had just captured his first career major in a sudden-death playoff at the Masters. And the Cavs and Warriors were on their way to a third straight NBA Finals matchup -- a first in the history of the league.

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

Spidey's long-awaited solo flick arrived as Roger Federer was rolling toward his eighth career men's singles title at Wimbledon, a tennis record. Markelle Fultz had just been welcomed to Philadelphia as the 76ers' No. 1 draft pick.

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Still recovering from Hurricane Harvey, the Houston Astros claimed their first-ever World Series title with MLB's highest-scoring offense right as Thor returned for a second sequel. The feud between protesting NFL players and U.S. president Donald Trump had just gotten underway. The FBI had just begun to pull the curtain on its college basketball sting. And both Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather Jr. were enjoying the luxuries of their combat crossover at AT&T Stadium from weeks earlier.

Black Panther (2018)

T'Challa's burst onto the scene as a hero for the next generation came right after Nick Foles and the Philadelphia Eagles rewrote franchise history, upset Tom Brady and knocked off the New England Patriots for the City of Brotherly Love's first Lombardi. Days before Black Panther's arrival, Shaun White won his third gold medal -- and the 100th for Team USA -- at the Pyeongchang Olympics.

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

The biggest crossover of Marvel's cinematic puzzle came just weeks after Patrick Reed edged Rickie Fowler for his first major title at the Masters and just days before Justify kicked off a historic Triple Crown run that included the conquering of the 130-year-old Apollo Curse. Baker Mayfield had just gone No. 1 overall to the Cleveland Browns, who finished 0-16 the year prior.

Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)

Upon Ant-Man's return, J.R. Smith was still being meme'd for his hand in the Cavs' 4-0 NBA Finals loss to the Warriors, whereas LeBron was soaking up his new Los Angeles spotlight with the Lakers. A few months later, Serena Williams was going off on umpire Carlos Ramos in the U.S. Open final, which Naomi Osaka won, and Tiger Woods was preparing to take the Tour Championship, his first PGA Tour win in a half-decade.

Captain Marvel (2019)

When Marvel's latest solo flick hit theaters in March, Brady and the Patriots were fresh off yet another Super Bowl title. LeBron James had settled in with the Lakers, albeit to the tune of his first non-playoff season in more than a decade. Woods was a month away from his remarkable return to Masters glory. Antonio Brown was about to be introduced as an Oakland Raider. And movie-minded athletes across the globe were gearing up for "Endgame."

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