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SportsCenter and ESPN to provide complete coverage of Friday’s Ali remembrance

The main SportsCenter set outside Louisville's KFC Yum! Center gets final preparations for Friday's day-long coverage. (Ashoka Moore/ESPN)
The main SportsCenter set outside Louisville’s KFC Yum! Center gets final preparations for Friday’s day-long coverage. (Ashoka Moore/ESPN)

With at least nine-and-a-half hours of live presence and coverage of Friday’s day of remembrance for Muhammad Ali, ESPN’s SportsCenter on ESPN (and WatchESPN) will provide the best viewing option for those hoping to see the planned 19-mile procession and the ensuing memorial service.

Beginning with SportsCenter:AM at 7 a.m. ET and continuing through the service’s completion, viewers will get the most comprehensive access to the day’s events, anchored in Louisville by Hannah Storm and Jeremy Schaap outside the KFC Yum! Center, where the memorial service will be held.

Programming Note on EURO 2016
In order to accommodate Ali coverage on ESPN, the opening match for the UEFA European Football Championship 2016 – France vs. Romania – has been moved to ESPN2. Coverage will begin at 2 p.m. ET with a one-hour pre-game program leading into kickoff at 3 p.m.

“The magnitude of Friday’s procession and memorial service for Muhammad Ali warrants a coverage plan commensurate with the stature of a man known as ‘The Greatest’,” said Vice President and Managing Editor, Newsgathering and Reporting Craig Bengtson. “We have an extensive news group, covering all platforms, that has spent many hours, over many days, collaborating on our week-long content. It’s what we do. And, we take tremendous pride in putting Ali’s life into proper context for fans.”

ESPN’s flagship show will not be the only way to consume how the city of Louisville – and the world – pay homage to “The Greatest.” ESPN Radio’s Russillo & Kanell (1 p.m.-4 p.m., simulcast on ESPNEWS) will also include the Ali memorial service’s eulogies while ESPN Audio will have an uninterrupted stream of the entire service on and in the ESPN App.

Mike & Mike’s 6-10 a.m. show (simulcast on ESPN2) will include Ali discussion with people who knew him, including Dick Ebersol, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Jim Lampley. Additionally, ESPN Caribbean will honor the life of Muhammad Ali with a programming block starting at 7 a.m. tomorrow, also including the memorial service.

ESPN is also deploying reporters throughout Louisville – where temperatures are expected to be in the 90s – and across the planned procession route (which starts at 9 a.m.). Marty Smith (Yum! Center), Michael Eaves (9th Street), Josina Anderson (Waterfront Park amphitheatre for memorial viewing), Coley Harvey (funeral home and cemetery) and C.L. Brown (Ali’s childhood home) will provide live, ongoing updates and ESPN will also have a camera in the lead vehicle of the procession as well as a helicopter high above the city. Anchors in Bristol and Los Angeles will also contribute to the coverage, as will boxing analyst Teddy Atlas from Bristol.

Joining Storm and Schaap periodically on set – in addition to guests – will be ESPN The Magazine’s Howard Bryant and Louisville historian/Ali’s high school teacher Mervin Aubespin. Sprinkled throughout the live coverage, the ESPN Features Unit will contribute over 20 original features and vignettes, the majority of which have been produced in the last few days.

ESPN The Magazine’s  June 28 issue cover with 33 pages devoted to Ali.
ESPN The Magazine’s June 28 issue cover with 33 pages devoted to Ali.

As it has since the news of Muhammad Ali’s death was confirmed early Saturday morning, all ESPN entities will continue to provide unmatched coverage of The Champ’s life, including a special edition of ESPN The Magazine with 33 pages devoted to Ali, where the focus will not only be on Ali’s life, but how it helped define the lives of so many others. William Nack, The Mag’s Steve Wulf and The Undefeated’s Derrick Jackson are among the contributors to the issue, which will be on newsstands next week.

*Coverage plans are fluid and subject to change

Cincinnati-based NFL Nation Reporter Coley Harvey chips in on Ali coverage

NFL Nation reporter Coley Harvey, who covers the Bengals for, has been a prominent face on the network's Muhammad Ali coverage this week.
NFL Nation reporter Coley Harvey, who covers the Bengals for, has been a prominent face on the network’s Muhammad Ali coverage this week.

When news of Muhammad Ali’s death broke in Saturday’s wee hours, ESPN mobilized it resources around the country for coverage. NFL Nation Cincinnati Bengals reporter Coley Harvey was one of the first to respond, telling his editors, “Hey, if you guys need any help by all means sign me up, I’d love to pitch in.”

With Cincinnati just 90 miles from Louisville, Harvey travelled Route 71 South and was in position for ESPN’s early coverage on Saturday and has remained on-site throughout the week. “I feel like this is a story that merits not only the attention but also the measured and thoughtful type of coverage we have had on Ali the last few days.”

More from Harvey:

What it’s been like covering such a monumental story
I didn’t grow up [during his time] as a boxer, but I’ve always looked up to him and have always been an Ali fan. It was one of those things where you pay attention to the past three decades since he’s had Parkinson’s disease and you feel for the man, you feel for the pain he was going through. And so when you have a moment like this, you certainly as a person and as a reporter, you feel that obligation to help tell that story.

The collaboration he has seen from colleagues this week
It’s the level of teamwork and cooperation throughout the company that has been so impressive to me – you don’t want to step on toes or story ideas. You have to be careful and mindful of not overlapping too much on the stories themselves, but you still want to make sure you’re producing the types of stories that are interesting and that are going to get people to watch.

The response he’s received from viewers
It has been awesome. I’ve had a lot of people who have been very complimentary of ESPN’s coverage, especially in the hours just after he died and the work of Britt McHenry [also in Louisville] and Michele Steele [from Arizona] and me. It’s been very complimentary of what our company has been able to do.
(Taylor Garrett)

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