If you ask the question of whether or not athletes can also be actors, the answer would be a resounding yes.
Now, if you ask if they can thrive in those roles, the conversation may change on a case-by-case basis. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when athletes began starring in films, but the point is that they still do, and many more cameos are waiting to be made.
While you may make NFL Picks Today, you might want to take a minute and check out notable movie performances. Remember that time when Eric Dickerson and Don Drysdale appeared in The Wedding Ringer? Tom Brady was among a number of NFL players to show up in the TV show Entourage. And if you’ve never seen the show The League on Hulu, they would bring on current and former footballers every couple of episodes.
Let’s talk about appearances we remember from athletes in movies.
Getting Things Started
There is no better place to talk about athletes in movies than going to the 1990s.
Winning titles with the Lakers and dominating during his few seasons with the Orlando Magic made Shaquille O’Neal a hot commodity. He published a rap album and starred in a not-so-popular film called Steel. It was set in the DC universe, and he was the lead.
Let’s just say that people don’t speak kindly on this one.
But have no fear! It might not have been the worst project O’Neal was involved in. He starred in Kazaam as the lead character, a rapping genie.
It got a 5% score on rotten tomatoes. He would also make brief appearances in Space Jam and Good Burger. His cameo in the latter was a fantastic quick scene, joining Ron Harper as the NBA players to appear in the Kenan and Kel verse in the decade.
We can’t exit the 90’s without Space Jam.
Larry Bird showed his comedic talents when he hung out with Bill Murray. Charles Barkley was a bit lazy but had his spots, too.
Muggsy Bogues provided more laughs, showing he was more than just the shortest player in league history. But we’re not here to talk about those guys.
This is about His Royal Airness. The GOAT. Michael Jeffrey Jordan.
Space Jam is among the highest-grossing films of its time, and for a good reason: Michael Jordan was playing the titular character.
At the time working on his baseball career, the movie opens with him playing a game and then striking out. The Looney Tunes need his help to win a basketball game.
It’s just as crazy as it sounds. But it worked well.
Critics will point out flaws in the plot and how things were done, but it’s a legendary classic.
Jordan is not the worst actor to grace the screen. Not the best, but certainly not the worst.
At least he was better than LeBron James in Space Jam 2, which came out in the 2020s.
One of the odder appearances by an athlete in a film was the great Mike Ditka, during his analyst days, showing up as a primary character in Kicking and Screaming.
He served as the primary assistant coach for Will Ferrell, who was coaching his son. Of course, he had to go crazy and lose his mind by working with him. And the connection in the film is that Ditka is Ferrell’s father’s (Robert Duvall)’s neighbor.
While Space Jam 2 was a bit of a dud, LeBron was a huge hit in Trainwreck.
He played the best friend of Bill Hader, the one he went to for any of his problems needing to be solved.
And while he isn’t so popular today, Kyrie Irving was remarkable in the lead role in Uncle Drew. Shaq, Reggie Miller, Chris Webber, Nate Robinson, and Lisa Leslie occupied the other leads. And Aaron Gordon was actually the villain, along with Nick Kroll.
What a time.
There are times when athletes show up and just absolutely crush their roles, like when Kenny Lofton cameoed in George Lopez, which most people probably watched at three in the morning on a rewatch on an evening when they couldn’t sleep.
Here’s to many more great actors coming out of the woodwork from their respective sports.