Professional athletes who have taken a shot at acting

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  • ESPN staff

In May, Kevin Garnett will officially become a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. But before his trip to Springfield, Massachusetts, the 2004 NBA MVP’s most impressive accomplishment in retirement came via Hollywood, as the Big Ticket appeared in Adam Sandler’s anxiety-inducing 2019 film “Uncut Gems” (if you know, you know).

Garnett wasn’t the first NBA star to grace the big screen, with Michael Jordan playing himself in the 1996 cinematic gift that was “Space Jam,” Ray Allen landing a starring role alongside Denzel Washington in Spike Lee’s iconic 1998 film “He Got Game” and Kyrie Irving making his first foray onto the silver screen, starring as the title character in “Uncle Drew” in 2018.

With the 2021 Oscars on Sunday (8 p.m. ET, ABC) and LeBron James — who showed off his comedic chops in 2015’s “Trainwreck” — putting a new spin on MJ’s cult classic in “Space Jam: A New Legacy” this summer, we take a look at some of the most memorable roles athletes from all sports have played in movies.


Jim Brown, “Any Given Sunday”

VIDEO: “Any Given Sunday”

Role: Defensive coordinator Montezuma Monroe

Memorable scene/quote: “Have you ever seen an old, punch-drunk boxer, stumbling around and drooling, with no memory of what he’s done in his life? Do you want that life, Luther?”

Other notable film credits: “Mars Attacks!,” “The Dirty Dozen”

O.J. Simpson, “The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!”

VIDEO: “The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!”

Role: Detective Nordberg

Memorable scene/quote: Simpson was the subject of a lot of physical comedy in the film, from going through a humorous series of pratfalls after being attacked in the opening of the film to being flung down several decks at Dodger Stadium at the movie’s close.

Other notable film credits: “The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear,” “Naked Gun 33⅓: The Final Insult,” “In the Heat of the Night”

Terry Bradshaw hangs out with “Failure to Launch” co-star Bradley Cooper at the film’s premiere in March 2006. Evan Agostini/Getty Images

Terry Bradshaw, “Failure to Launch”

VIDEO: “Failure to Launch”

Role: Al, Matthew McConaughey’s character’s father

Memorable scene/quote: Besides being nude (a lot), Bradshaw offered this wisdom on Oprah Winfrey: “Oprah don’t know crap. Heck, when I was growing up no one had self-esteem and we turned out fine.”

Other notable film credits: “The Cannonball Run”

Alex Karras, “Blazing Saddles”

VIDEO: “Blazing Saddles”

Role: Mongo

Memorable scene/quote: “Mongo only pawn, in game of life.”

Other notable film credits: “Porky’s,” “Webster” (TV series)

Lawrence Taylor, “Any Given Sunday”

VIDEO: “Any Given Sunday”

Role: Linebacker Luther “Shark” Lavay

Memorable scene/quote: “When a man looks back on his life, he should be proud of all of it. Not just the years he spent in pads and cleats. Not just the memories of when he was great. You gotta learn that in here. Or if you don’t, you ain’t a man. You’re just another punk.”

Other notable film credits: “The Waterboy,” “Shaft”

Brett Favre, “There’s Something About Mary”

VIDEO: “There’s Something About Mary”

Role: Himself

Memorable scene/quote: Pat Healy (Matt Dillon) asking why Brett Favre has shown up while everyone is proclaiming their love for Mary (Cameron Diaz), Favre responds, “I’m in town to play the Dolphins, you dumbass.”

Other notable film credits: N/A

Dan Marino, “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective”

VIDEO: “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective”

Role: Himself

Memorable scene/quote: “You’re a weird guy, Ace. Weird guy.”

Other notable film credits: “Bad Boys 2”

Mike Ditka, “Kicking and Screaming”

VIDEO: “Kicking and Screaming”

Role: Himself

Memorable scene/quote: “I’m no juicebox boy, I’ll tell you that!” assistant coach Ditka yells at head coach Phil Weston (Will Ferrell) during a pregame argument.

Other notable film credits: “Entourage” (TV series)

Michael Irvin and Cloris Leachman goofed around at “The Longest Yard” premiere in 2005. SGranitz/WireImage

Michael Irvin, “The Longest Yard” (2005)

VIDEO: “The Longest Yard”

Role: Deacon Jones

Memorable scene/quote: “The only game we play with you is ‘slap the point-shaving white boy till he cries like a baby-back b—-.'”

Other notable film credits: “Jack and Jill”

Tom Brady, “Ted 2”

VIDEO: “Ted 2”

Role: Himself

Memorable scene/quote: John (Mark Wahlberg) and Ted are looking for a donor to help Ted be a father and try to convince the four-time Super Bowl MVP in an unorthodox way. It fails, and Brady pushes John off his balcony and throws Ted down with “a perfect spiral.”

Other notable film credits: “Stuck On You”

Tony Siragusa, “The 25th Hour”

VIDEO: “The 25th Hour”

Role: Kostya

Memorable scene/quote: To Edward Norton’s character in the opening scene: “You’re bad luck. You bring bad luck on me. Always everything that can go wrong, go wrong. It’s not just you and me anymore when we go out. It’s you, me, and Doyle.”

Other notable film credits: “The Sopranos” (TV series)

Hines Ward, “The Dark Knight Rises”

VIDEO: “The Dark Knight Rises”

Role: Himself, but as a kick returner for the Gotham City football team.

Memorable scene/quote: Ward returns the opening kickoff for a touchdown against Rapid City, only to look back and see that Bane’s explosion had completely collapsed the football field behind him.

Other notable film credits: “The Walking Dead” (TV series)

Ex-Miami Hurricanes letterman and CFL player Dwayne Johnson stars as Will Sawyer in “Skyscraper.” Kimberley French/Universal Pictures

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, “Skyscraper”

VIDEO: “Skyscraper”

Role: Will Sawyer

Memorable scene/quote: “It’s okay to be scared. In order to be brave, we got to be a little scared.”

Other notable film credits: “Ballers” (TV series), “Young Rock” (TV series), “Baywatch”, “Moana”, “Jumanji”, a bunch of the “Fast & Furious” movies and too many others to name.


Kareem Abdul-Jabbar played co-pilot Roger Murdock in the 1980 hit comedy “Airplane!” AP Photo, file

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, “Airplane!”

VIDEO: “Airplane!”

Role: Co-pilot Roger Murdock

Memorable scene/quote: Joey, a guest in the cockpit, recognizes him as Kareem. After denying he is the hoops star, Kareem responds to Joey’s story from his dad about Abdul-Jabbar not hustling down the court: “The hell I don’t! Listen, kid, I’ve been hearing that crap ever since I was at UCLA. I’m out there busting my buns every night! Tell your old man to drag Walton and Lanier up and down the court for 48 minutes!”

Other notable film credits: “BASEketball,” “Fletch”

Ray Allen, “He Got Game”

VIDEO: “He Got Game”

Role: Jesus Shuttlesworth

Memorable scene/quote: “I hate my name. What kind of a name is Jesus anyway?” Starring as Denzel Washington’s character’s son, it was a rare moment of humor in a film that had memorable scenes of the two playing one-on-one and Shuttlesworth reading his father’s letter at the conclusion of the movie.

Other notable film credits: “Harvard Man”

Wilt Chamberlain, “Conan the Destroyer”

VIDEO: “Conan the Destroyer”

Role: Bombaata

Memorable scene/quote: Chamberlain played the sidekick and protector of Conan (Arnold Schwarzenegger) who eventually betrays Conan. He also has a memorable fight with Grace Jones’ character.

Other notable film credits: N/A

Gheorghe Muresan, “My Giant”

VIDEO: “My Giant”

Role: Max Zamphirescu

Memorable scene/quote: Billy Crystal’s character randomly runs into Muresan while traveling in Romania and wants to recruit him to the movies, which Muresan doesn’t understand: “They pay for this? That’s so stupid!”

Other notable film credits: N/A

Michael Jordan, “Space Jam”

VIDEO: “Space Jam”

Role: Himself

Memorable scene/quote: “OK, somebody steal the ball, give it to me, and I’ll score before time runs out.”

Other notable film credits: N/A

Shaquille O’Neal got to show off his magic chops as a genie in “Kazaam.” Buena Vista/Getty Images

Shaquille O’Neal, “Kazaam”

VIDEO: “Kazaam”

Role: Kazaam

Memorable scene/quote: “If you’ve got the itches for a sack of riches, no matter how avaricious, I’m the man that can grant your wishes.”

Other notable film credits: “Blue Chips,” “Grown Ups 2”

LeBron James, “Trainwreck”

VIDEO: “Trainwreck”

Role: Himself

Memorable scene/quote: “What’s the difference between Miami and Cleveland? It’s the same.”

Other notable film credits:“Space Jam: A New Legacy” debuts July 16, 2021

Kevin Durant, “Thunderstruck”

VIDEO: “Thunderstruck”

Role: Himself

Memorable scene/quote: “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”

Other notable film credits: “Billions” (TV series)

Rick Fox, “Meet The Browns”

VIDEO: “Meet The Browns”

Role: Harry

Memorable scene/quote: “It means you’re talented, but not enough. You need attitude plus skill.”

Other notable film credits: “He Got Game,” “Dope”

Jason Kidd hangs out with “Like Mike” co-stars Morris Chestnut and Bow Wow. Scott Gries/ImageDirect

Tracy McGrady, Gary Payton, Jason Kidd, Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash, “Like Mike”

VIDEO: “Like Mike”

Role: Themselves

Memorable scene/quote: Jason Kidd, talking to kid superstar Calvin Cambridge during an NBA game: “Calvin Cambridge, 25 points a game. Not tonight. You just need to get back to that sandbox where you came from.”

Other notable film credits: N/A

Anfernee Hardaway, “Blue Chips”

VIDEO: “Blue Chips”

Role: Butch McRae

Memorable scene/quote: Hardaway was one of three freshmen (along with Shaquille O’Neal and former Indiana basketball player Matt Nover) that Western University coach Pete Bell (Nick Nolte) brings in via questionable means to jump-start his basketball program.

Other notable film credits: N/A

Marques Johnson, “White Men Can’t Jump”

VIDEO: “White Men Can’t Jump”

Role: Raymond

Memorable scene/quote: “I take you anywhere, have you for breakfast” was Raymond’s response to Sidney Deane (Wesley Snipes) right before Deane and Billy Hoyle (Woody Harrelson) hustled him for money.

Other notable film credits: “Blue Chips,” “Forget Paris”

John Salley, “Bad Boys”

VIDEO: “Bad Boys”

Role: Fletcher

Memorable scene/quote: Fletcher, a jailed computer hacker, has a particularly funny exchange with Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) as they try to access blocked files in the police database.

Other notable film credits: “Bad Boys 2”, “Eddie”

Dennis Rodman, “Double Team”

VIDEO: “Double Team”

Role: Yaz

Memorable scene/quote: “The last guy who made fun of my hair is still trying to pull his head out of his ass.”

Other notable film credits: “Eddie,” “Simon Sez,” “The Comebacks”

Kevin Garnett, “Uncut Gems”

VIDEO: “Uncut Gems”

Role: Himself

Memorable scene/quote: “This f—— thing makes me feel like I can *fly*…”

Other notable film credits: N/A


Mike Tyson’s singing helped make “The Hangover” a comedy hit. Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Mike Tyson, “The Hangover”

VIDEO: “The Hangover”

Role: Himself

Memorable scene/quote: Singing Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” while trying to retrieve his stolen tiger.

Other notable film credits: “The Hangover Part 2,” “Scary Movie 5”

Tommy Morrison, “Rocky V”

VIDEO: “Rocky V”

Role: Tommy Gunn

Memorable scene/quote: Morrison plays a young fighter who Rocky takes under his wing, only to rebel due to being seen as Rocky’s “puppet” by the media. This culminates in a brutal, lengthy streetfight at the end of the movie on the streets of Philadelphia. “Hey, you don’t know me! Nobody does! I want my respect.” Rocky’s reply? ‘Well come and get it.”

Other notable film credits: “They Live”


Derek Jeter went undercover in one of his cameos in “The Other Guys.” Bobby Bank/WireImage

Derek Jeter, “The Other Guys”

VIDEO: “The Other Guys”

Role: Himself

Memorable scene/quote: “You d—, I’m Derek Jeter! You shot me!”

Other notable film credits: “The Walking Dead” (TV series)


Cam Neely, “Dumb and Dumber”

VIDEO: “Dumb and Dumber”

Role: Sea Bass

Memorable scene/quote: “Who’s the dead man who hit me with a salt shaker?” That line was just part of what set off the memorable diner scene in the Farrelly brothers comedy.

Other notable film credits: “Me, Myself and Irene”


Ronda Rousey had a key role as Turtle’s love interest in “Entourage.” Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Ronda Rousey, “Entourage”

VIDEO: “Entourage”

Role: Herself

Memorable scene/quote: “You couldn’t last 30 seconds with me if your life depended on it” was Rousey’s response to Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) offering to “fight” in order to win a date.

Other notable film credits: “Furious 7,” “The Expendables 3”

Andre the Giant, “The Princess Bride”

VIDEO: “The Princess Bride”

Role: Fezzik

Memorable scene/quote: Andre the Giant had plenty of famous lines in the movie, from those on his boat trip to his fight with Wesley to the final scenes. But, “anybody want a peanut?”

Other notable film credits: “Conan the Destroyer”


Lance Armstrong, “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story”

VIDEO: “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story”

Role: Himself

Memorable scene/quote: At the airport with Peter La Fleur (Vince Vaughn): “I’m a big fan of yours. I’ve been watching the dodgeball tournament on the Ocho. ESPN 8. I just can’t get enough of it.”

Other notable film credits: “You, Me and Dupree”


Dale Earnhardt Jr., “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby”

VIDEO: “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby”

Role: Himself

Memorable scene/quote: Earnhardt seeks out the autograph of Ricky Bobby (Will Ferrell). Dale: “Can I get your autograph?” Ricky: “Sure, who do I make it out to?” Dale: “For me, I think you’re awesome, man. Just don’t tell any of the other drivers, all right?”

Other notable film credits: “Cars” (voice role)

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