Watch Juancho Hernangomez and Anthony Edwards tear it up in Hustle got us all talking around SB Nation about the best and worst acting performances by an athlete. There have been some brilliant roles over the years held by athletes, and my god also some of the stinkiest trash imaginable.
I will explain to you why I feel qualified to take on this role. First of all, I was a serious theater kid. I went to an arts high school in Australia where I took lessons from Stanislavski and Brecht. Both of my parents were actors with varying degrees of success, my mother mostly in off-Broadway shows in the 1970s, my father pivoted to the screen where his seminal role as “heavier client” in Dawson’s Creek remains a staple of his IMDB page to this day. I started studying film in college, and after realizing I didn’t play well with pretentious film students, I decided to start writing about sports.
A few notes before we begin: First of all, it’s subjective. You’d think we didn’t need to explain this, but people get irrationally angry at ranking lists as if we were establishing Plato’s forms. Second, we need to limit how we classify an actor athlete. For the purposes of this ranking, we limit it to movies, so no random hostings of Saturday Night Live will count, and it also has to be a prominent professional athlete who appeared in a movie, rather than someone who played college ball or became an actor after it was clear he wasn’t pursuing a career in athletics .
So now that we’ve established that…
The 10 Best Acting Performances By An Athlete
No. 1: Dave Bautista — guardians of the galaxy
It’s impossible to imagine anyone else playing “Drax the Destroyer”. What started as a one-dimensional role has morphed into the MCU to have a lot more depth, and with every step of the way Bautista has risen to the occasion and shown his acting chops. . There are plenty of great roles on his resume now, but Drax is the gold standard.
No. 2: Jason Lee – almost known
Lee is best known for his huge television success My name is Earlbut the ex-skateboarder’s crowning glory is the paranoid and narcissistic leader Jeff Bebe in almost known. Lee really only has one character he goes back to the well with, but in this role, his whiny, high-energy energy plays perfectly against Billy Crudup’s calm, thoughtful nature.
No. 3: Juancho Hernangomez — Hustle
I loved Hernangomez in Hustle so much so that I strongly considered placing it at #1. The film’s story may not be groundbreaking, but Hernangomez’s portrayal of a complicated, flawed man navigating his personal issues and his new fame is a revelation. Truly a wonderful performance.
No. 4: Ray Allen – He has game
There’s a reason people still call Allen “Jesus Shuttlesworth.” It was a major risk for Spike Lee to put an untested and unproven NBA player on screen to train spectacularly with Denzel Washington, but Allen was up to the test. Whether or not Shuttlesworth was based on Stephon Marbury or not, Allen knew what it was like to be a coveted college athlete and let his own experience help him in the role.
No. 5: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — Plane!
Playing Roger Murdoch isn’t exactly a huge role, nor is it particularly difficult – but Kareem was a pioneer in megastar athlete playing movie roles. His comedic style was understated, but suited the role perfectly.
No. 6: Dwyane “The Rock” Johnson – Moana
As the father of a 5 year old, I can recite every word of “You’re welcome” at any time. The Rock has been in dozens of movies, playing a variety of action roles – but Moana really forced him to stretch. Playing Maui required elements of singing, comedy, and drama, as well as a vulnerability not often seen in many of his other roles.
No. 7: André the Giant — The princess to be married
Andrew in The princess to be married is simply iconic. Literally, no one else could have filled those shoes, and he had such a beautiful understanding of the “Gentle Giant” trope, which shines through in every scene.
No. 8: LeBron James – Rail accident
No, LeBron gets nothing for the restart space jam. Instead, we go back to 2015 Rail accidentwhere LeBron plays an upgraded version of himself and steals nearly every scene he’s in. It’s extremely hard to do in a comedy opposite Bill Hader, but the two have natural on-screen chemistry and LeBron seems right at home.
No. 9: Jim Brown – Any Sunday
There are a lot of Jim Brown roles and a lot of athlete roles in Any Sunday, but the limited scenes of Brown playing (hilariously named) defensive coordinator Montezuma Monroe take the cake. He channels the intensity of the NFL with the roughness of Oliver Stone to embody the character and make him believable.
No. 10: Alex Karras – Blazing Saddles
I can’t share a clip of Karras in Blazing Saddles by the film’s propensity to use racist language to make a point about modern society, but the Lions’ defensive tackle shines like the scourge of the town with an offensive name that likes to kick horses. It was the role he was born for.
The 10 worst acting performances by an athlete
No. 1: Brett Favre — There’s something about Mary
Brett Favre had a job: playing Brett Favre. He failed. Favre is so bad that Ben Stiller basically has to speak for him IN THE ONLY SCENE FAVRE HAS IN THE FILM. Then, when it’s finally time to open your mouth, he’s wooden as hell.
No. 2: Shaquille O’Neal — Steel
It is without a doubt the worst acting performance by an athlete when he is the main star of his own movie. Steel is an abomination, and no one should look for him. But please watch the trailer as it tells you everything you need to know.
No. 3: Hulk Hogan – Santa with muscles
This might be the dumbest movie ever starring an absolute trash human to boot. Hogan is a terrible actor in the movies, and everything you need to know about Santa with muscles comes from this plot synopsis from Wikipedia.
“Blake Thorn (Hulk Hogan) is a conceited self-made millionaire who sells supplements and bodybuilding equipment bearing his picture. One day, while recklessly playing paintball, he is targeted by the police. He is chased in a mall, where he hides by donning a Santa costume, he slips into a garbage chute to escape the police and hits his head, resulting in amnesia.
No. 4: Shaquille O’Neal – Kazam
Another Top 5 for Shaq. Kazam was O’Neal’s attempt to make a comedy star and it has no redeeming quality. Blue fries was decent, other than that Shaq has to drop all scripted acting. Thank God he did.
No. 5: Dan Marino – Ace Ventura: animal detective
Just like Brett Favre, Dan Marino was invited to play himself in Ace Ventura and was horrible at it. Please enjoy this clip, where Marino is supposedly scared for his life, but instead looks around like a cat after sniffing a bag of catnip.
No. 6: Dennis Rodman – Doubles team
1997 Doubles team was an attempt to spin Dennis Rodman’s bad boy NBA persona into an action movie with a floundering Jean Claude van Damme. The result is one of the worst movies you’ll ever see. Rodman can’t play at all – but neither can JCVD, so I guess they were made for each other.
No. 7: Tom Brady – stuck to you
I’m convinced Brady was only put in this movie so Matt Damon could hang out with him. It was 2003, when Brady had yet to cement his legacy, and he has all the charisma of a kid who wasn’t yet used to being in the spotlight, let alone starring in a movie.
No. 8: Kareem Abdul Jabbar — Slam Dunk Ernest
Kareem becomes the first and only athlete to do both sides of this list. While he was brilliant in his limited role in Plane! this atrocious waste should never have existed. I refuse to believe that Kareem needed enough money to do this.
No. 9: Brian Bosworth – cold stone
One of the most overhyped NFL prospects in history tried to become an action star and we got this abomination. cold stone is such a bad movie that the whole thing has been uploaded to YouTube for seven years and no one cares enough to issue a copyright warning. Here is the whole movie, because why not. Enjoy wasting 90 minutes of your life.
No. 10: Wilt Chamberlain – Conan the Destroyer
It is extremely clear that the creators of Conan the Destroyer wanted one game of death-like a scene between Arnold Schwarzenegger and Wilt Chamberlain similar to Bruce Lee and Kareem in 1978. Instead, we get one of the weirdest and worst fight scenes ever, where an aging Wilt moves around the room like a nutcracker come to life.