For as long as one can remember, athletes have made efforts to transition from their chosen sport to the big (or small) screen. Some take enormous leaps – perhaps Shaq as a genie comes to mind – while others stay ‘true to themselves’ – think Phil Mickelson in Entourage. Few can doubt their abilities on the ice/court/course/field/pitch, etc. But many can doubt their acting chops. With Hollywood award season in full swing, it makes sense to look at some amazing athletes who traded the turf for the red carpet.
But many of their performances off the field come up short. No sport has been impervious to the callings of Hollywood. Something about the flashing lights and fancy parties makes these athletes believe they belong among the likes of Brando or Nicholson. Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson went from laying the smackdown on WWE programs to waking up as The Scorpion King and eventually saved San Francisco from an unprecedented earthquake. Sports and Hollywood both share the unique ability to leave observers speechless with their creations. But it’s not always an ‘endorsing’ silence. Sometimes even the greatest athletes of all time can be humbled by a movie critic or worse, their score on rotten tomatoes!
Here are 10 instances that saw athletes fail as actors, and 5 others that nailed their roles and could have a future after sport.
15. Terrible: Shaq
I will never be able to erase the memories of Kazaam. It almost ruined Shaq as a basketball player for me.
Seeing Shaq play a magic genie has to be one of the things we are glad got left in the 90s.
He’s had some ‘decent’ cameos, but… see I’m doing it! No more talking about this legends failed attempts at on-screen performances! I will say, it would be interesting to see Shaq ‘act’ on an episode of Cops or Live PD. After all, he is a sworn in sheriff’s deputy in Georgia. I can’t help but bet against him in a foot race though. There is no doubt he would make for an intimidating police officer to any perpetrator under 7 feet tall.
14. Terrible: Bill Goldberg
Bill Goldberg (or just Goldberg for wrestling fans) was never a great wrestler (although he was successful) and most certainly was not a great actor. Most known for his undefeated run in WCW, Goldberg’s abilities inside the ring were always limited. This was painstakingly evident in his most recent return to the squared circle. Few remember that Bill was a standout college football player for the University of Georgia. Drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in 1990, he never panned out in the NFL, leading him to pursue a career in wrestling.
Unfortunately, Goldberg has also delved into acting, producing some true cinematic gems such as Santa’s Slay (where he plays SANTA!), Half Past Dead 2, and most recently American Satan. Borrowing (and slightly modifying) a phrase from Bill himself, all I can ask is “What’s Next?”
13. Great: Blake Griffin
If he’s not rocking the rim at Staples Centre, Blake Griffin can be found ‘rocking the bed’ on the set of Broad City, a series on Comedy Central. He may also be hurt, having battled injuries most of his career.
Griffin is absolutely phenomenal in this cameo, which starts with his meeting one of the show’s co-stars at a club. As is often the case, club conversation leads back to the bedroom where he and she engage in some ‘interesting’ foreplay. I don’t think it would shock anybody if he continues to see other opportunities present themselves after a stellar debut. He still continues to be one of the NBA’s premier power forwards and amongst the league’s most authoritative dunkers. Chicks dig the 3, but they also don’t mind the JAM.
12. Terrible: Dan Marino
Most famous for having never won a Super Bowl, Dan Marino has also been shut out of any Academy Awards, somewhat shocking when you consider his ‘stellar’ acting resume. First, he played himself in Ace Ventura, a Jim Carrey classic. Getting kidnapped while filming a commercial, and then being tied up alongside a dolphin, Marino showed decent acting range in the role. Others may remember him from a more recent role in Bad Boys II. Marino, along with director Michael Bay are confronted by stars Will Smith & Martin Lawrence. Marino, playing himself, politely steps out of the car and gives the officers full use of his vehicle, even asking if they can let him know how it runs after the chase is over. Now he can be seen on Fox’s NFL programming, routinely butchering names and offering painfully obvious insights.
11. Terrible: Hulk Hogan
An iconic wrestler does not guarantee the same legacy on the screen. Hulk Hogan captured the hearts of so many with his in-ring antics. The leader of the Hulkamaniacs quickly became one of WWF/WWE’s most legendary creations.
His filmography is unnecessarily long. My ‘fondest’ memory of Hogan on the big screen came back in 1998 when he starred in the fourth instalment of the 3-Ninjas franchise. The Hulkster portrayed Dave Dragon, the self-proclaimed ‘Master of the Closed Fist’ (a.k.a punching). He, along with the ninjas, attempt to foil Anderson’s plot to take over an amusement park and endanger its visitors in the process. I’ve already spent too much time watching and describing this movie. If you still don’t believe me when I tell you Hogan’s acting skills are beyond salvageable, feel free to watch for yourself.
10. Great: Peyton Manning
Apart from being one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play football, Manning owns in my opinion, one of the best SNL appearances of all-time. Playing off his innate awkwardness, Manning (and his bro) have been a part of many funny productions off the football field. Football Cops, Papa John commercials, Nationwide jingles with Brad Paisley. You name it and Peyton is probably involved in some way, shape, or form. The older Manning brother has also hosted the ESPYs, a clear endorsement of his acting skills.
A future first-ballot Hall of Famer, Manning certainly has a future in acting, analyzing, or commentary – it’s his choice. But just remember, if you ever want a pizza, Papa John’s is your go-to choice.
9. Terrible: Michael Strahan
Michael Strahan played Augustus in Magic Mike XXL. No… just no. Why couldn’t you just stick to football and morning talk? Although he is not the only athlete on the credits as wrestler Kevin Nash also appears in the film.
Still, it is a strange role for the otherwise loveable Strahan. He was also given the task of filling the chair of one of daytime television’s biggest names. Strahan was Kelly Rippa’s co-host for a while, replacing the retired Regis Philbin. He can still be seen on morning television, only this time for Good Morning America as well as NFL broadcasts every Sunday.
8. Terrible: Caroline Wozniacki
The lovely Dane had a brief cameo in HBO’s Ballers. Known for her boring and unexciting brand of tennis, that’s precisely how I would describe her cameo performance as well. Much of the same. To be fair, Ballers suffers from porous acting across the board. Woz certainly wasn’t alone in her mediocre performance. Super agent Andy Garcia attempts to use Wozniacki to illustrate his reach and influence over today’s brightest sports stars. She ain’t even got a major victory! While we’re sure she was only dipping her toes into acting, we would strongly recommend she sticks to Tennis. For everyone’s sake!
7. Great: PK Subban
From the ring to the ice, we find an athlete with an unmistakable love for the lights, camera, and ACTION. PK Subban, while having never appeared in a feature film or tv series before, is not shy to be the centre of attention. Still, one must commend Subban on his unwavering commitment to be himself. Athletes today are more than pawns on a field or court. They are brands, representing something far greater than a jersey number. Subban gets this as much as anybody. In one instance, he posed as a security guard and surprised kids playing hockey. In another, Subban dressed up as an elderly man to spread some much needed holiday love. He also remotely connects with children at Montreal’s Children’s Hospital. Oh, and there’s the half decent commercials for Bridgestone Tires and Hyundai. Diversification, PK knows what’s up.
6. Terrible: Michael Jordan
The G.O.A.T (for now) is most known for his role in the animated classic, Space Jam. Now I know this movie brings back childhood memories for many, myself included. However, let’s not be blind to the reality that Jordan’s performance was iffy at best. I realize it’s hard to carry an animated movie when you’re the only real person on the team being filmed. I’d look awkward conversing with cartoons for 90 minutes too! But we would say that Jordan’s acting career should stay where his baseball career is. Far in the past and a footnote in an illustrious career on the court.
5. Terrible: OJ Simpson
Whether it be speeding away in a Ford Bronco – real life, not acting – or appearing in Naked Gun films followed by laughably bad Hertz commercials, The Juice has never produced a positive performance outside the lines of a football field. For his entire life, even dating back to college, Simpson has been a complete wreck away from football, and this includes his attempts at acting. Released from prison back in October, OJ The Juice is once again on the loose. Rather than debate whether he deserved to be released, let’s all agree we hope he doesn’t seek out acting opportunities as a source of income. And he best behave now that he’s out, cause Johnny ain’t around anymore to get him off the hook!
4. Great: John Cena
When one is able to SEE HIM, John Cena can be quite the character. His performance in Amy Schumer’s “Trainwreck” was hilarious, highlighted by a highly awkward scene of intimacy between him and Schumer herself. Cena has also had many appearances on late night talk shows and never fails to impress with his wittiness and ability to converse about a wide range of topics. He’s humbled himself with roles like The Marine and some other ‘iffy’ choices. On the whole, Cena is someone who could follow in The Rock’s footsteps, though he may not have the pure charisma Johnson possesses. Think about it, The Rock would very well run (and win) a Presidential Campaign… Cena, however? I have my doubts.
3. Terrible: Phil Mickelson
All Phil had to do was succeed at portraying a swing coach… and he came off as super awkward. Appearing in one episode of HBO’s Entourage, Mickelson played the part of a personal golf instructor for a studio executive. While the role mostly involved standing in the shot and little else, he did have a handful of lines. Like most cameos, over-analysis is a necessary evil, but Lefty wasn’t great. He wasn’t awful, but I just felt more could’ve been done with it. Perhaps he was getting comfortable and needed more episodes to get a footing? Doubtful, but any chance of that happening were squashed when the studio executive he was helping passed suddenly on the course of a heart attack. A golfer imploding on the course in a crucial moment? Sounds like Phil, or at the very least somebody he coached.
2. Terrible: Dwayne Johnson
I couldn’t resist the temptation to put him on this list. So many others and I will continue to flock to theatres to see what he does next… but that does not mean we are enjoying it! Is there an actor/star who’s been more heavily marketed and promoted than Dwayne Johnson? With an Instagram following approaching 100 million, every time Johnson feels compelled to make an announcement, 200 million eyes are right there to receive it!
A career that started with him borrowing wrestling trunks because he was too poor evolved into him becoming one of the most iconic wrestlers of all-time. Then, he woke up as The Scorpion King, wrestled with Sean William Scott in The Run Down, and cleaned up a native casino in Walking Tall. He’s been Hercules and more recently saved California from an unprecedented earthquake.
1. Great: LeBron James
Every day Michael looks in his rearview mirror, LeBron has made up significant ground in his quest to usurp Jordan as basketball’s G.O.A.T.
While he still has ground to make up on the court, he’s already established he’s a superior actor to Michael Jordan. Apart from convincing everybody to wear Nike and drink Sprite (though James claims he’ll never INSIST you drink a Sprite!), LeBron also played a prominent role in Amy Schumer’s film “Trainwreck” …and was actually amazing in it. Turns out the King has multiple off-court talents, and I for one am not shocked. There really is nothing he can’t do! Oh, I almost forgot to mention his multiple Academy Award-worthy performances ON THE COURT! Dude can certainly sell a call when the situation calls for it.
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