Professional athletes are always in the spotlight. Whether they are on the field, giving interviews after the game, or filming commercials for sponsors, they are constantly in the spotlight. All the time the spend on the screen as athletes, helps many of them transfer over into different entertainment fields such as acting. They are used to having cameras in their face at all times so they don't get camera shy when asked to take on cameo appearances for major movies.
Usually these roles are only offered to the major sport stars of a generation and movie cameo's are considered high praise for an athlete. It means that they have reached a point of popularity and recognition that no longer need an introduction in a movie. Everybody knows who they are right when they appear on camera. While many athletes have made cameo appearances on television shows (seriously, I think every athlete alive made an appearance on at least one episode of Entourage), only the best get roles in major blockbuster movies. This list goes through many of the athlete cameos over the past few decades and pulls out the 15 best that you may have forgotten about over the years. Hopefully it brings back memories and you can get a good laugh while watching the clips on Youtube. Enjoy.
15 Roger Clemens (Kingpin)
In this classic Farrelly brothers comedy from the 1990s, there is a scene in which Amish bowler "Ishmael" (played by Randy Quaid), almost starts a bar brawl against a couple of roughneck bikers because he asked to dance with one of their girlfriends. One of those bikers just so happens to be one of the greatest pitchers of all time, Roger Clemens.
The character Clemens plays is named "Skidmark," which was fitting because he was a serious jerk in this role, albeit a very short cameo appearance. It was a great role for Clemens because it allowed him to be his normal roid-raging and annoying self. Thankfully, Clemens didn't quit his day job, because he was clearly a much better pitcher than he is an actor.
14 Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Talladega Nights)
It makes sense that a movie centered all-around Nascar and racing would feature at least a few cameo appearances by real life drivers. In the blockbuster comedy starring Will Ferrell, real-life Nascar driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. makes a cameo appearance as an autograph hungry fan of Ferrell's character, Ricky Bobby. Earnhardt Jr. makes Bobby promise he "won't tell the other drivers" that he asked for his autograph.
It was a classic athlete cameo in that it was short, funny, and added another element to the movie. The small role shows that Earnhardt Jr. is human and has nice sense of humor, even making fun of himself when necessary. Cameo's run in the family apparently, as the late, great Dale Earnhardt Sr. also had a cameo in the wacky comedy BASEketball in the 1990's.
13 Larry Bird (Space Jam)
Larry Bird is one of the greatest basketball players to ever play, so it shouldn't be surprising that he also has one of the greatest, yet often overlooked, movie cameos. In the uber-popular children's movie Space Jam, Larry Bird plays himself as one of Michael Jordan's golf buddies, along with the always funny Bill Murray.
The best part of Bird's presence in the movie, however, is when Bill Murray is telling Jordan that he thinks he could be the next big star in the NBA. Jordan tells him he can never make it the NBA, to which Murray asks "It's because I'm white isn't it?" Jordan responds, "No, c'mon. Larry is white." To which Murray cracks back, "Larry isn't white. Larry is clear," poking fun at Larry Bird's very fair skin complexion.
12 Lance Armstrong (Dodgeball)
In the movie Dodgeball, Vince Vaughn's character is thinking about quitting the tournament and giving up on his team. He makes it as far as the airport bar before he runs into Lance Armstrong. Ironically, Armstrong recognizes Vaughn ("Peter") as the captain of the Average Joe's dodgeball team and tells him he is a big fan. Vaughn responds by telling him he is quitting.
Armstrong then goes on a long spiel about how he thought about quitting the Tour de France when he was "diagnosed with brain, testicular, and lung cancer, all at the same time" but decided to keep going. His speech, as odd as it is, works and Vaughn returns to the arena to help his team win an improbably championship. Sadly, Armstrong no longer has that same celebrity pull since it came out that he was doping/cheating during his streak of Tour de France victories.
11 Lawrence Taylor (Waterboy)
The Waterboy is a perfect movie to watch when you don't have anything to do and just want some dumb, cheap laughs. Adam Sandler's character in the movie is "Bobby Boucher" a hard-hitting water boy with the IQ of about 10. Lawrence Taylor brings Bobby to his youth camp to give the children a pep talk about football.
After going off on a nonsense ramble that only makes sense in the head of Bobby Boucher, all the kids have no idea what he was talking about and neither does Taylor. Taylor, suspecting that Bobby has to be on drugs to give a weird speech like that, then turns to the children and says, "Oh... and don't smoke crack." This was also ironic comedy because Taylor was notorious for drug abuse during his time in the NFL.
10 Mike Ditka (Kicking & Screaming)
For being a movie aimed at kids and young teenagers, Kicking & Screaming is actually pretty funny. The movie stars Will Ferrell as an overly-obsessed soccer dad who spends every waking minute attempting to beat his son's rival soccer team (coached by his father) in order to finally gain his father's respect. Ferrell initially realizes that he isn't much of a coach, so he recruits his father's rival neighbor, Mike Ditka, to join his coaching staff.
Ditka only joins because he despises Ferrell's father so much. Things aren't always great between Ferrell and Ditka either as Ferrell becomes controlling and screams at Ditka to "go get him a juicebox." In the end, Ditka and Ferrell defeat Ferrell's father and all is well. Ditka is often seen in this movie wearing his famous Bears vest and smoking cigars. Got to love Ditka.
9 Brett Favre (There's Something About Mary)
This is another Farrelly brothers classic 1990s movie. There's Something About Mary is about as close to a perfect comedy as one can get. It has great acting, great writing, and a cameo from one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time, Brett Favre. Favre's character isn't actually seen until the final scene of the movie and he is constantly referred to as just "Brett" before his entrance, which creates a nice surprise.
Sorry for the spoiler there but if you haven't seen this movie yet, then you have been living under a rock for the past 20 years. It's impossible to state whether or not Favre is a good actor or not based on this cameo, as his screen time is probably less than 20 seconds total. But Favre has the classic charisma of every leading Hollywood man so it's likely that he could totally be an actor if he wanted to.
8 John Cena (Trainwreck)
In a movie in which LeBron James received most of the screen time and acting accolades, this cameo list appearance goes to John Cena in Trainwreck. While LeBron James was surprisingly great in his role in the movie, Cena may be the funniest character in the entire movie. Cena plays the initial boyfriend of the lead actress Amy Schumer, but there is something just off about his character.
For as big of a guy Cena is, all of his character's dirty talk and tough talk come out sounding homosexual and he doesn't even realize it. For instance, in one scene, Cena and Schumer are in the movie theater and a heckler starts bothering them. Instead of intimidating the heckler, Cena just makes everybody laugh at him because his threats are all sexually laced with gay innuendos. It's a really underrated comedic performance by this wrestling legend.
7 John McEnroe (Mr. Deeds)
Mr. Deeds isn't one of Adam Sandler's greatest movies of all-time, but it is certainly better than all of the garbage he has been putting out recently. However, in Mr. Deeds there is a scene with tennis legend John McEnroe that is actually pretty funny. Deeds and McEnroe meet each other and hit it off, then spending the rest of the night getting boozed up and doing stupid stuff through out Manhattan.
At one point, McEnroe is about to be hit by a car but jumps at the last second to avoid it. While this doesn't sound funny, it's hysterical when watching because of how unrealistically high McEnroe jumps over the car. I'm talking like 15 feet high. McEnroe is no stranger to cameos and actually plays himself in several other Adam Sandler movies including Little Nicky, Anger Management, and Jack & Jill.
6 Dan Marino (Ace Ventura)
What was cool about this cameo appearance is that it came right in the middle of Dan Marino's prime. The storyline of Ace Ventura played perfectly into a Marino cameo appearance as the pet-detective, Ace, was hired by the Miami Dolphins to help find their stolen Dolphin mascot, Flipper. It would be weird to have a Miami Dolphins movie without Dan Marino in it.
Marino actually ends up playing a big role in the film after he too gets kidnapped by the antagonist and former Dolphins kicker, Ray Finkle. Finkle is upset about a big time kick that he missed that ruined his name and his career. Finkle believes the missed kick was all Marino's fault and continually says, "laces out Dan... laces out Dan." In the end, Marino is saved, but not before realizing he slept with Finkle when Finkle was dressed as a woman.
5 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Airplane)
In this cult classic starring Leslie Nielsen, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar makes an appearance as the airplane captain named Roger Murdock. There is a hilarious scene in which Roger keeps getting confused because the air traffic controller uses the phrase "Roger" as confirmation, but Kareem's character replies "What?" after each time.
Later in the movie, a young boy comes into the cockpit and recognizes that Roger Murdock is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and begins telling him how big of a fan he is. Kareem continues to insist to the kid that he is Roger Murdock, not Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Eventually the kid starts telling him that his dad thinks he's lazy on the basketball court, which upsets Kareem enough to break character and begin yelling back at the kid to shut up because "he's been hearing that crap ever since he was at UCLA."
4 Derek Jeter (The Other Guys)
Imagine being a lifelong Red Sox fan and having the opportunity to shoot Derek Jeter. It would be pretty amazing right? Well that is what Mark Wahlberg got to do in the police comedy "The Other Guys." Wahlberg's character is a hot-headed police officer who had recently been demoted after suffering an incident while working patrol at a Yankees game.
Wahlberg was down in the tunnel near the field when he heard footsteps coming from behind. Instead of checking who it was, he turned and fired and shot Derek Jeter. For the rest of the movie, Wahlberg's character is haunted by the fact that he shot Jeter and is often referred to as "the Yankee Clipper." Jeter is a natural actor and has actually hosted Saturday Night Live on multiple occasions. Is there anything the former Bronx Captain can't do?
3 Lee Trevino (Happy Gilmore)
Lee Trevino was one of the most iconic golfers on the PGA Tour in the 1970s and 1980s, as he won six major championships and over 25 professional golf events. But for kids born in the 1990s, Trevino is best known for his interesting cameo in the classic Adam Sandler golf movie "Happy Gilmore."
Trevino's character is largely silent throughout the movie and only appears whenever another character has clearly acted wrongly. Each time that occurs in the movie, the camera pans to Trevino, who is always shaking his head with a very disappointed look on his face. It's classic silent comedy at its best and Trevino pulls it off wonderfully.Trevino later said that he would have never done the role had he known there would be so many swear words throughout the script. Good thing he didn't read the script!
2 Clay Matthews (Pitch Perfect 2)
Clay Matthews has been working his way into the entertainment industry over the past few years and is starting to see the benefits. As his playing career starts nearing an end, Matthews has been featured in many more commercials, cameo's and interviews than he was earlier in his career. It fits him too, as he has the classic long blonde surfer look down perfectly.
Well Matthews, and a few of his Packer teammates, made an interesting cameo appearance in the movie Pitch Perfect 2. The guys show up to a singing competition looking very much like a boy band from the 1990s, only huge and clearly the size of NFL players. Despite their hulking size, the guys sing a rendition of Beyonce's "Bootylicious." It provided a strong comedic boost to an otherwise lackluster sequel.
1 Cam Neely (Dumb & Dumber)
Once again, another Farrelly brothers classic from the 1990s. Those guys must really enjoy working with athlete cameos in their movies and it clearly pays off. Cam Neely has one of the best cult characters in any comedy from the 1990s when he was credited with portraying the rough and rowdy Seabass in the movie "Dumb and Dumber." Seabass is a big intimidating brute who is kind of like the truck stop bully.
"Kick his ass Seabass" is one of the more commonly referred to lines from this blockbuster classic. Unless you were a big hockey fan in the 1980s, you might not have known that Seabass was portrayed by a Boston Bruin legend. It's the perfect role for Neely too because in real life he was a big, intimidating guy on the ice that was never afraid to throw down his gloves and "kick ass."
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