When elementary school teachers ask their students the customary, open-ended question—what do you want to be when you grow up?—one answer prevails. Amongst President, doctor, and firefighter is professional athlete. Grade school children practice sport religiously, and have a competitive edge instilled in them from the onset of adolescence. This passion coupled with the now filled blank space on that life-altering quiz, ignites a dream to conquer the odds and make a future filled with professional sport a reality. Desolately, most give up on that dream once they accept the fact that every other player is taller, stronger, and faster, but others toss logic out the window and stick it out in hopes of breaking down the fictitious door they’ve been knocking on.
For the celebrities on this list, even after storied Hollywood careers, they seem to fit that bill. Each one on this list has managed to remain close to sport with the help of close-knit relationships with some of the world’s top athletes. As a result, they’ve kept their childhood dreams alive in some capacity, enjoying the professional sport life even if it means playing the role of spectator. The actors who made this list have hinted at their yearning for sport in some of their most popular films. Whether they’ve starred as the prominent underdog athlete or as the no-nonsense, motivating coach, they’ve made sure to use the big screen to help turn their dreams into temporary realities. As for the other icons that made the cut, the musicians lead the way with four selections, one of which has been a transcendent figure in the world of sports over the last half decade. The only comedian on the list grabbed the top spot. Here are the nine other megastars who wished they had selected a career along an athletic path.
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12 Rob Lowe
Rob Lowe’s allegiance to the Indianapolis Colts is well documented. On several episodes of the successful NBC show Parks and Recreation, which recently came to a close, the cast references the hometown team, and Lowe surely helped lure Andrew Luck, Reggie Wayne, and owner Jim Irsay to the set as guest stars. Lowe’s character on the program, Chris Traeger, is upbeat and energetic; he lives an athletic lifestyle and limits his diet to healthy foods, the way the athlete in him would.
On the season five episode “Two Parties,” the gang holds a bachelor party for Chris Pratt’s character Andy Dwyer, which eventually leads the cast to Lucas Oil Stadium, the home of the Colts. The team’s stars greet the men on the playing field, and Dwyer is asked by quarterback Andrew Luck to catch a deep pass, which he hauls in for a touchdown. There’s no doubt Lowe would have loved to catch that pass, and myriad others from Luck.
11 Spike Lee
There are few celebrities that are more synonymous with a sports franchise than Spike Lee and the Knicks. If he isn’t sitting courtside at Madison Square Garden, chances are the Knicks aren’t playing there. He often travels to watch the team play and isn’t afraid to show his overzealous support. Lee has incorporated his love for basketball in his professional work with the fictional tale He Got Game (1998) and the documentary titled Kobe Doin’ Work (2009). It may not be in the capacity he had hoped, but the Oscar-nominated filmmaker’s name will appear on the cover—alongside the image of an NBA star—of the newest version of the NBA 2K video game series. He earns the tag after directing the game.
10 Justin Bieber
If Bieber approached a professional sports career the same way he did his music one, he would act as the perfect sports villain. There is a good chance he would take pride in his trash talk game, and if he made a monumental play, he would let you know about it. In fact, he did; back in October Bieber jumped on the ice at an L.A. Kings facility and exhibited his home bred Canadian skills. “My dangles were unreal… did u see that shot,” Bieber subsequently tweeted. His athletic triumphs extend beyond the ice to the hardwood. In 2011, Bieber participated in the NBA’s All-star celebrity game and took home MVP honors.
9 Snoop Dogg
Snoop has infused his passion for sports in his children. His 18-year old son Cordell Broadus recently committed to playing college football at UCLA, despite his father’s well-publicized allegiance to rivals USC. He is an avid supporter of numerous California-based squads as well as the Pittsburgh Steelers, a team he grew up watching with his grandfather. The legendary rapper is a certified football coach and worked as the head coach for his son Cordell’s youth football teams. His best opportunity to realize his sports dream came in 2008 when he was spotted at an Anaheim Ducks game after his family received hockey lessons from the team on the Honda Center ice.
8 Mark Wahlberg
If there is one celebrity on this list who appears unable to control his athletic desires, it's Wahlberg. The actor and former rapper resides almost exclusively in the New England Patriots owner’s box with Robert Kraft throughout the NFL season. And with the way he works out, he may be a better fit on the gridiron. Wahlberg gained 40 pounds of muscle for the 2013 film—fittingly titled—Pain and Gain. Accordingly, his portrayal of Irish boxer Micky Ward in The Fighter (2010) demonstrated his desire to compete, as did his underdog role in Invincible (2006). Wahlberg received a first hand look at life as a professional athlete in each of those movies, and he certainly would have loved to continue his performance away from the big screen. His 2 guns co-star is up next on the list.
7 Denzel Washington
Denzel Washington starred in two of the most celebrated sports films ever: Remember The Titans (2000) and He Got Game (1998). And while he was unable to hold his own against his son in the film—Ray Allen—Washington was a better basketball player in his adolescence than most can believe. He grew up in New York playing against future NBA stars and earned a spot on well-respected coach P.J. Carlesimo’s JV team in the 70s. During those days, Washington surely had legitimate ambitions of turning pro, when basketball meant more to him than acting. His enigmatic performances on the big screen would have translated flawlessly into a dynamic NBA stage presence.
6 Matthew McConaughey
A zealous supporter of the Texas Longhorns football program, McConaughey displays all the traits of a natural athlete. The Oscar-winning actor has thrived in three solo sports; in high school, he received letters in tennis and golf, and now aims to improve his surfing skills on a regular basis. His vibrant role in the storied football film We Are Marshall (2006) only further proves his athletic aspirations. In preparation for his upcoming film Born to Run, McConaughey had to train like an athlete would in order to get into top running shape. But that type of workout is one McConaughey is familiar with; he did a similar one—losing 21 pounds—before filming Dallas Buyers Club (2013).
In the second edition of the NBA All-star celebrity game, Nelly captured the game’s MVP award. A year prior, he displayed his athletic dominance on the big screen as a game-breaking running back in the 2005 movie The Longest Yard, a remake of the 1974 film by the same name. Aside from showcasing his talents to the world in those sports, Nelly was a star baseball player at the high school level. The hip-hop icon may have had the best chance of having his athletic dream realized, as he once garnered interest from the Pittsburgh Pirates and his hometown St. Louis Cardinals of Major League Baseball.
He fused his passion for sports and fashion by collaborating with Nike on a limited-edition sneaker in 2003, a modernized version of Charles Barkley’s signature kick. And he would have likely designed various others had he reached the big leagues.
The legendary rapper quenched his athletic thirst by founding Roc Nation Sports, a sports management company linked to American entertainment company Roc Nation, in April 2013. The organization partnered with Creative Artists Agency, an L.A-based talent agency and made then New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano its first marquee signing. Henceforth, the company has secured other sports A-listers such as Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant and Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant. Jay-Z became an officially licensed sports agent for the NBA and MLB in 2013, but you would have to think he would love to put pen to paper on a blockbuster deal of his own.
2 T-1. Kevin Hart
The comedian and blossoming actor has taken the Hollywood world by storm in recent years, but he would have loved to enjoy a similar rise to stardom as an athlete. Hart has seized the NBA’s celebrity All-star game MVP trophy a record four times, and while his antics are a ploy to entertain the crowd, he appears to play with a genuine fire in certain moments that would bode well for him as an athlete. He decided to retire from the game after getting schooled by Little League Baseball sensation Mo’Ne Davis in this year’s game. However, if Hart had the prototypical NBA player’s size, he may have been selected to play in the official league All-star game.
1 T-1. Will Ferrell
At least Will Ferrell doesn't take himself too seriously when he's in a sports role of sorts. Films he's done include Talladega Nights, Semi-Pro, Blades of Glory and Kicking & Screaming, Ferrell can often be seen at L.A. sports games, be it for the Kings, Dodgers or his alma mater USC Trojans. Perhaps the best display of Ferrell's inner itch to be an athletes was when he suited up for multiple teams in a single day in spring training this year, playing all nine positions. It was for a good cause, as the memorabilia sold from his day as a player went to two cancer charities. Ferrell may not be an athlete, but he sure is an entertainer.
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