Often times when athletes reach the peak of their career, they will be sought after by the entertainment industries to do advertisements or cameos in their productions. This is not only a brilliant marketing tactic for both the network and the athlete, but it creates a sort of third dimension to those players that you see running around on the field, court etc…
Some cameos come off perfectly and open up doors for the athlete to continue acting after their sports career (see Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson). For others however, they demonstrate why they get paid to do what they do.
When in search for the best athlete cameos, it is important to keep in mind what the definition of a cameo is. According to Dicitonary.com, a cameo is defined as “a minor part played by a prominent performer in a motion picture or a screen production.” Usually a cameo will only be considered if it is for a few scenes. Often if the star is a lead actor, it is no longer considered a cameo. For the most part, this list abides to that rule.
Though just like in the world of sports, there are always special cases where the rules may be broken. In this case, most of these athletes appear for only one brief scene. Often times used as a comedic gag, these sports stars show their acting chops or lack thereof in order to lighten the mood. It is no surprise why some of these athletes only appear in one cameo for their career. Others have appeared for countless cameos in the past, and still continue to show up on the big and small screen time and time again.
Lights, camera, action!
Without further ado, here are the top 15 athlete cameos in movies and TV shows.
15 Derek Jeter - The Other Guys
There's no crying in baseball until you get shot by Mark Wahlberg in a feature film. Derek Jeter's cameo in this Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg buddy-cop movie is actually a very important one. Not only does Jeter appear twice in this film, but his cameo actually sets up a whole arc for Wahlberg's character.
Attaining the title "The Yankee Clipper" after shooting Derek Jeter before the Yankees seventh game in their run at the World Series, Wahlberg's character spirals into a mess leading him to be partnered up with Ferrell's character. Die-hard Red Sox fan Wahlberg would actually go on to admit that he loved shooting the All-Star Yankees shortstop saying "I actually kicked him around on the ground a couple times after I shot him." Another reason to love Mark Wahlberg, Red Sox fans.
14 Lance Armstrong - Dodgeball
"So what are you dying from that's keeping you from the finals?"
In 2004, this Lance Armstrong cameo was huge. Not only because Lance Armstrong was one of the most accomplished cyclists of all time, but mainly because the message that he was passing off was one of positivity. Although Lance played it off in a comedic way, the message came through loud and clear.
Unless you were living under a rock, Armstrong's medical history inspired countless people and showed that anything is possible when faced with adversity. Of course, this scene is now one of the most ironic in history when in 2013, Armstrong admitted that he was in fact using performance enhancing drugs. But hey, great message, right?
13 Reggie Jackson - The Naked Gun
Although baseball legend Reggie Jackson only had one line in his cameo, it has become one of the most talked about scenes in The Naked Gun. Infamously known as the "I Love L.A." scene, leading man Leslie Nielsen's character goes undercover as a Major League umpire while searching for a ballplayer who has been brainwashed to kill the Queen of England.
The sheer comedy of the scene itself only gets better when Jackson appears on screen speaking his only line, "I must kill the Queen."
Quite a feat for one of the kings of baseball!
12 John Cena -Scooby-Doo! WrestleMania Mystery
There are things that just fit together perfectly: peanut butter and jelly, Bonnie and Clyde, burgers and beer, the list goes on. Two things that don't fit together however are Scooby-Doo and WrestleMania, or so it was thought until 2014's Scooby-Doo! WrestleMania Mystery hit the scene.
In this cameo in particular, Scooby and the gang are being chased down by a gigantic boulder, a rock if you will (surprisingly not played by Dwayne Johnson). It looks grim for the gang until an all-too familiar theme song starts to play and in comes Cena pushing the boulder into an endless chasm.
The only thing that can top this cameo is the writing itself.
Shaggy: "Like, that was amazing!"
Velma: "How did you know where we were?"
Cena: "Daphne texted me."
11 Muggsy Bogues - Curb Your Enthusiasm
Larry David's HBO comedy Curb Your Enthusiasm is already one funny show. Add some star cameos in there, and it only gets better. One in particular being NBA star Muggsy Bogues' awkward encounter in the men's room.
Being famous for measuring in at only 5-foot-3, Bogues was still able to make a solid name for himself in the world of basketball. Piquing Richard Lewis and Larry David's interest, the two decide to see what kind of heat Muggsy is packing, leading to one of the funniest scenes in the show.
10 Shawn Thornton - Ted
In a rather comedic scene where Mark Wahlberg's character takes the mic to serenade (if that's what you can call it) a crowd of not-so-loving fans, there is one fan in particular who cannot bear to listen any longer. That fan is none other than former Bruins enforcer Shawn Thornton.
Thornton curses Wahlberg's character out before hopping the fence to take matters into his own hands. Rushing the stage, Thornton makes it inches from Wahlberg before he lifts the mic stand to knock Thornton out - no penalty given.
Judging by other entries on this list, little pro tip for athletes: If Mark Wahlberg approaches you for a cameo, you are more than likely going to get hurt.
9 Tom Brady - Entourage
Nobody ever needed to see Tom Brady trying to act, but low and behold, here it is. In the sixth season of Entourage, Brady was brought on to play himself in a celebrity golf tournament. Although funny, it was more Brady's delivery that made this cameo gold. He just looked outright uncomfortable in this scene.
As a lifelong New York Giants fan, Turtle won't even acknowledge Tom Brady's existence until Brady invites him over for dinner with Giselle and himself. Turtle asks what he should bring and Brady awkwardly whispers that Giselle likes chocolate.
The real question in this scene of course: Were those golfballs deflated?
8 Mike Tyson - The Hangover
Nobody expected this one to work as well as it did. When The Hangover hit theatres, it was critically acclaimed as one of the best raunchy films of the decade. All-Star cast Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis and Ed Helms retrace their footsteps in search of their buddy after a drunken night of unthinkable shenanigans, in you guessed it, Las Vegas.
It all seemed like your typical comedy until Tyson came into the picture. Supplying some of the greatest gags of the film, Mike Tyson would once again become relevant in the entertainment world, and for the wrong reasons. Mike Tyson claims that he only signed on for the movie to supply his drug habits and admitted that he was high on cocaine for most of the shoot.
7 Larry Bird, Patrick Ewing & Charles Barkley - Space Jam
This was a tough one because all of these guys could have had a single spot on the list, however grouping them together as one giant cameo is just so much better. You can't think of Michael Jordan, the NBA or the USA Dream Team without Larry Bird, Patrick Ewing or Charles Barkley.
Their cameos weren't huge, but if you were a basketball fan in the 90s, even just seeing them play in a Bugs Bunny film was a huge deal. These guys were some of the greatest players to ever grace the game, so seeing them on the big screen was a treat.
Although there were other players that made cameos in this film, these three were always the standouts, going from skilled players to losing their talent, back to being the best. Simply a classic.
6 Brett Favre - There's Something About Mary
Something about Brett Favre's appearance in There's Something About Mary just seems so wrong. The entire film it hints at the fact that Mary (Cameron Diaz) had her heart broken by some guy, only to be revealed at the very end to be Super Bowl champion Brett Favre.
Giving it his absolute all, Favre manages to be a worse actor than a cardboard box. With that being said, it is for that reason that this cameo is one of the greatest of all time. Watching Favre attempt to do this is half of the fun and seeing how it turned out is worth it. There was no surprise when it was revealed that Favre was the third choice for the character - which ultimately made him decide to not pursue acting as a second career.
5 Roger Clemens - Kingpin
Roger Clemens is hands down one of the best pitchers in baseball. Winning seven Cy Young awards, three Triple Crowns and two World Series, Clemens name in cemented in the sport's history. Roger Clemens is also hands down one of the most hated players in baseball.
However, you can't hate him for his portrayal of Skidmark in the bowling comedy Kingpin. In his cameo, not only does he threaten to punch Randy Quaid, but also manages to get a high five from Woody Harrelson.
Well done, Clem. Well done.
4 Randy Savage - Spider-Man
Macho Man Randy Savage was one of those wrestlers that you could have thrown anywhere and it would have been entertaining. In this case, Savage was matched up against everybody's favorite wall crawler in the 2002 release of Marvel's Spider-Man.
In order for Peter Parker to gain some extra cash, he decides to take his newfound powers into the ring. Parker comes face-to-face with other than Bonesaw McGraw (Savage). In 2002, this scene was pure bliss as it was only the beginning of Marvel's movie venture. Watching Savage chase down somebody so much skinnier and smaller than him was a treat, and it will live on as one of the funnest cameos ever.
3 Patrick Ewing - Senseless
Although Patrick Ewing appears in the group of Space Jammers, this cameo is just too good to pass up. Although the casting for Senseless seemed, a little, well, senseless, it managed for some hearty laughs. One of the finest scenes featured a visually impaired Marlon Wayans roasting NBA great Patrick Ewing.
Wandering off to find a drink, Wayans returns to the ballgame and suffers from blurred vision. Attempting to find his seat, he makes his way down to the bench and sits beside none other than Patrick Ewing. He begins to deliver a monologue totally bashing Ewing until he realizes who he is sitting with.
The scene ends with the All-Star tossing Wayans out onto the court.
2 Cam Neely - Dumb and Dumber
It's not often that an athlete becomes better known for their acting chops than their sports careers. Cam Neely came pretty darn close.
In cult classic Dumb and Dumber, characters played by Jeff Daniels and Jim Carrey are grabbing a bite to eat at a diner. Daniels knocks over a salt shaker when Carrey instructs him to throw some salt over his shoulder to prevent bad luck. Daniels accidentally launches the shaker and hilarity ensues leading up to one of the best cameos in cinematic history.
Cam Neely, known as Sea Bass approaches Daniels and spits on his hamburger. For some reason, this simple cameo blew up, prompting more scenes with the character, and even another cameo in the sequel decades later.
Cam Neely may be the president for the Boston Bruins, but he will have "Kick his ass, Sea Bass!" yelled at him for the rest of his life.
1 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar - Airplane!
If you look at Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's IMDB page, you'll notice that he is credited as an actor in 21 productions and has appeared as himself in 142 different shows and movies. For an actor, this is nothing out of the ordinary, but for a man who is mostly known for his work on the court, Abdul-Jabbar has made a respectable career on screen.
Although this one may be cheating, it has got to be the best performance put on by an athlete. Insisting that he is Roger Murdock, the airline co-pilot, hilarity ensues when a kid recognizes the All-Star basketball player.
Apparently the role was initially supposed to go to banned MLB star, Pete Rose. Thank heavens that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar came onto the scene.
Just watch for yourself.