Athletes, like most people, often play an aspirational game called, ‘If I could change my career, what would I do?’ As they’re already living in the A-list spotlight, many athletes consider acting to be an easy alternative.
While very few athletes succeed, some at least manage to get a break on the small screen; like Mark Harmon, former UCLA football player and son of a Heisman Trophy winner, who leads an NCIS cast on one of the world’s most popular dramas.
Regardless of WWE star and former Miami Hurricane, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson‘s questionable acting skills, the fact that his films make money sets him apart from most athletes-turned-actors. With a filmography that includes over twenty films and a box office performance hovering around the two billion dollar mark, The Rock stands in an athlete-actor class of his own.
Michael Jordan’s potential breakout role in Space Jam left much to be desired, in the eyes of both sports and acting critics. Nonetheless, close to twenty years after its first release, Space Jam still stands relatively strong in terms of box office numbers. The same cannot be said for the highest of the high profile sports stars listed here, who fell hard when they tried to dabble in Hollywood. They failed both critically and at the box office, making them certifiable flops.
10. Lawrence Taylor
Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor hoped to translate some of his on field success to on screen success, but the opportunities never quite materialised. From sporting stardom, in Hollywood he was relegated to cameo appearances. Taylor’s first appearance was as himself in the fairly successful 1998 comedy The Waterboy, but this was eclipsed by two dreadful cameo appearances in two dreadful movies; The Comebacks in 2007, and When in Rome 2010. While he continued to stick around with bit-part television and movie roles, a string of bad publicity furthers hampers Taylor’s career hopes.
9. Wilt Chamberlain
Due largely to his size, Wilt Chamberlain changed the way professional basketball was played. A career member of the league’s double-double club, averaging 30.1 points and 22.5 rebounds per game, Chamberlain also pulled a double-double after his professional sports career ended.
His role in the 1984 movie, Conan the Destroyer, highlighted his poor acting skills and represented an all-round poor career choice. Apart from commercial work, Chamberlain’s on-screen opportunities dried up immediately following his NBA retirement.
8. Roger Clemens
Seven time Cy Young winner, six World Series appearances and over three hundred wins in a twenty-four year career describes the career trajectory of Roger Clemens. Bit roles in forgettable films such as the 1994 movie Cobb, released on only four screens, and the 1996 comedy Kingpin attest to his ability to strike out on the big screen. To all intents and purposes, Clemens’ acting hopes ended as soon as his basketball career ended.
7. Shaquille O’Neal
Four National Basketball Association (NBA) championships and recognition in fifteen All Star ballots are just a few of NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal’s accomplishments. It’s no surprise that the large sized and large personality known as Shaquille (Shaq) O’Neal wanted to leverage his professional sports fame for some big screen fame.
By far, his professional sports successes exceeded his acting dreams. Neither critics nor the film-going public especially enjoyed his 1996 fantasy Kazaam. Cameo roles in other films such as 1997 comedy Good Burger also did little to enhance his film credentials. It seems sheer force of personality, rather than talent or box office draw, enables O’Neal to remain in the public’s eye today.
6. Dan Marino
First round draft pick by the Miami Dolphins, and the National Football League (NFL) all time passing yardage record holder when he retired seventeen seasons later, Dan Marino built quite a football career for himself.
Small and very unimpressive cameo roles in movies such as Ace Ventura, Holy Man and Bad Boys II highlight – or lowlight – his film career.
More suited to football analysis than work on the big screen, Marino failed to receive any substantial film opportunities following his retirement.
5. Bruce Jenner
Bruce Jenner continues to live a life of extremes, on screen and off. He’s gone from world’s best athlete for his 1976 Olympic decathlon win, to a nomination for a worst actor Razzie for his performance in the 1980 movie, Can’t Stop the Music. Jenner failed to learn the lessons of history, and by 2011 he had signed up for a small role in Jack and Jill, winner of multiple worst Razzies during the 2012 ceremony.
4. Julius Erving
Julius Erving, better known as Dr. J for his then flamboyant style in an otherwise staid sport, traveled a long road from the American Basketball Association (ABA) to the heights of the National Basketball Association (NBA).
Prior to saving a storied franchise, the Philadelphia 76ers, he took his flamboyance to the big screen with a 1979 performance in The Fish that Saved Pittsburgh. It bombed with critics and at the box office and effectively led to his exile from Hollywood.
3. Joe Namath
In 1965, the fashionable and talented Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback, Joe Namath cast his lot with the New York Jets of the then upstart American Football League. Five years later, Namath won the Jets a Super Bowl along with respect from the entire league.
Broadway Joe, as he was known, immediately hoped to leverage his fashion sense and on field success with the glamour of Hollywood kudos. Movies no one recognizes today, such as the 1970 C.C. & Company and Norwood and 1971’s Last Rebel demonstrate his painful acting failures. Trading in on name recognition only, Namath occasionally picked up a few television and movie roles.
2. Howie Long
With a professional football resume that includes Hall of Fame, Pro Bowl and Super Bowl credentials, it must have been difficult for Howie Long not to consider a shot at stardom on the big screen. Unfortunately for Long, it was a misfire; his acting skills were much maligned. His resume includes the 1997 critical and box office bomb, Firestorm. Long decided for himself that he was better suited for life in front of the small screen as an NFL analyst.
1. Dennis Rodman
Dennis Rodman, the man who played second fiddle to Michael Jordan during the long Chicago Bulls championship run, also tried his hand at acting on the big screen. Two of his attempts at movie making – Double Team, a 1997 action movie with Jean-Claude Van Damme, and Simon Sez, a 1999 thriller – bombed at the box office and with critics. Rodman’s colorful personality and unusual PR choices keep him in the public eye, but Hollywood is no longer interested; after all, there was never any indication that the public wanted to open their wallets to catch a glimpse of his big screen antics.
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