Some athletes aren’t exactly Shakespearean on the silver screen. In fact, it can be downright uncomfortable watching athletes attempt to act; bordering on painful. For the many bad performances, there are some athletes who can bring their ‘A’ game and have a gift for the spotlight like The Rock.
Either way, cameos in feature films by athletes are always fun and interesting. Seeing the jocks in different elements with tiny little actors by their sides is a great visual contradiction. It wasn’t too long ago that some of these same athletes were tormenting these tiny acting geeks in high school. How times have changed.
Sports and entertainment are nearly one in the same – minus the HGH, steroids and 24/7 weight training. The collective “we” love watching athletes and entertainers mingle. And what better place for them to do so than in feature films? Below is a list of some of the best athlete cameos of all time. These short scenes made these athletes and the films they starred in, wait for it, legendary! These are the top 10 best cameos by athletes in movies!
10. Ronda Rousey – Furious 7
Ronda Rousey has been making noise as the premiere female UFC fighter. She is the undisputed Batamweight Champion. Most of her opponents don’t even last thirty seconds with her; hopefully the boys do a little better. She is relentless in the ring and even more relentless at self-promotion outside the ring. She has made appearances in such major films as Furious 7, The Expendables 3 and Entourage. Although dialogue doesn’t come easy to her, her fists certainly go flying in the films. As Entourage’s Turtle can attest, if you want a date with Ronda, you best be ready to go longer than thirty seconds with her.
9. John Salley – Bad Boys
John Salley was part of the Detroit Pistons glory days as a key member of the Bad Boys. He ironically appeared in the feature film Bad Boys. I’m quite certain the irony was intended. This former NBA star not only appeared in a couple of pivotal scenes with stars Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, he killed it! Salley was not only good with his dialogue, when he stands up and stares down at both Smith and Lawrence – it is priceless. Kudos to Mr. Salley and his fantastic cameo. Now if he can just give us some insight on how Dennis Rodman got so screwed up, that would be great.
8. Brett Favre – There’s Something About Mary
Brett Favre is a legendary NFL quarterback. His surprise and amazingly awesome appearance at the end of There’s Something About Mary only further cemented his place in entertainment history. He took on Matt Dillon, Ben Stiller and some weird guy, single-handedly to win the heart of Mary, played by Cameron Diaz. Of course, Hollywood had to play nice-nice with Ben and got Mary to switch teams at the last possible minute after you thought the movie was all but over. Still, the scene and Favre’s presence, was and always will be, amazing.
7. Mike Tyson – The Hangover
“Iron” Mike Tyson has gone from insanely-dominating boxer to cultural icon to a punchline. Tyson’s career started as a brawler who exploded on the boxing scene and quickly became heavyweight champion of the world. He silenced competitors with vicious uppercuts and the world fell in love with Iron Mike. Along the way, however, he got caught doing some bad things; biting ears (I was at that fight in Vegas…weird), was convicted of rape and had to serve prison time. Tyson seemed like a story gone wrong. Then he appeared in the movie The Hangover and knocked out Zach Galifianakis with one punch. He also added some solid dialogue later in the film holding a tiny rat-looking dog. The spot won him more cameos and a place back in our collective hearts. Iron Mike’s still got it.
6. Dan Marino – Ace Ventura: Pet Detective
Dan Marino is a quarterback legend. He put up some of the most filthy football numbers in his NFL days, hurling the pigskin around with ease. During the 1980s, he lead the Miami Dolphins to the Superbowl but fell short of a championship. That didn’t change Marino having an effective role in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. The quarterback, who plays himself, was taken hostage. He held his own with the comedic genius that is Jim Carrey and a yapping dolphin. With a few lines and many wide-eyed nervous expressions, Dan Marino proved to be effective in his spot start.
5. Lawrence Taylor – The Waterboy
Lawrence Taylor is one of the most feared NFL linebackers of all time. He led his New York Giants to multiple Superbowl Championships as the centerpiece of fierce defenses. Despite his success on the field, Taylor struggled with vices and issues off the field. He has admitted to doing both crack and cocaine, among other issues. He appeared in Any Given Sunday showcasing some real acting chops. But it is in The Waterboy where Taylor gave us movie magic with the line, “Gentlemen, which brings me to my next point, don’t smoke crack.” The irony of the line was intended and classic. Any stud athlete with a sense of humor like that is all right in my book.
4. Derek Jeter – The Other Guys
Derek Jeter was a highly-respected, long-standing captain of the New York Yankees who never shied away from the spotlight. On the baseball field, the baseball legend was smooth like silk and rarely came out on the wrong end of a challenge. This is why when he appeared in The Other Guys, the world held their collective breaths. I mean, Jeter has never been anything but perfect. And here, once again, The Captain didn’t disappoint. After being shot in the leg by Mark Wahlberg in The Other Guys, another officer states, “You shoulda shot A-Rod.” Although Jeter didn’t utter a line, his reaction was perfect. I’d expect nothing less from Jeet.
3. Reggie Jackson – Naked Gun
Reggie Jackson was always clutch. He also was known as a pretty surly guy off the field; some said a bit on the touchy side and difficult to approach. On the baseball field, Jackson was a big-time impact player feared by nearly all his opponents. That is why when Jackson appeared in the hilarious slapstick film, The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!, everyone was shocked. He is activated as the primary weapon of the villain and sent to kill the Queen of England at a baseball game. He repeated in a robotic voice, “I must kill the queen.” Honorable mention in the same movie is co-star OJ Simpson. But he is on an entirely different list.
2. Tom Brady – Ted 2
Tom Brady is in the midst of absolute chaos. He is a Superbowl champion, again, and at the same time is fighting the NFL for charges of…we don’t really know. He apparently likes his footballs a certain way and gets very angry about old cell phones. Beyond that, his perfectly sculpted face and smile have appeared all over the place. But it is in the recent Ted 2 where a tiny teddy bear and Mark Wahlberg appear in his bedroom to…a-hum…drain the golden dingy for some Brady-perfect swimmers. Needless to say, despite the gold light and Wahlberg’s and the fake teddy bear’s excitement, Terrific Tom awakes and kicks them out. He hurls a perfect teddy bear spiral to punctuate an epic cameo.
1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – Airplane
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, also known as Lew Alcindor, was a beast in college at UCLA, dominating the basketball court on both ends. Once he entered the NBA, he was no less dominant. He used the “skyhook” as a devastating weapon and was untouchable. Abdul-Jabbar was also known for his rough personality off the court. That’s why in 1980, it was so surprising when he played co-pilot Roger Murdock in the slapstick hit, Airplane. A young boy insists that “Murdock” is actually the basketball legend and this amazing exchange occurs:
Joey: Wait a minute. I know you. You’re Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. You play basketball for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Roger Murdock: I’m sorry, son, but you must have me confused with someone else. My name is Roger Murdock. I’m the co-pilot.
Joey: You are Kareem! I’ve seen you play. My dad’s got season tickets.
Roger Murdock: I think you should go back to your seat now, Joey. Right, Clarence?
Captain Oveur: Nahhhhhh, he’s not bothering anyone. Let him stay here.
Roger Murdock: But just remember, my name is…
[showing his nametag]
Roger Murdock: ROGER MURDOCK. I’m an airline pilot.
Joey: I think you’re the greatest, but my dad says you don’t work hard enough on defense.
[Kareem gets angry]
Joey: And he says that lots of times, you don’t even run down court. And that you don’t really try… except during the playoffs.
Roger Murdock: [breaking character] The hell I don’t! LISTEN, KID! I’ve been hearing that crap ever since I was at UCLA. I’m out there busting my buns every night! Tell your old man to drag Walton and Lanier up and down the court for 48 minutes!
When Murdock loses consciousness later in the film, he is carried from the cockpit wearing Abdul-Jabbar’s goggles and yellow Lakers’ shorts. Easily the best athlete-in-a-movie performance ever. Hats off to Abdul-Jabbar for topping our list and having a fantastic sense of humor!
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