We’re accustomed to watching athletes do their most impressive work on a playing surface, but some have transferred their charisma to the small screen, revealing a comedic side to their laser-focused personas. Athletes are well trained for interactions with the media, so we rarely get the opportunity to discover their true colours—although Richard Sherman gave us a taste when he unleashed on Crabtree back in January.
None of the athletes on this list are deserving of any Emmy awards–although the smallest player in NBA history was mighty believable in his role—though they demonstrated comedic charisma, and managed to unravel a smile, if not more in viewers. On this list, laughter is the sole prerequisite. And these five athletes added a jolt of chuckle to each show, including one HBO comedy that stole three of the five spots on the list. Without further ado, here is a look at the five funniest athlete TV cameos.
5: Andrew Luck – Parks and Recreation “Two Parties”
The transition from the playing field to the small screen was a challenging one for some of the actors on this list, but not for Andrew Luck. The Colts quarterback didn’t have to travel far to make his cameo appearance on the hit NBC show Parks and Recreation. In fact, he didn’t even have to leave his office. Along with teammate Reggie Wayne, Luck joins the cast inside an empty Lucas Oil Stadium, yet he may have had more eyes on him than he has ever had. They just weren’t in the seats.
In season five’s “Two Parties” episode Chris Traeger (Rob Lowe) strings together an unforgettable night of bachelor parties each character never had. Colts owner Jim Irsay, a friend of Traeger’s, hands over Lucas Oil Stadium to the gang for Andy Dwyer’s (Chris Pratt) dream party. Luck helps make the night a memorable one by tossing a couple Touchdown passes to the diehard Colts fan. He also throws a killer line to the eldest of the group.
The show is based in Indianapolis, and has seen its fair share of local athletes grace its screen. Along with Luck and Wayne, Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert and former Pacer Detlef Schrempf have made several cameo appearances on the program.
The Colts were hoping Luck could ultimately give them similar production to that of Peyton Manning when they made him the number one pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. Who would have imagined it would be easier to supplant Peyton on the field than on the little screen.
Luck has brought the Colts back in the fourth quarter eight times in his first two seasons. However, despite a “thumbs up” on his “Parks” appearance, he’ll need to step up his game on the little screen if he wants to outshine Manning’s exceptional performance on Saturday Night Live back in 2007.
4: Chase Utley and Ryan Howard – Always Sunny In Philadelphia “The Gang Gets Stranded In The Woods”
When the gang heads to Atlantic City for a charity event, number one Chase Utley fan Mac (Rob McElhenney) is most excited about the prospect of meeting his idol. His dream is interrupted when they go off road in their commute and Dennis (Glenn Howerton) and Charlie (Charlie Day) go searching for help.
Dennis pressures Charlie to live in the now, by saying “yes,” and this new approach lands the two in Atlantic City, where the entire gang should have been. They say yes to hitching a ride and leave the rest of the gang stranded in the woods, as the title suggests. In a show of good faith for Frank’s (Danny DeVito) surprisingly large donation, the two are greeted by Utley and his teammate Howard. Utley presumes he is meeting his biggest fan Mac, rather than Dennis.
Utley and Howard spend the rest of the evening playing catch with the two, and ultimately leave the party after witnessing the escalating antics of Dennis and Charlie. Mac faces his worst nightmare when Dennis sends him a picture he snapped with his hero Utley.
The local duo finally made their appearance on the show, and with the help of Dennis and Charlie, it was a memorable cameo.
3: Muggsy Bogues – Curb Your Enthusiasm “The Surrogate”
Curb Your Enthusiasm showcases an embellished version of Larry David’s post-Seinfeld life. He says and does the outrageous things that race through most of society’s minds. If something isn’t to his liking, you better believe he’ll call you out on it. David is a regular at major sporting events in LA, and in Curb, he incorporates that facet of his life. Several episodes are sports-themed or comprise of the presence of athletes. And Bogues isn’t the only “Curb” athlete to make the list.
Each seemingly random encounter has an overriding impact on that particular episode’s final punch line, one that David delivers hysterically time and time again. In season four’s “The Surrogate,” David bumps into former NBA point guard Muggsy Bogues in a restroom, and betrays his own list of “unwritten rules of society” by “sneaking a peak.” Fortunately for David, his heart monitor bails him out of a punch from the right hand of Bogues.
2: Shaquille O’Neal – Curb Your Enthusiasm “Shaq”
Unlike the rest of the athletes on this list, Shaq isn’t a stranger to the little or big screen, or even the recording studio. His performances in the movies “Kazaam,” and “Good Burger” coupled with his playful on-court “swagger” have helped him develop into one of the world’s most distinguishable celebrities. You can catch him showcasing his lighter side while clashing with former rival on the court Charles Barkley on TNT’s “Inside The NBA.”
In “Shaq,” Larry David momentarily extends his legs in search of comfort while sitting court-side at a Lakers game inside Staples Center. Simultaneously, O’Neal jogs to the scorer’s table to check into the game and trips over David’s outstretched legs and suffers a knee injury that would force him out of action for the next two months. David and friend Richard Lewis hurry out of the arena as the hurricane of boos ensues once the two are exposed on the Jumbotron.
Larry uncovers Shaq’s infatuation with his first hit series, Seinfeld, and uses the show to regain a place in the big man’s heart. David gathers every episode of the show and personally delivers it to O’Neal at the hospital. Shaq is quick to forgive once David satisfies his request for his favourite episode, “The Contest.”
1: Bill Buckner – Curb Your Enthusiasm “Mister Softee”
Buckner’s mishap in game six of the 1986 World Series is well documented, and the story fits “Curb” to a tee. It’s the type of event only David could have scripted. And that’s why Buckner wins the top spot on the list.
In what appeared to be a routine out at first, Buckner had the ball trickle between his legs, devastating all of Boston and opening the door for a Mets comeback win in Game seven. In the hit HBO series’ season eight episode “Mister Softee,” Larry David commits a fatal error in his softball league’s championship game, drawing instant comparisons to the former Red Sox first basemen from his dejected and aggravated pitcher.
While getting a baseball autographed by Mookie Wilson—the man who hit the ball that caused the error—for his manager’s birthday, David meets Buckner and pours his heart out to him, explaining his similar error. The two bond over their catastrophic mistakes and David spends the rest of his afternoon attempting to fend off jeers intended at his new acquaintance Buckner from pedestrians still obsessed with his blunder.
The man with the “butterfingers,” ultimately makes amends by displaying his greatest catch in the episode’s closing scene.
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