The other day I read a great article about the up-and-coming film Trainwreck written by comedian Amy Schumer in which she plays a "commitment-phobic," job oriented woman who is facing her biggest fear after meeting and falling for a nice-guy sports writer whose best friend just so happens to be LeBron James.
It's directed by Judd Apatow and starring Amy Schumer, Bill Hader and... LeBron James. You read that correctly. He's playing himself, but this time he's really acting. And it's apparently really good. You read that correctly again. In the aforementioned article, Schumer and Apatow rave about King James's acting skills, calling him a "natural ability" and downright funny. They admit that it caught them off guard, having written the part on a whim with the hope that James would be interested. Not only was he interested, he brought his A-game to the set. The man can act. You can see for yourself below:
I wasn't surprised. He's shown off his acting skills before in a few Nike commercials where he played multiple parts reminiscent of Eddie Murphy in the Nutty Professor movies. (No. I am not and will never put James on the level of a legend like Murphy.) I look forward to seeing him do other projects. There are rumors floating around of another Space Jam featuring LeBron. I can't really think of anyone better to replace Air Jordan.
After I finished reading the article, I noticed the writer put in a few athletes turned actors which got me thinking: how many athletes have made the leap into acting? Or even more intriguing, how many of them have actually been successful? For that I did a little bit of fun research and compiled a list of athletes who I feel made or are making a successful leap into the film industry.
19. LeBRON JAMES (Still active)
I haven't seen Trainwreck yet, because it hasn't been released and I don't have a girlfriend to push chick flicks on me. I will, however, take Judd Apatow's word that someone has comedic acting talent. I also know that the commercials he did were pretty funny, so it's believable. He hasn't really made it big in Hollywood yet, but the King is already larger than life in every other way.
BASKETBALL: Small Forward for:
Cleveland Cavaliers (2003-2010)
Miami Heat (2010-2014)
Cleveland Cavaliers (2014-1015)
More Than a Game
18. MICHEAL JORDAN
Okay, so he only had one film in reality. But that movie was one of the most successful family films to ever be made. Even as an adult I can watch Space Jam and be entertained. MJ might not have had the greatest acting skills out there, which matched his talent on the basketball court, but no one can deny his place at the top of the sports mountain as one of the most diverse, inspirational, class acts to ever play a professional sport.
BASKETBALL: Shooting Guard/Small Forward for:
Chicago Bulls (1984-93, 95-98)
Washington Wizards (2001-03)
17. HOWIE LONG
Howie is more of a commentator than an actor, having much of his success by providing a voice during football games, but that doesn't change the fact that he's been in some movies; although they're not necessarily GOOD movies per-say. Long found himself playing roles in movies built for Steven Seagal but lacking the budget to actually land him. I'm mainly just talking about Firestorm here. I will admit this, to this day I will watch Broken Arrow and love every minute of it. John Travolta vs. Christian Slater? One of the best '90s movies you've never seen.
FOOTBALL: Defensive End for Oakland Raiders (1981-1993)
3000 Miles to Graceland
16. LOU FERRIGNO
There obviously has to be a place on the list for the original Incredible Hulk. Though his success was through television more so than film, there's no denying that Ferrigno made a pretty penny off of this memorable classic. He probably still does. He has shown up in small bit parts in movies, including the reboot of The Incredible Hulk, but nothing where he was one of the central characters.
BODYBUILDING: Bodybuilder (1971-1995), Mr. Universe (1973-74)
FILMS:The Incredible Hulk
15. SHAQUILLE O'NEAL
Shaq made his splash on the big screen back in the '90s when big budget action flicks and lesson teaching family films ruled the box office. His success came with the latter. If you've never seen Kazaam or Steel, then you probably don't consider him to be an actor at all. If you have seen those movies... you probably think the same thing. Either way, he made money, and in Hollywood that equals success. Kazaam used him properly as the larger than life Genie who guides the little brother from Free Willy 3 on a journey to learn about himself. In Steel he played a military weapons designer who quits after his new project is scrapped because it doesn't kill humans. When that technology falls into the hands of street gangs, Shaq makes himself a suit and becomes a man of Steel.
BASKETBALL: Center for:
Orlando Magic (1992-1996)
Los Angeles Lakers (1996-2004)
Miami Heat (2004-2008)
Phoenix Suns (2008-2009)
Cleveland Cavaliers (2009-2010)
Boston Celtics (2010-2011)
Freddy Got Fingered
14. CHUCK NORRIS
If you don't know about Chuck Norris or his acting career, then I don't know where you're from. Norris is a legend in his own right. Though there are some who despise him, and for silly reasons like "Bruce Lee was better" (they were friends), but for the most part, he is loved, respected and more importantly, feared. Acting wasn't something that Norris needed to do, but looking back on it I'm sure his bank account thanks him. For me, The Way of the Dragon and Sidekicks were the films I'll always remember him for. For many others it's Walker, Texas Ranger... but come on, it doesn't hold a candle to the others (although it was hilarious on Conan O'Brien.) If you haven't seen Sidekicks, go to Movie Stop and buy it for $3. It's worth the investment...I've been trying to find it on Blu Ray.
MMA: Mixed Martial Arts /10th Degree Black Belt (1962-Present)
FILMS:Walker, Texas Ranger
The Way of the Dragon
The Delta Force
13. TERRY BRADSHAW
Here's another on the list that falls under the category of commentator over actor. Bradshaw is not an actor. Though he was funny in his small part on Malcolm in the Middle. He was also a big old sap in Failure to Launch. (I had a girlfriend at the time. Do not judge me.) The main reason he finds himself here is because he is known by many as the Quarterback that led the Pittsburgh Steelers to four Superbowl wins in a 5 year span, but he is also known by millions of people who have no idea he was ever a football player. He's just a likable guy.
FOOTBALL: Quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers (1970-1983)
FILMS:Failure to Launch
Smokey and the Bandit 2
Malcolm in the Middle
12. O.J. SIMPSON
That's right. The Juice. Most millennials only know the Juice for his run ins with law. For the last 20 years that's all that's made headlines for him. But once upon time, in a land far far away, O.J. Simpson was an actor, and he was funny. Now, he had a small part in Roots and The Towering Inferno, but what I myself and many others remember him by is the part of Detective Nordberg in The Naked Gun series alongside Leslie Nielsen.
FOOTBALL: Running Back for:
Buffalo Bills (1969-1977)
San Francisco 49ers (1978-1979)
FILMS:The Naked Gun
Naked Gun 2 1/2
Naked Gun 33 1/3
The Towering Inferno
11. HULK HOGAN (Still Active...technically)
Man do I love me some Hulk Hogan. When I was younger I didn't really watch wrestling so my love for the Hulkster came from two films in particular: Mr. Nanny and Suburban Commando. He never got into real serious acting, as in he always played himself. The payoff came from playing parts that were literally written for a man like Hulk Hogan to play. And I'm sure EVERYONE remembers Rocky 3. You get the Hulk and Mr. T in a Rocky film and it doesn't suck? Well done.
WRESTLING: Wrestled with the WWF, WWE, WCW (1977-Present)
Hogan Knows Best
10. GINA CARANO
The only female to make the list because she is actually an actress and she's doing relevant films. Though her MMA career only lasted 4 years, she won every fight but one, posting a 7-1 record. Her first main role came in the form of Haywire and she followed that up with Fast and Furious 6. She most recently has been cast in Deadpool as Angel Dust along side Ryan Reynolds. She is gorgeous, fearless and has the acting chops to back it all up. I foresee a long career for Miss Carano.
MIXED MARTIAL ARTS: MMA for Jackson's MMA (2006 - 2009)
7 - 1 (3 knockouts)
Fast and Furious 6
9. BURT REYNOLDS
Oh Burt Reynolds. The man that put the mustache on the map. It has been said that Reynolds' mustache paved the way for Tom Selleck's career. It's probably true. What many people don't know is that Reynolds played halfback for Florida State University. From what I gathered, it was only one year, but could have been more had he not chosen to pursue an acting career. Reynolds was also in theater productions and was winning awards for his performances. Another fun little fact, while rooming at Florida State as a football player his roommate was none other than Lee Corso...small world.
FOOTBALL: Running Back for Florida State University (1955-57)
FILMS:Smokey and the Bandit
The Longest Yard
8. JASON LEE
I didn't even know Lee was originally a skateboarded until around 2005. I grew up knowing him mainly as Brody from Mallrats. He was a Kevin Smith actor starting out also playing parts in Chasing Amy and Dogma. After his success with Almost Famous he landed the role of Earl on My Name Is Earl, the show that gave him most of the money he's worth. Before all that Jason Lee was just a skateboarder doing tricks and taking risks. Had it not been for Kevin Smith, would things have still been just the same?
SKATEBOARDING: Professional Skateboarder (1987-1994)
FILMS:My Name Is Earl
Alvin and the Chipmunks
7. JIM BROWN
In a post 2000 world, Brown has done less and less in Hollywood, but for a good two decades he got roles where they fit and he always did a good job. I'm sure you remember him in Mars Attacks!, though that film has a ridiculously long list of A-List celebrities. He was TJ Hooker. He was most notably in my opinion Fireball in The Running Man with Arnold Schwarzenegger. In Any Given Sunday he played a part practically written for him as a coach on Al Pacino's football team. The scenes with Brown and Lawrence Taylor are more natural because the two of them previously lived that life. Jim Brown has acted in some of the all time greatest films of the '80s and '90s. He was also one of the greatest running backs to ever play the game of professional football.
FOOTBALL: Running Back for the Cleveland Browns (1957-1965)
The Running Man
Any Given Sunday
I'm Gonna Get You Sucka'
The Dirty Dozen
6. CARL WEATHERS
The weather man. He spent a little over a year in the NFL before taking his talents to British Columbia, playing for the Lions in Canada. Though his professional career was short (5 years total) his acting career has been just the opposite. He started doing small television roles in 1973 but it wasn't until his football career ended in 1975 that Weathers starting pursuing acting heavily. A year later he was cast as Apollo Creed in Rocky and he's never looked back. I also think it is important to point out that Carl Weathers IS Action Jackson. If you don't know what that is, get on it.
FOOTBALL: Linebacker for:
Oakland Raiders (1970-71)
B.C. Lions 'CFL' (1971-74)
5. VINNIE JONES
When I found out Vinnie Jones was a footballer everything sort of made sense about him. His outward energy, his passion for competition that always put his heart on his sleeve just daring you to do anything to it... his anger. Vinnie has made a career off being feared. I'm sure he can be a likable guy, but I've never met him. All I know from him is what I see in films, so I'm scared of him. Which only means that he's been playing the part well. You can find him these days on Arrow but before he was making Hollywood money, he was just playing the game he loves... for 15 years.
Domestic League Play (1984-1999)
Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels
X-Men: Last Stand
Gone In 60 Seconds
4. TERRY CREWS
Terry Crews plays a unique sort of tough guy. His size and energy demand an audience and command a room. He could have gone into acting as the feared villain and been very believable. The only problem with that is that Terry Crews isn't mean at all. He's a really nice guy. And he's funny. He's done minor serious roles but his main success has been in television comedy. Everybody Hates Chris made Crews more of a well known and his latest show Brooklyn Nine-Nine is one of my favorite new shows on television right now. I'm sure he was the clown of the locker room back in the '90s when he was bouncing around the NFL, hitting quarterbacks for money.
FOOTBALL: Defensive End/Linebacker for:
L.A. Rams (1991)
San Diego Chargers (1993)
Washington Redskins (1995)
Philadelphia Eagles (1996)
Everybody Hates Chris
Balls of Fury
The Longest Yard
3. JASON STATHAM
Statham is known worldwide as that brash, smart ass, "I don't give a shit" type of hero. The man that will save you, but you better not mess with him while he is trying to do it. His film career didn't just take off, it's continued thriving. I wonder if this was always his plan and his 12 years as a diver were just a way for him to stay in shape while preparing his leading man acting skills for the world. Or maybe the loss of his hair caused a sort of quarter life crisis that made him think, "If it's ever going to happen it has to happen NOW. Before it's all gone." If so, I'm glad because it propelled him into an acting career that has produced some of my favorite films. Besides, lucky for him he's one of those guys that doesn't need hair to look good. He'll be just fine.
DIVER: Diver for British National Diving Team (1985 - 1997)
Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels
Fast and Furious 6, 7, and 8
2. DWAYNE JOHNSON
Dwayne Johnson is hands down one of the most successful athletes-turned-actors of all time. His career just keeps growing and growing, showing us that nothing seems to be too much for this larger than life character. Many have deemed him as the modern day Arnold Schwarzenegger, having the acting ability along with the size to fit the roles. As far as big budget pictures and summer blockbusters are concerned, it is obvious that Johnson has stepped in to fill the shoes left by the man who ruled the '80s and '90s with such dominance. He has come a long way from his character of The Rock in the WWE world. And even before wrestling, Johnson was a member of the Miami Hurricanes before a leg injury put him behind other players, causing him to lose his spot. Everything worked out though as he has went on to become one of the box office kings.
WRESTLING: The Rock in WWE (1995 - present)
FOOTBALL: Defensive Tackle for Miami Hurricanes (1991)
Pain and Gain
G.I. Joe: Retaliation
Fast and Furious 5, 6, 7 and 8
The Scorpion King
The Mummy Returns
1. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER
There's no denying the original. For almost 40 years Arnold has been coming into our homes and changing our lives. The reason Dwayne Johnson falls short is that he hasn't accomplished what Schwarzenegger has in terms of fan base or versatility. No one is going to try and say Arnold is an Oscar caliber actor, but he IS an actor. He was the leading action star for two decades and also did multiple comedies that had lasting layers and watchability such as Twins and Junior. Beyond the screen, Arnold went outside of working in Hollywood and ventured on to run the entire state of California. His humble beginnings as a body building immigrant with an uncanny ability to win over a room made him even more likable. As he was learning , we were getting to know him. I don't think anyone expected the 8 time Mr. Olympia to be such a charming and charismatic guy.
He is still doing films, successful ones at that, well into his 60s. He will more than likely continue to make movies until he can't remember his lines, or just decides it's time to step away from the camera. The good thing about Arnold is he does what he loves. The best thing about Arnold is that he loves his fans so he's going to continue to hang out with us via the big screen as long as he can stomach it.
BODYBUILDING: Professional Body Builder (1967 - 1980)
Mr. Universe (1968-1970)
Mr. Olympia (1969 - 1975, 1980)
Conan the Barbarian
The Running Man
The Last Action Hero
Jingle All the Way
The Last Stand
End of Days