ByJack Carr, writer at
You are the Princess Shireen of the House Baratheon, and you are my daughter.
Jack Carr

Being a pro athlete is nothing like any other career. If you want to be a dentist, you start university at 18 and graduate closer to 30. If you want to be a tennis pro, you start serious coaching when you're still in single digits and by 18 you've turned pro already - and by 30 you're just about ready to retire. It must be difficult - you're so young, but still too old to carry on doing the thing you love most, and it's pretty much the same across the realm of pro sports, meaning there are a lot of athletes and retired sportsmen and women out there with a lot of time on their hands.

So it's probably not a surprise that every now and then, our favourite sportsmen and athletes turn to Hollywood once they reach their "expiry date". But just because they happened to be an ace with a basketball is no guarantee of the fact that they can actually, you know, act. Let's take a look at seven athletes who tried their hand at the acting game - with decidedly mixed results...

1. Lebron James

Lebron James, probably the biggest basketball star since Michael Jordan, is still in the prime of his sporting career, but he's already sown the seeds of a diversion through Tinseltown with a supporting role in Judd Apatow's comedy Trainwreck.

Trainwreck is a good film - seriously funny in places whilst avoiding the usual rom-com stereotypes - even if Amy Schumer's lead performance is better than the film itself. But the real revelation is Lebron himself. OK, so he's playing himself, which can't be that difficult, but it's a fictionalised version of himself. The Lebron in Trainwreck has an awesome bromance going with the renowned sports doctor Aaron Conners (Bill Hader).

James is seriously funny, going toe-to-toe with established comedy actors and totally doing himself proud. He's also a big old teddy bear who gets big laughs when he warns Schumer's character Amy not to hurt his bro Dr. Conners. It's a really confident performance that hints at a decent acting career in which he might even branch out to play... somebody other than Lebron James.

Hollywood potential: 7/10 - serious promise, but can he leave his comfort zone?

2. Arnold Schwarzenegger

Arnie is quite the pro at seamlessly switching careers, having started out as a pro bodybuilder before getting into acting at the age of 22, and later tackling politics with a successful campaign to get elected as Governor of California in 2003. The man can basically do anything, although whether he's actually any good at acting is highly debatable - Terminator basically had him stretching every muscle except his acting muscles. Fast forward to 2015: Terminator Genisys has underwhelmed at the box office, and Arnie is reportedly considering a future run for President.

Which is just what the world needs...

Hollywood potential: 9/10 - in the '80s anyway

3. Michael Jordan

Like Lebron James, Michael Jordan was the NBA star of his era, and his fame went way beyond basketball itself, so it was only a matter of time until glitzier opportunities came calling. Not that Space Jam (1996) really flexed his acting muscles - Jordan played a retired basketball playing who forges a friendship with Bugs Bunny, exactly mirroring his real life career. Well, not the Bugs Bunny bit (probably) but the rest. As it happens, acting wasn't Michael Jordan's true calling, and he continued to play basketball until 1999. In all honesty, we were probably spared some serious cinematic pain by that decision.

Hollywood potential: 2/10 - one cult classic (kind of) does not a career make

4. Ronda Rousey

The MMA fighter and martial artist Ronda Rousey is unquestionably the most talked about American athlete in 2015, from her consistent ability to win Bantamweight fights with a knockout in less than 20 seconds to the rumours that Marvel are considering her to play Captain Marvel in the future movie of the same name. Rousey has been helping the cause by posting fan art of herself as Carol Danvers on Instagram, but she's got a lot to prove as an actor, with only minor roles in The Expendables 3, Entourage and Furious 7 on her CV to date.

Could she take on Marvel's iconic superheroine? Time will tell, but Marvel would probably prefer to put one of its most anticipated movies in the hands of an actual actor - probably best to limit your bets on Rousey to how fast she can knockout her next opponent in the ring.

Hollywood potential: 4/10 - outside of the ring she's got a hell of a lot to prove

5. Vinnie Jones

Feel the cockney vibes.

An icon of British pop culture, Vinnie Jones was a midfielder for various football teams including Chelsea and Sheffield United before transitioning into acting, almost always being typecast as a gangster/thug/hooligan or general bad ass. Since 2013 alone he's appeared in an incredible 19 films and TV series (although how many of them were actually watchable is up for debate), including Brick, a gangster of the Starling City underworld in Arrow season 3. Basically, he's doing pretty nicely for himself, and sending hope to athletes world-over that there is life after sport. Vinnie, we salute you.

Hollywood potential: 8/10 - not a leading man, but he does what he does and he does it damn well

6. Eric Cantona

Frenchman Eric Cantona is an absolute legend of European football, having scored 20 goals for his home country in 45 appearances and been a major part of Manchester United's mid-90s revival. But it was his fiery temper as much as his ability with a ball that kept him in the headlines; in 1995, infamously got involved in a ruckus with an abusive Crystal Palace fan which resulted in an attempt to kung-fu kick the guy in question. The media went into meltdown, obviously - it really has to be seen to be believed (from 0:50):

Mario Balotelli wishes he could create such effortless chaos. Cantona served two weeks jail time for his kung-fu scandal, and infamously told reporters at the trial: "When the seagulls follow the trawler, it's because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea. Thank you very much." Two decades later, we still haven't worked out what his words meant, but in a weird way the Brits took him to their hearts, and Cantona's career quickly recovered.

His Hollywood filmography includes 1998's Elizabeth, opposite Cate Blanchett, the football-themed Looking For Eric (in which, you guessed it, he plays himself) and last year's well-received The Salvation, with Mads Mikkelsen and Eva Green.

Hollywood potential: 6/10 - larger than life Cantona will always be most famous for his antics on the pitch, but he's proven that he can cut it as a movie star

7. Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson

The winner. The one. The Rock.

OK, so depending on your stance on WWE and the merits of wrestling as a sport, you might find this a cheeky inclusion, but Dwayne Johnson is one of the very few athletes to ever transition so successfully to his second career in Hollywood that people forgot what he actually did to begin with. This year he headlined the disaster movie San Andreas, which took a cool half-billion worldwide. Of course, he's most known for Furious 7 and the Fast & Furious franchise. The Rock is not going to be winning an Oscar any time soon, but that's hardly relevant given that he's built a career on being a likeable tough guy in mainstream action movies.

Johnson is inspiration to every Lebron James out there, clear proof that taking a detour from the world of sports into the craziness of Hollywood is not always destined to be a trainwreck. Long may he reign.

Which sporting legend made the smoothest transition into acting? Could Lebron James have a long career ahead of him in Hollywood? Is Ronda Rousey really any good as an actor? Leave a comment and share your thoughts!


Which team did Eric Cantona never play for?


Latest from our Creators