Friday, March 7, 2008

Athletes as Actors, part 2: NBA Basketball

Here's part 1.
Here's part 3.

Athletes want to be actors, and actors want to be athletes. Basketball players, because of their freakish height, seem to get lots of roles that are, well, "basketball players." Either that or humongous villians or gigantic genies. Here are some of the most notable (not necessarily the best) NBA basketball players who tried their hand at acting:

Shaquille O'Neal
The thing I like best about Shaq is that he doesn't take himself too seriously. He's appeared in four movies, two of which (Kazaam and Steel) he also got executive producer credits for, meaning he basically hired himself to be in his own movie. And he played a basketball player in Blue Chips. He also hosted SNL in 1998. This appearance featured a hilarious scene in which Shaq was Tracy Morgan's son and was attempting to sit on his lap. Shaq's monotone voice does not lend itself to expressing anything other than, well, nothing.

Kareem Abdul Jabbar
Kareem not only played Roger Murdock the co-pilot in Airplane!, but he also appeared in a Bruce Lee movie, Game of Death. Played himself in guest appearances in movies and on TV shows, including Fletch, Full House, Diff'rent Strokes, Scrubs. His role in Airplane featured this classic line: "Tell your old man to drag Walton and Lanier up and down the court for 48 minutes." Oh, and Kareem has a pretty cool blog right now. Check it out.

Bill Laimbeer
Laimbeer was perhaps the most hated player of his era. He played a sleestack in the 70s on Saturday morning kids TV show Land of The Lost. Perfect role for a ugly, lanky teenage doofus - put a green lizard suit on him and have him lurch around for a few minutes. Although his professional acting career is unremarkable, his entire NBA career consisted of pretending to be fouled and claiming innocence whenever a foul was called on him. Some might call that "acting" too...

Wilt Chamberlain
Not only did he claim to have bagged over 20,000 women, but he appeared on lots of shows in the 60s and 70s (Laugh-In, What's My Line?). But he was not really "acting" but "appearing." He did play a gigantic menacing villian in Conan The Destroyer. He was a model of physical fitness even into his later years, as he toyed with NBA comebacks up until he was in his 50s - mainly because of his jealousy of how much money was being made by everyone but him. Also, for a while he was a partner in a film production company.

Ray Allen
Allen, a former star at UConn, played Jesus Shuttlesworth in He Got Game. His other notable role was in Harvard Man, in which he played - you guessed it - a basketball player. Has perhaps the most boring wikipedia bio of any NBA player. The Onion had it right.

Alex English
The former Denver Nuggets star played "Amazing Grace Smith" in Amazing Grace and Chuck, in which English's character takes up the cause of a kid who refuses to play little league baseball until nuclear weapons are disarmed. He also played himself in Eddie. During his playing career, he was known as being "smoove." I think this means that he scored a lot and played no defense.

Julius Erving
NBA hall-of-famer Dr. J was in The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh. Since this was a basketball movie, lots of players from that era (1979) were in this movie, including such players as Leon Douglas, Eric Money, Bob Lanier, Chris Ford, John Shumate, and Curtis Rowe. Hmm - seems to include a lot of ex-Pistons. Trivia - averaged 26 points and 20 rebounds per game in his two years of varsity basketball at UMass.

Rick Fox
Of all the NBA basketball players on this list, Fox is the most accomplished actor. In addition to the obligatory basketball movies he appeared in (Blue Chips, He Got Game, Eddie), he also was a regular on the HBO series Oz, and appeared in many TV shows over the last several years (Ugly Betty, One Tree Hill, Dirt). While he may be the most accomplished actor on this list, he's also the worst basketball player on this list. So I guess everything balances out.

Only a couple of these guys played anything except basketball players. Fox, whose good looks and relatively reasonable 6'7" stature allows him to play more "regular" roles; Shaq, who hired himself to play a genie and a superhero; Kareem, who was a karate black belt; and Wilt, who played a gargantuan prehistoric villian. So, if you're an NBA player and you want to get into acting, here are the possible career paths to explore:

  1. Portray basketball players. To do this, you need to wait for a basketball movie to be made. Anyone, including Leon Douglas, can do this.
  2. Portray freakishly tall villians/superheroes. See Shaq, Wilt, Kareem.
  3. Finance your own movie, hire yourself as star. See Shaq.
  4. Be handsome and not be freakishly tall. See Rick Fox.

I must have missed some. Send me your suggestions in the comments and I'll add more if I have time. Stay tuned for part 3 next week.

1 comment:

Sean said...

Don't forget Dennis Rodman in Double Team. The title is a basketball reference, but I think his character is just a weapons expert.