Every athlete, at their core, wants to be an entertainer. This usually extends beyond their playing careers, into the realm of commercial sponsorships and even sometimes movie cameos. But there are a special few, who rise above, beyond the realm of Malik Sealy in Eddie, into the rare air of a non-sports movie cameo. Only a select blend of self-awareness, determination and a hilarious lack of judgement can propel these star athletes to the pantheon below.
(A special note: I’m not counting things like Shaq in Kazaam, because he was the lead. I’m talking about cameos, not the guy on the poster. Also because Kazaam is terrible and should never be recognized for anything.)
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Airplane
An obvious choice, but one that needs to be stated. Some people don’t realize this now, but at the time Kareem was seen as standoffish and aloof. With this one cameo, where he plays himself disguised as an airline pilot, he completely obliterated that image and proved that he, in fact, had a sense of humor. People probably talk about this more than the fact he is the all-time NBA points leader. Compared to everyone else on the list, Kareem is Citizen Kane. This is the Meryl Streep of cameos. If I had an Oscar vote, I’d put this up for Best Supporting Actor every year until it gets its just due. But remember, you must have him confused with someone else, he’s Roger Murdock, he’s the co-pilot.
Mike Tyson in The Hangover
Thanks to parts two and three, the glory of the original Hangover movie is a bit tarnished. But in that time, before the overexposure of Zach Galifianakis, there was Mike Tyson and his tiger. And it was good. Tyson played an integral part of the action, didn’t overreach, was fine at playing himself, and even got to punch Galifianakis in the face, showing off his former livelihood. Iron Mike looked good, played surprisingly sane, and didn’t embarrass himself the way most athletes do when given more than two lines of dialogue. Also, he correctly identifies that the drum fill in Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” deserves proper reverence for its awesomeness. An all-around great performance.
Gary Payton in Eddie
Yes, earlier I made fun of Malik Sealy for this same movie. Believe me, this movie has terrible acting from a plethora of NBA “stars” (yes, sarcasti-quotes intended). But one player in particular rose above, and that player was Rumeal Smith, the playground baller played by Gary Payton. The best part about Rumeal Smith? The fact that the name isn’t even mentioned in the movie! So I have to assume that either the writer wrote the part to be bigger, or the Gary Payton chose the name arbitrarily. Those are the only two viable options, and I choose to believe the latter. Long live Rumeal Smith!
Brett Favre in There’s Something About Mary
The mother of all 90’s gross-out comedies had a heart of gold. And green. And involved a story line about Favre’s name being sullied by lies that hurt Mary and sent her into the arms of our hero, Ted. I’m simplifying, but Favre avoided looking like a doofus in a movie that still remains over-edited on basic cable is a triumph in and of itself. The fact that a Super Bowl champion quarterback would agree to be in a movie like this is insane, but the fact that 10 years later Brett Favre actually did some of the things that the character might have been blamed for is comedic gold. Big props to Favre, for bringing his character to life so realistically, it may have actually been a prophesy.
Charles Barkley in Space Jam
Might be an unpopular choice, since it falls into the same realm of Eddie in terms of athletic acting ability. It also shows that Martians vastly overemphasize the franchise value of Shawn Bradley. But Charles Barkley showed something that obviously spoke to the head honchos over at TNT. Because of this, the foundation for the greatest studio show of all-time was created. Almost every line Barkley spoke was a gem. How can anyone not love this exchange?
Barkley: It was this girl, five-feet-nuthin’. Blocked my shot!
Psychiatrist: When did you first start having this dream?
Charles Barkley: It wasn’t a dream, it really happened!
Perfect. Get Kenny Smith on the phone!
Matt Brockway is still waiting patiently for the Johnny Manziel autobiography on tape, read by the author. Follow him on twitter @subtlehyperbole.
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