Next summer, if all goes well, we will get to see Lebron James in his first starring role in the movies with the release of Space Jam 2. Yes, King James has popped up for cameos and voice roles here and there, but this is the first time we will really get to see his acting chops.
Will it work? It’s always hard to say with sports stars on screen. But many sports legends have made the transition to movies and television, and some have really made a success of it. And, if it turns out that Lebron is half as good at acting as he is on the court, then he will do just fine.
In light of that, we look at five of our favorite performances from sports stars on screen below:
Eric Cantona – Looking For Eric
Eric Cantona, the wonderfully enigmatic French soccer star of the 1990s, always felt like more of an artist than sports star, so it’s no wonder he has excelled in his second career as an actor and director. The pick of the bunch, however, is undoubtedly the brilliant 2009 film, Looking For Eric. Cantona appears as himself, although he is dreamt up in a hallucination by a mailman (also called Eric). Cantona advises Eric with some of his philosophy, guiding him through his period of depression. It’s a genuinely touching film, which has some brilliant dark humor at times. Above all, it shows that the Frenchman was born to be on screen. He really can act.
Tom Brady – Family Guy
Brady has popped up in a few different shows, including some fun performances in Entourage. But his best work might just be in the “Patriot Games” episode of Family Guy. Brady plays himself in a madcap plot that sees Peter Griffin become a star NFL player. Does Brady have a future career on screen? Well, he still has some football to play first. His arrival in Tampa Bay might be seen as a winding down of his career, but he is still an intriguing 20/1 (fourth favorite overall) in the American Football at 888sport to be this year’s MVP. But we would expect to see pop up in a movie or two when he finally hangs up those cleats.
Kevin Garnett – Uncut Gems
If you haven’t checked out this “gem” (sorry) of a film, what are you waiting for? Uncut Gems is nothing short of a masterpiece, with Adam Sandler arguably giving his best performance. Indeed, there was some outrage he didn’t get a shot at the Oscar. However, the film also owes a lot to the efforts of former Boston Celtics star Kevin Garnett. “KG” plays a fictional version of himself, with many critics citing it as one of the top acting performances by a sports star. We will not give away too much about the plot, but this is a fast-paced, gut-wrenching thriller. And, as was the case in his basketball career, KG is central to the action.
Roddy Piper – They Live
Wrestlers have had plenty of success in the acting world – just look to Dave Bautista in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy or The Rock in just about anything. However, our favorite is still Rowdy Roddy Piper in the horror flick, They Live. The movie is not a stage for a great thespian, and the kind of over-the-top acting provided by Piper is perfect for the role. Moreover, he gets to deliver one of the best-loved lines in cinema: “I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass…. And I am all out of bubblegum.” Perfect.
Lance Armstrong – Dodgeball
Ok. When looking back on this performance, it’s arguably not as impactful when you consider what happened with Armstrong in the doping scandal. But in 2004, lest we forget, Armstrong was considered the patron saint of sports courage. His deadpan delivery in the scene where he gives Peter (Vince Vaughan) advice on playing in the dodgeball finals is just perfect. Armstrong reminds us all of, what we thought of the time, his incredible journey to reach the pinnacle of his sports. Coupled with Vaughan’s reaction, it comes off as self-deprecating and hilarious. He’s only on screen for a minute or so, but it’s one of the best ever sports cameos.