The Top 11: Most awesome athletes-turned-movie stars

In this week’s countdown, we’re profiling some of the most awesome athlete/actors in movie history. You can view the first part of our list HERE, and be sure to check back tomorrow for numero uno. For right now, here are numbers 6-2.

6. Shaquille O’Neal, NBA, Blue Chips, Kazaam, Steel. If we were judging on quantity, rather than quality (sort of), Shaq would be higher up this list. Unfortunately, we can’t award horrible acting performances en masse, meaning Shaqovich checks in at number six on our list.

Let’s give credit where credit is due, however. Shaq’s first movie role, as Neon in Blue Chips, isn’t all that bad. In fact, I can kind of see where he might get the idea that acting was in his future. So could writers, directors, and producers willing to sacrifice professional integrity in order to make a quick buck. Hence the bad decisions that became Kazaam and Steel.

In Kazaam, Shaq plays the title character, a genie that grants a white boy from the ghetto three wishes. There’s really no point in delving any further into the ridiculous plot line, because it’s garbage. Interesting fact: on IMDB.com (a movie website that everyone should check out), Kazaam is rated 2.4 stars out of a possible 10 by those who have seen the movie. This is almost impossible. I’ve never seen any movie get rated lower than five stars on IMDB. Kazaam is the first.

Oh, and if you’re wondering about Shaq’s second big movie, Steel, it’s the same plot line as Iron Man with crap writing, crap action, crap everything. As an actor, Shaq pretty much strikes out in all facets of the game, but that can’t keep us from appreciating his efforts. He may not fool anyone into thinking he’s anything other than a basketball player, but Shaquille O’Neal gave it a shot, hung it up, and made the right decision in opting to stick with his day job.

5. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, NBA, Airplane. The former Lew Alcindor has had small roles in other films, but he’s probably best remembered as co-pilot Roger Murdock in 1980’s Airplane. Opposite star Peter Graves, playing lead pilot Captain Oveur (pronounced “over”), Kareem provides multiple noteworthy scenes, including one in which “Oveur” and “Roger” have trouble finding a vector while talking to a “Victor” (it’s one of those scenes you just have to see to fully understand).

At another juncture in the film, Kareem’s Murdock character is recognized as an NBA center with a lagging work ethic by a young passenger exploring the cockpit. The landmark role spawned a number of other cameo appearances in television shows, feature films, and commercials for the ex-Laker, but it’s hard to forget the part that made him famous in Airplane.

4. Ray Allen, NBA, He Got Game. I give Ray a lot of credit for pulling off the role of a lifetime as high school phenom Jesus Shuttlesworth in He Got Game. But come on. How hard is it to act like you’re enjoying yourself when surrounded by two naked, attractive females in a bed? The toughest part for Ray-Ray in He Got Game’s most memorable scene was probably keeping the little general from standing at attention, but that’s a whole ‘nother issue.

Either way, you can’t deny that in his only big acting role, Allen pulled the part off perfectly. He Got Game is a movie touted by sports fans and non-sports fans alike for its portrayal of reality when exploring the world of recruiting. Ray, as Jesus, is pursued by colleges and professional agents alike as he weighs his future beyond the prep ranks. At the same time, his father, played by Denzel Washington, is out of prison on temporary bail trying to convince Jesus to attend Big State University (alma mater of the man who holds the key to the elder Shuttlesworth’s freedom or incarceration).

The normally reserved Allen shows emotion at times, plays great ball, and generally convinces us that yes, he is an actor. If you haven’t seen the film, it’s definitely worth a rental.

3. Michael Jordan, NBA, Space Jam. Ah, Space Jam. If you were a kid growing up in the ’90’s, Space Jam was probably your favorite movie for some point in time. It had everything a fun-loving kid could possibly want in a film: action, sports, cartoons, live footage, comedy, and people who were legitimately famous to pre-pubescents. Then, of course, there was His Airness himself, Michael Jordan.

M.J. was a hero among heroes to the American youth and essentially used Space Jam to catapult himself to the ultimate height of his popularity in 1996. Playing himself, the movie starts off with Jordan on his hiatus from basketball, as an outfielder for the minor league Birmingham Barons. M.J.’s vacation from the court is interrupted when cartoon characters from Toon Land cross into our world and kidnap the Great One, taking him into their world to help them win a basketball game against a group of evil aliens who want to rule the land of Toons. Against a team of Monstars that have stolen the talent of three of the game’s greatest ballers, one borderline star, and one incredible bust (Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Larry Johnson, Muggsy Bogues, and, uh, Shawn Bradley), Jordan leads his team to victory with the help of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Bill Murray, among others.

Like most great kid movies, the plot is simple and the acting is bland. Not that Space Jam fans care. Michael makes us believe anything is possible with his on-court heroics and does a great job acting alongside a green screen and voice actors who make him shine.

2. Carl Weathers, NFL, Rocky, Happy Gilmore. Bet you didn’t know Carl Weathers used to be a pro football player. He’s actually managed to do what many former athletes set out to do once their playing days are over: taken a successful athletic career and turned it into a successful career on the silver screen.

Weathers got his big break as Apollo Creed in the Rocky movies. Sparring with Rocky Balboa, himself, Weathers’ Creed appeared in the first four installments of the epic boxing flicks, doubling as both a villain and a hero.

Weathers, whose Rocky run spanned nearly a decade (1976-1985), spent eleven years in small roles before reemerging as a star in the 1996 Adam Sandler film Happy Gilmore. Playing the part of Chubbs, an ex-golf pro who takes aspiring golfer Happy Gilmore under his wing, Weathers displays his lighter side by playing off of Sandler’s title character to an absolute tee. With a back story to rival that of any supporting actor’s in any movie, Chubbs, left with only one hand after becoming the victim of an alligator attack, does his best to turn Happy into a legimate golfer. Though he eventually dies after falling out a window, Chubbs remains a vital part of the movie during Happy’s search for inner happiness. During these moments of zen, Weathers gets a chance to showcase other talents, playing the piano and unveiling an impressive singing voice.

The former Oakland Raider linebacker maintains that his original career goal was to be an actor, and it shows. Though he’s struggled to land any big roles in recent years, Carl Weathers is beloved by sports fans everywhere for his role in the making of two of the greatest sports-related movies of all-time.

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