10 Athletes Who Starred as Actors

From Vinnie Jones to O.J. Simpson, we pick out 10 athletes who also starred on the big screen.

They say that sport is the best form of reality TV, but some athletes have gone one step further and ventured into the world of acting, gracing us with their larger than life personalities in a dramatised role.

From the glitz and glamour of Hollywood to the mean streets of East London, we have been blessed (and sometimes disappointed) by many sports stars trying their hand at acting. Below are 10 of the best.


1. Ray Allen - He Got Game

Former NBA star Ray Allen was known for his immaculate three-point shooting, but his role in Spike Lee’s 1998 Basketball drama He Got Game was almost as good. Allen played Jesus Shuttlesworth, the top high school basketball prospect in the United States who has to deal with a tough life off the court, as his father Jake - played by Denzel Washington - is serving time in prison for accidentally killing Jesus’ mother. Critics praised Allen’s performance, and his gripping onscreen chemistry with Denzel.


2. Vinnie Jones - Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch, Mean Machine

A close second, Vinnie Jones is now mostly known as an actor and not a soccer player, but he definitely left his mark on the world game, winning the 1988 FA Cup with Wimbledon in a huge upset over Liverpool. He also set the record for the fastest ever booking, being yellow carded for a rough tackle after just three seconds! After leaving the sport, Jones quickly became a star on the big screen, often playing an intimidating, cockney thug full of quick wit and hilarious insults.


3. Arnold Schwarzenegger - The Terminator, Conan the Barbarian, Twins

The former bodybuilder and Mr Olympia is literally one of the biggest names in Hollywood, and is still making movies! His thick Austrian accent provided us with one of the most famous lines in movie history when he stated “I’ll be back” during the 1984 classic The Terminator. Schwarzenegger also proved he could make us laugh out loud with his role in Twins alongside Danny DeVito.


4. LeBron James - Trainwreck

We didn’t expect too much when LeBron played himself in Trainwreck, but he was brilliant in the Judd Apatow comedy, starring alongside Amy Schumer and Bill Hader. LeBron was not afraid to make fun of himself throughout the entire film, as his character was a cheapskate who would do anything to save a few dollars. LeBron had a pivotal role in the movie, and went out of his way to help his friend Aaron (Bill Hader) find true love.


5. Michael Jordan - Space Jam

Speaking of basketballers who played themselves in a movie, Michael Jordan’s role alongside Bugs Bunny in Space Jam was ahead of its time, and Jordan stepped up to the plate (much better than his short-lived baseball career) saving planet earth with an impressive 44 points for Tune Squad. His long range slam dunk was one of the most ridiculous things ever seen on a basketball court, but the Tune Squad is still our third favourite fictional sports team of all time.


6. The Rock (Dwayne Johnson) - Ballers, The Mummy Returns, Baywatch

The Rock was the self-proclaimed “most electrifying man in sports entertainment” when he was a WWE superstar, but quickly outgrew the wrestling world to become one of the most recognisable faces in Hollywood. He has featured in action films, comedies, dramas and more, but we absolutely love him in the HBO show Ballers, where he plays a former athlete trying to make it as a sports agent.


7. Lawrence Taylor - The Waterboy, Any Given Sunday

“L.T” is a two time Super Bowl winner, a former NFL MVP and a New York Giants legend, but his cameo in The Waterboy next to Adam Sandler is what we most recognise him for. Taylor, who admitted to using crack during his NFL career, gives a young group of kids some special advice after hearing Bobby Boucher struggle through a sentence regarding his football talents… “Don’t. Smoke. Crack.” While his role in The Waterboy was a quick, comedic one, he shined in Any Given Sunday, playing linebacker Luther Lavay.


8. Shaquille O’Neal - Kazaam, Blue Chips, Scary Movie 4, The Lego Movie

Shaq is a man of many talents. Not only was he a dominant center and four time NBA Champion, he was also an actor and rapper. He first appeared on the big screen in 1994 in Blue Chips, playing a talented high school basketball star, and returned two years later in Kazaam, where he embraced the lead role as a genie who loves to rap. The movie is so bad that it’s funny, but Shaq continues to entertain us with recent roles in The Lego Movie, Grown Ups 2, Blended and many more.


9. Carl Weathers - Rocky, Happy Gilmore, Predator

Weathers is known for his role in the Rocky franchise, where he played the charismatic and cocky Apollo Creed. While we loudly cheered against Creed in the first two Rocky films, his friendship with Rocky soon won us over, as he helped the Italian Stallion teach the trash-talking Clubber Lang a lesson in Rocky 3. Weathers was cut by the Oakland Raiders in 1971 after playing just seven games, and then spent three years in the Canadian Football League, but soon turned to acting and found his true calling. His role as all-round good guy ‘Chubbs’ in Happy Gilmore was also a highlight.


10. O.J. Simpson - The Naked Gun Trilogy

A bad guy but a good actor, former NFL running back O.J. Simpson was a well-loved figure prior to his arrest in 1994. He dabbled in acting during his NFL career, but his most notable effort came in 1988, when he played Officer Nordberg in the Leslie Nielsen comedy, The Naked Gun.


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Anthony Ierardi


Adrian Bortignon


Anthony Ierardi


Anthony Ierardi


Anthony Ierardi


Anthony Ierardi