5 NBA superstars who transitioned to the big screen

Shaquille O’Neal goes wild in mosh pit at Tomorrowland

NBA fans will have plenty to look forward to during LeBron James’ pending Free Agency decision, as he will also reportedly drop the trailer for the long-awaited Space Jam sequel after his announcement.

James, of course, is no stranger to the bright lights of Hollywood, having played a supporting role in the 2015 romantic comedy flick “Trainwreck”.

But ‘The King’ is certainly not the first pro baller to test his acting chops, as plenty of NBA players have appeared in documentaries about themselves or made brief cameo appearances in blockbuster flicks. A select few, meanwhile, even took on lead roles and gave life to some of the most iconic movie characters of all time.

In light of the release of the NBA star-studded “Uncle Drew” movie, FOX Sports Philippines recalls five NBA players who starred in Hollywood films.


Kevin Durant – “Thunderstruck” (2012)

Before he was awarded the NBA Most Valuable Player award in 2013, Kevin Durant made his Hollywood debut in the 2012 family comedy film, where he played a naive version of himself.

Following the talent-switcheroo premise of the classic movie “Like Mike”, Durant suddenly finds himself unable to make a basket after unknowingly switching talents with an uncoordinated 16-year-old high school basketball player.

Aside from acting, Durant also dabbled in photography and writing in recent years, which he should continue to pursue, considering his movie only received a 20 percent positive rating from film review site Rotten Tomatoes.

Shaquille O’Neal – “Kazaam” (1996), “Steel” (1997)

With his larger than life personality and affable nature, Shaq seemed like the perfect candidate for an athlete-turned-movie star.

At the height of his NBA takeover in the mid ‘90s, the 4-time NBA Champion starred in the now two infamous movies; “Kazaam” where played a physically imposing genie, and “Steel” where he tried to bring life to a DC comic book superhero.

Unfortunately for Shaq, both movies bombed in the box office and was ripped apart by critics for its “cheesiness” and overall bad acting.

But its not all bad for the ‘Big Aristotle’, since his performance as a basketball prodigy in the 1994 film “Blue Chips” was received well by audiences.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – “Game of Death” (1972), “Airplane! (1980)

The NBA legend is a fixture in television nowadays, having appeared in sitcoms like “Full House” and “Everyboody Loves Raymond” and even made his way to the latest season of “Dancing with the Stars”.

Living in Hollywood for 14 NBA seasons, Kareem caught his big break when he played the perfect adversary to Bruce Lee in the 1972 martial arts film “Game of Death”.

The lanky giant also showed his comedic side by playing the quirky pilot ‘Roger Murdoch’ in the 1980 classic “Airplane!”.

Ray Allen – “He Got Game” (1998)

Movies starring NBA players usually fall under the comedy category or have been received poorly in the box office, but Spike Lee’s sports drama “He Got Game” is neither of those.

Heralded as one of the best basketball movies ever made, Ray Allen was a revelation for his performance of the now iconic character “Jesus Shuttlesworth”—a top high school basketball prospect pursued by top collegiate programs.

Aside from film’s basketball aspect, it also tackled the strained relationship between Shuttlesworth and his incarcerated father, who was played magnificently by Denzel Washington.

Now retired from the NBA after 18 seasons, Allen has made it public that he would like to pursue more acting opportunities.

Michael Jordan – “Space Jam” (1996)

Ah, the original “Space Jam”. The whole reason why LeBron is getting a new movie.

Who knew that partnering the ‘G.O.A.T’ with a bunch of fictional Looney Tunes characters would amass such a massive cult following?

In terms of storytelling, “Space Jam” certainly is not the best basketball movie of all time, but it has become some sort of a gospel among the NBA’s current generation of stars.

Notable mentions: Dennis Rodman (Double Team), Rick Fox (Meet the Browns) , Julius Erving (The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh), Wilt Chamberlain (Conan the Barbarian)

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