The world of sports is certainly no stranger to cinema. After all, many hit movies have used sports to tell inspirational stories of athletes overcoming the odds to reach unparalleled levels of success.
In fact, our previous article on ‘Soccer Stars Who’ve Made the Move from the Pitch to the Big Screen’, shows there is no shortage of athletes-turned-actors. Soccer icons ranging from David Beckham to Zinedine Zidane have all tested their acting chops to varying degrees of success.
Of course, athletes from other sports are not far behind. Numerous NBA stars have also made the leap from the court to the big screen.
Considering his affable nature and larger than life persona, the 7’1 big man has all the makings of an athlete-turned-movie star. That’s why it’s no surprise that Fox Sports lists the superstar as just one of the many who’ve transitioned to the big screen, with Shaq taking advantage of his mid-90’s superstardom to act in the infamous Kazaam (1996) as a wish-granting genie. He even had a turn as a DC comic book superhero in Steel (1997).
Unfortunately, both movies ended up bombing at the box office as critics lambasted the films for their ‘cheesiness’ and plain bad acting. Yet, it wasn’t all bad for the big man’s showbiz career – Shaq was actually lauded for his performance as a basketball prodigy in 1994’s Blue Chips.
In contrast to Shaq, Ray Allen starred in a movie that was well received by critics and audiences alike. Allen starred as top high school basketball prospect Jesus Shuttlesworth in Spike Lee’s He Got Game (1998), a sports drama that also focused on the rocky relationship between Jesus and his incarcerated father (played by none other than Denzel Washington). When he retired from the NBA, after a storied 18 seasons, Allen then made it public that he was open to exploring more acting opportunities – a decision possibly influenced by his role in He Got Game.
Of course, no list of NBA-players-turned-actors would be complete without a mention of Jordan’s role in the 1996 smash hit Space Jam. In the live-action Looney Tunes sports comedy, Jordan starred as a fictional version of himself, enlisted by Bugs Bunny to help save his friends by beating a menacing group of aliens in a do-or-die game of basketball. The movie then went on to gross $230 million worldwide, rendering it the highest-grossing basketball film of all time.
Such was the success of 1996’s Space Jam that a sequel is already being planned for release in 2021, starring none other than LeBron James.
In fact, Variety notes how James is just one of the basketball players making moves in Hollywood, with the upcoming Space Jam 2 just one of his numerous forays into media. James is also the owner of SpringHill Entertainment, which provides content for broadcast TV, cable, streaming and film. As James continues to build his own little empire, it is only adding to his fortune. James features in the article ‘Who Are the Biggest Earning Sports Stars?’ by Ladbrokes which details how he is the most recognizable active basketball player on the planet, and many expect the release of Space Jam 2 to raise his profile to even greater heights (and fortune). Whether the sequel can replicate the success of the original remains to be seen, but the buzz around it as early as now suggests audiences will certainly flock to watch ‘The King’ on the big screen.
In 2012, Durant starred in the family comedy Thunderstruck, playing a naïve version of himself. The film follows the classic switcheroo trope, as Durant suddenly finds himself with the talent of a 16-year-old high school basketball player.
The film received largely negative reviews, but you shouldn’t feel too bad for Durant. Similar to LeBron James, Durant also has a media company of his own called Thirty Five Media. Co-founded with his manager Rich Kleinman, Thirty Five Media has a number of projects lined up in collaboration with Apple and Fox Sports. Though there doesn’t seem to be anymore acting lined up for Durant in the foreseeable future, his multiple endeavors should keep him busy.