Sure they’re great performers on the field, but some guys should just stick to their day jobs.
It must be tough to fight the urge to get slightly more famous though, because several athletes have given us a good laugh with their appearances on the big (and small) screens. These actor-athletes may not win any Oscars for their performances, but they’ve definitely given us something to make fun of for a little while. And it does make us feel better that they’re not good at everything.
Here are a few of our favorite attempts at acting by athletes. And no, O.J. Simpson did not make the cut.
Keith Hernandez in Seinfeld
This MVP ball player got a lucky break and ended up in one of the most famous episodes of Seinfeld ever.
You know, it’s the one where they break down that time he allegedly spit on Kramer and Newman in a very JFK assassination-esque manner. Or was there a second spitter…?
To give you a recap of the episode if your Seinfeld game is rusty, Jerry is a big fan of Hernandez and develops a bit of a man-crush on him after meeting him at the gym. Of course, he eventually draws the line at helping him move (because, “It’s too soon! I barely know the guy!”). Hernandez falls for Elaine and there’s some awkward baseball innuendo-centric flirting on their second date.
Spoiler: Elaine breaks up with Hernandez because he smokes. And there was a second spitter, Phillies relief pitcher Roger McDowell (whose role, fun fact, was originally intended for Darryl Strawberry).
In real life, even after leaving the big leagues, Hernandez thinks this episode extended his celebrity shelf life for years. Apparently, people still ask him about it all the time. He really did have some hilarious inner-monologues in the car as he debates kissing Elaine. “Come on, I won the MVP in ’79, I can do whatever I want to!” As one particularly apt YouTube commenter noted though, he looked a lot like Freddy Mercury with that sweet ‘stache.
Ken Griffey Jr. in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
Never forget. This cameo happened.
And this was in 1994, when Ken Griffey Jr. was like the best baseball player in the world.
In the episode, Carlton genuinely didn’t know who The Kid was when he mocked him with awkward Carlton-esque insults like, “What’s the matter? Got a noodle for an arm?” In return, Junior gives in and throws a few balls, talks trash to Will Smith, and is generally kind of a dick. But I have to say, KGJ remains calm, cool, and collected during his acting debut of approximately one minute. What a star in the making.
If you’re after more magic from the man, he also appears in that Freddie Prinze Jr. teen movie favorite Summer Catch and Little Big League.
Future Hall-of-Famer LaDainian Tomlinson Doing Uhhh This…
LT, what is this?! No really, you have to watch it. I’ve watched it five times in a row now.
My guess is that he legitimately thought the Electric Glide and “LT Style” might become a thing. That’s what you get when you surround yourself with yes-men and groupies and people capable of making such awesome low-budget music videos.
Or maybe he actually needs to be told, line by line, what to do during games. Maybe he once forgot to wave to his mom or say hi to his wife after catching that pass?
Okay, so once you get over the WTF moment you’ll inevitably have while watching this video, it becomes highly addictive. And I’m overly interested in how he chose his background dancers. (Especially the old white man with a beard who’s supposed to be his “uncle.”)
It’s like a better version of the “Cha Cha Slide,” because really anything is better than that.
Take it back now, y’all.
Derek Jeter Every Single Time He Was In Front of a Camera (but especially in The Other Guys and SNL)
If you haven’t heard of The Other Guys, don’t worry. It’s one of Will Ferrell’s meh comedies about two cops, so you’re not missing much. Supposedly though, the producers were really impressed with how well-prepared Jeter was for his role. And it’s almost too fun watching him exclaim, “You dick, I’m Derek Jeter. You shot me!”
But in one of his later scenes, can it get any more painful than watching Jeter speak his very obviously memorized lines? And why was he wearing a long blond wig? Okay we get it, he’s supposed to be homeless because Mark Wahlberg shot him on the eve of a World Series game and he never got really famous. Cool plot twist, I guess?
On SNL he wore a horrendously ill-fitting suit jacket before taking it off to pelt the audience with foul balls. The crowd went wild for him – but really, is that even fair? It was a captive audience of New Yorkers and all. He also dressed up as a Mexican and sang songs to advertise “Derek Jeter’s Taco Hole” so he draws the line literally nowhere.
Seriously though, Jeter did look shockingly good in drag as Alfonso Soriano’s wife in the “Yankee Wives” sketch. (Though some Internet trolls have made the observation that he actually looked a lot like every girlfriend in A-Rod’s lineup.) And I do really enjoy hearing him say, “Jeter looks like if The Rock had sex with a muppet.”
And lest we forget, he and ol’ Bernie Williams made a little appearance in Seinfeld once too.
Shaq in Steel
Wait, there was a superhero movie that starred Shaq back in 1997?
“With a will of iron, a heart of gold, and a body of steel…”
Oh boy, that was bad. One could write a dissertation on how abjectly bad that movie was. It’s like an action flick mixed with a Marvel movie led by, well, an NBA athlete with no prior acting experience. And since they had the star power of Shaq, it’s like they didn’t bother telling him he needed to enunciate his lines.
Also, what kind of superhero is he really? Oh, you’re like 7 feet tall, so we’ll just give you a custom steel suit that occasionally becomes ridiculously magnetic, and that should do it! What happens if you, say, fall in a deep body of water or walk past literally anything else made of metal? They really didn’t think this one through…
Shaq is a big superman fan (he’s got the symbol tattooed on his arm and everything) so it was pretty much impossible for him to say no to this role. We get it. We’ll give him a pass on this one.
But like, did everybody just forget that Shaq also played a genie in Kazaam?
Wilt Chamberlain Screaming and Swinging a Mace in Conan the Destroyer
You guys. Why don’t we give athletes way more hell for these kinds of decisions?
Maybe it’s just a childhood dream of theirs to be on the big screen. Maybe they literally don’t care what character they play or what movie it is. All the way from 1984 though, this one is throwback gold.
Hey, if you can do stuff like this and still become the governor of California, then why not?
Wilt Chamberlain (RIP) plays tough guy Bombaata who rides horses, falls off said horses, and fights to the death in Conan the Destroyer (obviously Arnold wins). Wilt the Stilt is basically in slow motion during this entire major “action” scene, ineptly swinging a mace, throwing a giant vase with an overly excited expression on his face, and umm, trying to bite off Arnold’s ear?!
I have to say though, the outfit and hairstyle really suit the guy…
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Airplane!
Because really, isn’t this the original, awkward acting appearance by an athlete? That dazed look is just perfection.