SPACE JAM: A NEW LEGACY
AND CINEMA'S BEST ATHLETIC PERFORMANCES
By Lee Parham
While many basketball players have shown success on the court, a select few have translated their skills over the big screen. Here are the best athletes-turned-actors.
Perhaps the most iconic athlete acting performance of all time, Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan plays himself in 1996’s Space Jam alongside Bugs Bunny and other Looney Tunes characters.
A generation defining film, the original Space Jam saw Jordan’s Tune Squad facing off against the intimidating Monstars. Jordan is joined by fellow NBA icons such as Charles Barkley and Patrick Ewing.
LeBron James hopes to continue the tradition in Space Jam: A New Legacy. James is on a mission to save his son Dom from the clutches of a tyrannical A.I. played by Avengers star Don Cheadle.
LeBron is joined by the Looney Tunes as they face off against the Goon Squad, a team of avatars of NBA players such as Damian Lillard, Klay Thompson, and Lebron’s real-life teammate Anthony Davis.
The Goon Squad also features some WNBA players as well, including two first overall picks and former champions Nneka Ogyumike and Diana Taurasi.
Space Jam is not LeBron’s first dive into acting. The Lakers star had a significant supporting role in the romcom Trainwreck with Bill Hader and voiced a yeti in the animated feature Small Foot.
Other basketball players have made the transition to acting as well. Superstar bigman Shaquelle O’Neal (Shaq) has appeared in a plethora of commercials, plus films like Grown Ups, Kazaam, and Steel.
Shaq starred alongside Nets point guard Kyrie Irving in Uncle Drew, an adaptation of the Pepsi commercial series where a seemingly old basketball player shows up some “young bloods” in street ball.
Legendary sharp-shooter Ray Allen played Jesus Shuttlesworth, a high school basketball phenom in the Spike Lee joint He Got Game along with multiple time Oscar winner Denzel Washington.
Former league MVP Kevin Garnett plays a highly superstitious version of himself in the Adam Sandler-lead Uncut Gems. Sandler’s character gives him a gem that supposedly provides luck during big games.
NBA Hall of Famers Jason Kidd and Chris Webber appear in Like Mike, the story of a young orphan who inherits the basketball ability of Michael Jordan after stumbling on a pair of his old shoes.
In a similar concept, the film Thunderstruck sees former Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant switch skills with a high school basketball player who quickly becomes the star of his team.
While basketball players might be better on the court than on the screen, a select few have proven to provide entertaining performances from time to time.