Many great athletes have leapt from sport to screen to find movie stardom. In celebration of this month’s NBA Finals, here’s a look at eight great basketball superstars who jumped from the hardwood to Hollywood.
A member of the NBA Hall of Fame, Rodman led the league in rebounds per game for seven consecutive seasons, from 1991-1998. His film career began while he was still an active player, starring opposite Jean-Claude Van Damme in the action film Double Team (1997). Since retiring, he’s gone on to appear in many televisions shows and films including Simon Sez (1999) and The Comebacks (2007).
A teammate of Rodman’s during their playing days for the Detroit Pistons, John “Spider” Salley was part of the team nicknamed “The Bad Boys of Basketball.” Kind of ironic, considering Salley’s acting resume includes roles in both of the Bad Boys movies. Salley also starred alongside Whoopie Goldberg in Eddie (1996).
After beginning his career with the Boston Celtics, Rick Fox headed west to the Los Angeles Lakers and the bright lights of Hollywood. Fox went on to collect three championships with the Lakers... along with his fair share of acting work, too. In addition to several television appearances, he can be seen in the films Blue Chips (1994), Eddie (1996), Holes (2003), Meet the Browns (2008) and the upcoming Dope (2015).
The NBA’s reigning record holder for three-pointers made ( 2,973), Allen is a two-time NBA champion, collecting rings with the Boston Celtics in 2008 and the Miami Heat in 2013. Proving he can score with critics as well, Allen was nominated for an MTV Movie Award® for breakthrough performance opposite Denzel Washington in the 1998 basketball drama He Got Game.
On the basketball court, Hall-of-Famer Jordan looked like he was from another planet, showing gravity-defying moves that helped label him one of the greatest players in the game. It makes sense then that his film debut came playing himself in the intergalactic animated comedy Space Jam (1996).
The 2006 NBA Rookie of the Year, Kevin Durant is currently the backbone of the Oklahoma City Thunder. 2012 was a busy year for the superstar from the University of Texas -- not only did he pick up an Olympic gold medal and MVP honors at the NBA All-Star game, he also picked up a starring movie role as himself in the hoops comedy Thunderstruck (2012).
By far one of the most colorful players ever to put on an NBA uniform, Shaquille O’Neal was a natural crossover to the silver screen. He made his Hollywood debut while still early in his playing career, starring along other NBA up-and-comers in the 1994 film Blue Chips. Four NBA championships, two NBA scoring crowns, one Olympic gold medal and one league MVP award later, Shaq’s still acting, appearing in films such as Kazaam (1996), Steel (1997), Scary Movie 4 (2006), Grown Ups 2 (2013) and Blended (2014).
With 38,387 points, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar holds the record as the NBA's all-time leading scorer. He also holds claim to two of the most memorable performances on film. The first came as Bruce Lee’s high-kicking foe in the karate classic The Game of Death (1978). The second was as Roger Murdock, the copilot from Airplane! (1980). Do we think his performance in the latter was comedy gold? That’s a big roger — Roger!