We’ve seen it all before. An athlete earns a huge amount of fame and notoriety and gets an offer to become a crossover star by participating in some acting. And why wouldn’t they? They’re paid to potentially get some exposure and a new set of followers.
But despite those noble intentions, more often than not, athletes’ acting performances turn out to be regrettable roles than performances to remember. There are almost too many to name, in fact. There are 25 acting performances by athletes that simply stand out from the rest as the worst, most terrible, unwatchable pieces of film the sporting world has to offer.
Check them out right here:
Lebron James – Entourage/Trainwreck:
James deservedly earned a spot high on the list of the greatest NBA players of all-time, but his acting doesn’t match his skills on the court, predictably enough. His cameo appearance in the HBO hit ‘Entourage’ proves that. In it, he and actor Matt Damon admonish the show’s lead character for not donating enough to their charity. James delivered his short, one or two-word lines with the charisma of a robot.
He later re-appeared as a romantic advice-giver in Amy Schumer’s 2015 comedy ‘Trainwreck.’ This time around, James was much more seasoned and was actually given full sentences. He redeemed himself as an actor in at least some sense. However, his early appearance on ‘Entourage’ will always inspire cringe. In fact, you’ll see that many of the athlete guest spots on that show did, and even worse than James’ brief appearance.
‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin – The Condemned:
Austin made pro-wrestling fans scream as one of the most popular WWE champions in history. In a sense, that’s definitely acting mixed with athletic performance, even if it is scripted. Pro wrestlers put their bodies through a torturous grind and are always at risk of serious injury.
Those eventually caught up to “Stone Cold,” and when they did, he tried his hand at acting. The result was a starring role in the campy “Condemned,” where criminals were dropped on an island and forced to fight it out to the death in a “Running Man”-like television show. Let’s just say Austin’s acting in the WWE ring was much more convincing.
Lawrence Taylor – The Water Boy/Any Given Sunday:
Taylor is one of the best defensive players to ever play in the NFL – and he’s also one of the league’s most notorious criminals. So the fact that he’s a terrible actor is obviously a lesser concern compared to his many off-the-field incidents.
In any case, his performance in the Adam Sandler comedy “The Water Boy” was a borderline hilarious one. He advised a group of young children not to smoke crack, which is one of many things he was arrested for. His performance in the classic football movie ‘Any Given Sunday’ wasn’t as funny, however. In a movie full of great acting, Taylor just didn’t live up to that standard despite a role that was essentially made for him to play himself.
Keith Hernandez – Seinfeld:
Former New York Mets star Hernandez had a memorable appearance on an episode of hit 1990s sitcom ‘Seinfeld,’ but that doesn’t mean his acting performance was any good. Hernandez was a five-time All-Star, a two-time World Series champion, and an 11-time Gold Glove Award winner. His acting failed to live up to that lengthy list of accomplishments.
He made a corny guest star. Hernandez somewhat robotically delivered his lines as a fan of stand-up comedian Seinfeld on the show. He also became romantically involved with female show lead Elaine Benes. It went off the rails when he became in an alleged plot involving an infamous loogie. Either way, it just wasn’t that good looking back on it.
OJ Simpson – The Towering Inferno/Naked Gun:
‘The Juice’ is, of course, one of the most notorious football players and athletes overall due to his historic murder case that was one of the biggest stories of the 1990s. He remains a controversial figure because of that and other more recent crimes which he was just paroled from jail for.
But his notoriety for those nefarious aspects aside, Simpson appeared on the screen in acting roles quite significantly. One particularly foolish one was his role as a security guard on 1974’s ‘The Towering Inferno.’ He got a few laughs as the slapstick cop Nordberg in the “Naked Gun” series, but his acting still couldn’t be considering anything close to good. In the courtroom, some would argue he was much better.
Joe Flacco – 1st Mariner Bank Commercial:
Flacco found fame when his Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl in early 2013. He was also up for free agency at the time as well, and signed one of the biggest NFL contracts ever after that year. All he has done since then is rate as one of the worst statistical quarterbacks in the NFL.
But his moment in the sun still meant Flacco got a much smaller acting role than many of the stars before him on this list. He signed on for a few commercials for local 1st Mariner Bank. In one of them, Flacco only had two lines. He finished a disgruntled bank customer’s sentence by saying, “get you a new card?” after a debit card magically appeared in his hand. Flacco then said, “I’ve been to New Orleans,” whatever that means. He only said those two sentences, yet that’s all he needed to land on the list of the worst athlete acting performances.
Brett Favre – There’s Something About Mary:
Favre made a cringe-worthy guest appearance in the over-the-top comedy “There’s Something About Mary.” He played himself. The joke was that he, as himself, was one of many potential suitors of title character Mary, played by Cameron Diaz. Favre played her ex-boyfriend.
Antagonist Ben Stiller ended up setting Favre back up with Mary, but the acting job turned in by the all-time great quarterback was, like many athletes’ acting, robotic. Favre is a true NFL legend who owned many records at the time of his retirement. His skills just didn’t translate to acting.
Terrell Owens – The T.O. Show:
Controversial wide receiver Owens’ role wasn’t like that of most of the other athletes on this list. The reason was because he was on a reality show about himself called ‘The T.O. Show’ on VH1. In the second season, he even took acting lessons. Go figure.
Overall he needed them. His life was a never-ending drama show, and maybe that’s just how he was. The show just didn’t turn out a good look for him when he was caught cheating and was revealed to have a son he had never met. He played that up during an episode of “Dr. Phil” as well. Owens was more suited for the cameras filming NFL football games on Sundays rather than the ones filming reality shows for TV.
Mark Schlereth – The Guiding Light:
Super Bowl-winning offensive lineman Schlereth played detective/crime novelist “Roc Hoover” on soap opera “The Guiding Light.” Schlereth can be seen missing many a line in the widely available outtakes from the show.
When he was able to remember his lines, he didn’t deliver them with the same precision that he dissected defenses with during the Denver Broncos’ championship years. Plus his name was “Roc Hoover.” You may have thought Schlereth would be somewhat of a better actor considering he is a television analyst who is on camera a ton. But he was not.
Tito Ortiz – Zombie Strippers:
Ortiz actually made an appearance in a movie called “Zombie Strippers” with his ex-wife Jenna Jameson. It wasn’t expected to win any awards, but it was simply an abomination of modern cinema. Jameson was, of course, one of the violent zombie strippers, but Ortiz himself played a bouncer.
Somehow he was able to mess that up despite the fact his entire career has been based on beating other trained fighters up. If his acting career is based on this movie, he’s undoubtedly among the worst athlete actors.
Ronda Rousey – The Expendables 3/Furious 7:
During her time as the biggest star in the UFC, Rousey was cast as a rising action star in several big-budget Hollywood franchises. That didn’t seem to last all that long after she lost her UFC belt and retired from MMA just over a year later. Of course, Rousey was mostly just there to fight in her movie roles, and she was good at that. But when it came time to deliver a line, she said it with essentially no emotion whatsoever.
If you truly need proof, you need only watch her pre-fight lines in ‘Furious 7’ before her fight scene with Michelle Rodriguez. Perhaps she was somewhat better in her scenes in ‘The Expendable 3.’Like ‘Furious 7,’ she was there to fight, dropping an entire dance floor of dudes with relentless efficiency. It’s not hard to see why her acting career took a dive. Maybe it was because she left the UFC, but these film roles certainly didn’t help.
Mike Tyson – The Hangover:
Tyson was an all-time great former boxing champion who squandered much of his prime in prison for some truly heinous crimes. Somehow, however, he’s been able to rebuild his image and is often seen as a presence of comedic relief in certain settings.
Such a case was his appearance in the 2009 comedy smash hit “The Hangover.” Tyson played himself. He and his entourage came around looking for his pet tiger that the group of main characters had taken from him during their drunken rampage from the night before. When the boys walk into their hotel suite, Tyson can be seen singing Phil Collins’ “In The Air Tonight” before knocking out Zach Galifianakis’ character Alan. It was actually pretty funny stuff, but far from great acting.
Phil Mickelson – Entourage:
Mickelson joins the long list of athletes who turned in horrible performances on “Entourage.” In his guest appearance, Mickelson plays himself. He joins a rival studio exec to berate and defeat Jeremy Piven’s Ari Gold in a round of golf. They were also joined by the late Martin Landau’s character.
Either way, Mickelson delivered his derogatory lines towards Piven with the utmost cringe factor. It just wasn’t believable. Topping it off, the character he helped on the show, Alan, died from a heart attack following the round of golf. Not the best ending for an acting sequence that was already horrific in the first place.
Wayne Gretzky – Saturday Night Live:
Rightfully nicknamed ‘The Great One,’ Gretzky is considered by many (if not most) National Hockey League (NHL) fans to be the best player in history. Indeed, he has many offensive records that may never be broken.
But his appearance as the host on “Saturday Night Live” was even more offensive in a much different way. Gretzky just didn’t cut the mustard, and his lines had little to no emotion delivered along with them. The end product was just horrible and failed to match up in any sense to Gretzky’s all-time greatness in hockey.
Dan Marino – Ace Ventura:
Now, Marino’s performance and “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” have a large cult following that makes this an endearing performance. Indeed, it was the film that launched superstar Jim Carrey’s acting career into the mainstream.
But Marino’s performance is laughable nonetheless. He plays himself in the flick and is at the center of a plot to kidnap the Miami Dolphins’ mascot Snowflake. He ends up getting kidnapped himself by the movie’s cross-dressing antagonist Ray Finkle, and it was while he was filming an Isotoner Gloves commercial. Overall, Marino’s lines were delivered with a large helping of nacho cheese. But the movie is and always will be a hit.
Joe Namath – The A-Team:
A smooth-talking superstar of the 60s, “Broadway Joe” will always live on in infamy for his guarantee of a Super Bowl win for his New York Jets over the favored Baltimore Colts. He delivered on that promise. Yet his overall NFL stats left something to be seriously desired when compared to that of quarterbacks from later eras.
And his acting skills may have been even worse. Namath made an appearance on the popular show “The A-Team,” which of course starred Mr. T. The episode he was on, aptly named, “Quarterback Sneak, featured the A-Team setting up a rescue behind the guise of having an exhibition football game.
Convenient timing given Namath was the guest star. It’s almost like they wrote the plot just for that. In any case, the acting was hard to watch, with Namath hamming up all over the joint. “Broadway Joe” later got into trouble on television while drunk, but he wasn’t acting then. Here, he was actually trying, and that makes it much worse.
Tom Brady – Entourage:
Brady is another athlete who put on an awkward performance on HBO’s man-drama “Entourage.” And like the aforementioned Phil Mickelson, it involved a round of golf. Unlike Mickelson, Brady’s appearance involved the main gang of the show.
He robotically laughed at main character Vincent Chase’s brother Johnny during a golf bet. Then, he got in a telegraphed on-screen “conversation” with their friend “Turtle.” Brady invited him and his girlfriend, “The Sopranos” star Jamie Lynn Sigler, over for dinner. Brady may justifiably be the greatest NFL quarterback of all-time. His six Super Bowl victories prove that. But his acting skills were uninspiring and seemed like they were read off a teleprompter without any feeling.
Dennis Rodman – Double Team:
In the 1990s, Rodman was well known in the basketball community as an eccentric star and the best rebounder in the NBA. It earned him a role in “Double Team” opposite martial arts movie star Jean-Claude Van Damme. The result was horrific in terms of acting skill.
Rodman served his lines up with a full serving of corn in this buddy cop flick that ranks among the worst of the genre. That’s saying a lot. Hey, he did get chased by a tiger in the final fight scene of the action flop. But that doesn’t even come close to redeeming this monstrous cinematic dud.
Brian Bosworth – Stone Cold:
‘The Boz’ was one of the most notorious tough guys of the 1980s. He picked up a role in the tough-guy cop film “Stone Cold” in 1991. This one was doomed from the start. Bosworth can be heard telling his pet lizard, “Listen, man. You’re gonna have to eat your grub if you wanna be stud” in the opening scene. Yep, that happened.
From there, Bosworth went about his role with over-the-top cheese of playing a hard-nosed cop infiltrating a killer biker gang. I honestly did think this movie was awesome when I was 10 years old. And true, Bosworth’s mullet was epic. Yet it just didn’t age that well, putting “The Boz” up with the upcoming Howie Long as a football bruiser from the 90s who didn’t fare nearly as well in acting.
Howie Long – Firestorm/Broken Arrow:
Hulking defensive end Long was a great football player for the Raiders. Similar to many of his peers, his acting didn’t compare to his on-field skills. He now does quite well as an NFL football analyst on FOX. But in the 1990s, he still parlayed his size and strength into some action film roles in “Firestorm” and “Broken Arrow.”
While the films may have been lacking in the plot and/or writing department, Long certainly didn’t help matters with his cheesy acting. His performances just weren’t very realistic. However, he did get kicked off a train into a river after a long fall. That’s Long’s most-viewed scene of his often-blasted acting career which has since translated well onto television.
Wilt Chamberlain – Conan The Destroyer:
Chamberlain is an NBA legend who ranks high up on our list of the greatest NBA players of all-time, and for good reason. Of course, he holds the NBA record for most points in a game with 100. He was a legend on the courts.
His acting career didn’t turn out quite as well. “Wilt The Stilt” did land a role as “Bombaata” in the Arnold Schwarzenegger film “Conan The Destroyer.” In it, he did fight 1980s action star Grace Jones. He also betrayed Schwarzenegger’s title character, resulting in a fight between the two. It was a bloody one, with Chamberlain nearly biting Conan’s ear off. But he was ultimately stabbed and killed, mercifully ending this brutal performance.
Deion Sanders – Saturday Night Live (1994):
Like Wayne Gretzky before him on this list, two-sport star Deion Sanders put forth a massive bomb in terms of acting on “Saturday Night Live” in 1994. At the time, he played for the Cincinnati Reds. Major League Baseball (MLB) was experiencing a strike and Sanders was assigned to be the team’s representative in a skit.
The result was simply terrible. “Primetime” seemed to flaunt his wealth by taking phone calls involving supposedly lucrative paydays. But he couldn’t keep the lines straight, as he stumbled and bumbled his way to a performance that could legitimately be called one of the worst hosting performances on “Saturday Night Live.” It’s certainly one of the worst by an athlete.
Hulk Hogan – Mr. Nanny:
Hogan is known for his career as arguably the most popular pro-wrestler of all-time. Given his legendary status in a scripted competition where he cut lengthy promos in front of the mic, you would think he’d be decent at acting. But his dud “Mr. Nanny” argued otherwise.
Hogan had several acting roles that didn’t exactly blow the doors off critics. This gem may take the cake, however. It starred Hogan in a role in which he dressed in a pink tutu and did ballerina dancing. That’s probably enough said, and enough to earn the role a spot on this list.
Shaquille O’Neal – Kazaam:
Like fellow Lakers legend Wilt Chamberlain before him, O’Neal used his size and stature to become of the NBA’s all-time greats on the basketball court. He also used that status to earn him several acting roles.
The one that takes the top spot on the list of the 25 worst athlete acting performances is his starring role as the genie “Kazaam.” It was 1990s cheese at its best – or you could say it was actually at its worst. O’Neal rhymed and rapped his lines all the way to producing just an outright piece of trash. The 1990s was a decade known for producing some time-honored cinematic classics. Or at the very least, some endearing comedies. “Kazaam” was neither. It was simply a schlock-filled flick that proves the best athletes rarely translate to success in the acting field.