Shaquille O’Neal was a basketball player who fully realized how an athlete could merge a sport with mainstream entertainment. His name and likeness graced films, video games, and music albums, and he made people who may not be avid basketball fans aware of who he was. After he announced his retirement via Twitter on June 1 of 2011, I started thinking about the impact he made in popular culture, and how other NBA players have as well.
Athletes have made a lot of appearances in movies. Some of them memorable, some of them, well, not so memorable. This article will discuss some of the best performances by NBA players in films, and unfortunately, some of the worse.
Best: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in “Airplane!”
In 1980, Jim Abrahams and the Zucker brothers got together to make one of the greatest (and first) spoof comedies of all times, Airplane!, starring Robert Hays, and comedic geniuses Lloyd Bridges and Leslie Nielsen. Kareem played a co-pilot named “Roger Murdock”, who had the dubious honor of entertaining a visit in the cockpit by an inquisitive little boy name “Joey”. In the short span of his role, Kareem managed a scene-stealing role. Here’s the exchange with little Joey and Kareem (Murdock):
Joey: “Wait a minute. I know you. You’re Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. You play basketball for the Los Angeles Lakers.”
Kareem : “I’m sorry son, but you must have me confused with someone else. My name is Roger Murdock. I’m the co-pilot.”
Joey: “You are Kareem! I’ve seen you play. My dad’s got season tickets.”
Kareem: “I think you should go back to your seat now Joey.”
Joey: “I think you’re the greatest, but my dad says you don’t work hard enough on defense.
And he says that lots of times, you don’t even run down court. And that you don’t really try… except during the playoffs.”
Kareem: The hell I don’t! LISTEN KID! I’ve been hearing that crap ever since I was at UCLA. I’m out there busting my buns every night. Tell your old man to drag Walton and Lanier up and down the court for 48 minutes.”
Watch Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Airplane! on YouTube:
Worst: Shaquille O’Neal in “Kazaam“
Kazaam reminded us why Shaquille O’Neal is a horrible rapper (and actor). Shaq introduced us to his debut album Shaq Diesel in 1993, and we all cringed. Three short years later, Kazaam was introduced, and we cringed once again. Shaq (aka “Shaq Fu”, “Shaq Diesel”, “Big Daddy Shaq”, and later “Big Shamrock”) has a personality that captivates us all. He’s warm, he’s funny, he’s a gentle giant. Now retired, and considered one of the top five NBA centers of all-time, Shaq has many opportunities ahead of him, but let’s hope it’s not acting (or rapping).
Shaq free-styling as Kazaam on YouTube:
Best: Ray Allen in “He Got Game”
Ray Allen, who surpassed Reggie Miller for the NBA Record of most all-time 3-pointers in the 2010-2011 season, and is undoubtedly Hall of Fame-bound. He also starred in a Spike Lee Joint back in 1998. He Got Game was the first Spike Lee film to open #1 at the box office, and included Denzel Washington, Milla Jovovich and Rosario Dawson.
Ray Allen’s portrayal of “Jesus Shuttleworth” went on to earn him a nomination for “Best Breakthrough Male Performance” at the 1999 MTV Music Awards, and made Ray Allen a household name, outside of Seattle, and later Boston. Ray Allen definitely has game, but it doesn’t hurt having Denzel as a co-star.
Ray Allen in He Got Game on YouTube:
Worst: Wilt Chamberlain in “Conan the Destroyer”
I’m not going to lie. I’ve never actually seen this movie. But in my research of basketball players in films, I realized that t’s a certified B movie. Kareem Abdul-Jabar just named Wilt Chamberlain in an open letter to Scottie Pippen “the greatest basketball player in the history of the NBA”. His legacy is complete, scoring a 100 points in a game, winning two NBA championships, and becoming the most valuable player four times. However, he also decided to star in a B-movie wi th Arnold Schwarzenegger. I could only find a clip from Entertainment Tonight, previewing the movie. You can decide how bad it is for yourselves. Watch the clip after the jump-off.
Conan the Destroyer on YouTube.com:
Airplane! Quotes on IMDB.com
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s Letter to Scottie Pippen on LATimes.com