Celebrities and entertainers who tried their hand at athletics
Celebrities are a talented bunch, but mostly in areas outside of sports. That’s why they are celebrities and not athletes. Every so often, though, celebs venture out into the world of sports and attempt to become athletes.
Here are 29 celebrities that tried their hand at athletic events.
Vanilla Ice — Celebrity boxing
“The thrilla with Vanilla,” rapper Vanilla Ice, born a much-less-cool Robert Matthew Van Winkle, is known for being a one-hit wonder with “Ice Ice Baby.” And while Vanilla Ice may have risen to fame because he could spit bars, he wasn’t all Iceman when it came to his 1-2 punches or hooks.
In a 2002 celebrity boxing match against Todd Bridges, Vanilla Ice was thoroughly outboxed and lost in a unanimous decision. His fighting skills, put on national television for the world to see, were just about as impressive as his rap career. That is to say, they were not impressive at all. Because in this fight, Ice, unlike in his music career, wasn’t able to land one hit.
Tonya Harding — Celebrity boxing
Tonya Harding clearly likes to fight on her terms. Had she been a good sport as an ice skater, she would have challenged her archrival Nancy Kerrigan to a real fight. Instead, she hired some goon to attack Kerrigan with a baton in hopes of ending her Olympic skating career. Spoiler alert: she didn’t, and Tonya Harding became one of the most disgraced Americans.
Fast forward to 2002, where Harding is doing whatever she can to stay relevant, including celebrity boxing matches. In a horrible fight against Paula Jones, the pugnacious Harding incessantly pursued her opponent, landed a flurry of punches, and won via TKO.
Snoop Dogg — Football
The one and only D-O-Double-G, rapper Snoop Dogg is a passionate sports fan and connoisseur of natural, herbal remedies. A fan of a random assortment of teams — like the Dodgers, Lakers, and Steelers — one of Snoop’s greatest passions is youth football. A certified coach, Snoop runs the Snoop Youth Football League and fields teams of competitive youngsters from Southern California.
When he’s not holding up the clipboard drawing up fade routes, Snoop can be seen training his pencil-thin frame. Is he trying to make an NFL team? No. But props to him for doing what he can to stay in game-day shape.
Ryan Reynolds — New York City Marathon
A heartthrob to the masses and one-time People magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive, Ryan Reynolds is an actor by day and runner by night. One would expect the sexiest man alive to be pretty in shape, right? Like how odd would it be if the person that held that title was just a couch potato with chip crumbs stuck in the creases of his belly and half-empty soda cans lining the floor?
Wouldn’t be right. In 2008, Reynolds ran the New York City Marathon to raise money for Parkinson’s disease. He finished the race in an impressive 3:50:22. That’s roughly an 8:46 mile. For 26.2 miles. If you’re wondering, that’s a lot of miles at once. Good on you, Ryan.
Lil’ Romeo — USC basketball
The son of rapper Master P, Percy Romeo Miller was a child star and rapper. His debut album, Lil’ Romeo, went gold and featured the single “My Baby,” which topped the R&B/Hip-Hop Singles charts. While Lil’ Romeo continued to produce chart-topping albums, he also began to refine his basketball game, turning into one of the top high school point guards in the country.
In 2007, Lil’ Romeo signed a letter of intent to play college basketball at the University of Southern California. At USC, Lil’ Romeo hooped alongside future NBA All-Star DeMar DeRozan. However, Lil’ Romeo’s USC tenure was severely underwhelming; in two years, he logged just 19 minutes.
Ricky Gervais — Celebrity boxing
Best known for writing the international megahit The Office, British comedian, actor, writer, producer, presenter, and musician Ricky Gervais is a man of many titles. One of those titles, however, would not be great boxer. In 2002 (the golden era of celebrity boxing, apparently), Gervais took part in a charity boxing match for Comic Relief, an organization that helps comedians raise money to fight famine in Africa.
Gervais put on the gloves and duked it out against Grant Bovey, a British television personality and businessman. Gervais, who was trained by the Maloney brothers, emerged victorious in a tight bout via split decision. He donated his entire winnings to charity.
Quavo — NBA Celebrity All-Star Game
The lead rapper in the hip-hop group Migos, Atlanta’s very own Quavo was actually a star quarterback in high school. Although Quavo’s team, the Berkmar Patriots, finished the season with a disappointing 1-9 record, he put up solid numbers and was one of the team’s brightest stars. In the season’s lone win, Quavo went 19-0f-25 for 201 yards and three passing touchdowns.
Off the gridiron, Quavo is also known to have a sweet set of handles. In the 2019 edition of the NBA’s annual Celebrity All-Star Game, Quavo dropped a game-high 27 points, including a four-point play. The year before, he led all scorers with 19 points. He’s also balled with NBA players and even won one game out of three against Myles Turner.
Nelly — NBA Celebrity All-Star Game
No Band-Aid, no problem. Rapper and proud St. Louis native Nelly is known for his Air Force 1s, Band-Aid fashion, and his two GRAMMY Awards from 2003 and 2004. His unique hip-hop style of the early-to-mid 2000s helped him gain international fame and sell millions of records. In 2009, Billboard ranked Nelly as the third-best artist of the decade.
While Nelly was clearly known for his work in the studio, his work on the hardwood is not to be forgotten. In 2003, Nelly appeared on the East’s roster at the NBA Celebrity All-Star Game. In the game, the global superstar racked up points and displayed a smooth game that matches up well with the easy flow he’s known for.
NE-YO — ‘American Ninja Warrior’
Shaffer Chimere Smith, better known as NE-YO, is an American R&B singer and songwriter. The man is smoother than silk and is one of the most successful R&B singers of the 2000s. He’s also part ninja. In 2018, NE-YO, along with many other celebrities, took part in the game show American Ninja Warrior on Red Nose Day.
Red Nose Day is a day to raise money to end child poverty. NE-YO, along with his celebrity contemporaries, raised over $42 million for the charity. To boot, NE-YO performed like an all-star and finished the course in dominating fashion. To date, NE-YO is still searching for his first GRAMMY.
Lawrence Taylor — ‘Dancing with the Stars’
Sack master Lawrence Taylor was a menace on the football field for opposing quarterbacks. Unfortunately, Taylor took that grit and craziness off the field and got himself into hot water for some pretty disturbing incidents, which we won’t dive into here. But what made Taylor so special on the field was his impressive footwork and speed, which he utilized to sidestep linemen with ease. However, that foot speed didn’t translate to the slickest of dance moves.
In 2009, Taylor appeared on the hit television show Dancing with the Stars and was not Hall-of-Fame elite. When he left, he had an ear-to-ear grin on his face. Time to hit the links, Taylor’s greatest post-football passion.
Kevin Hart — New York City Marathon
Comedian and actor Kevin Hart is a larger-than-life personality, which is funny because his frame is smaller than most. Standing at 5-foot-4, Kevin Hart packs a lot of energy into his compact frame. And it’s that energy that has helped propel him to the top of the entertainment industry.
It’s also that energy that helped him complete one of the more prestigious marathons in the world, the New York City Marathon. Hart, who wanted to check the marathon off his personal bucket list, finished the race in a very respectable 4:05:06. After mile 20, Hart began cramping up, but still managed to finish and earn the prestigious gold medal.
Justin Timberlake — Golf
Superstar singer Justin Timberlake is about as famous as they come. The former Disney child star has performed at Super Bowls, has multiple GRAMMYs, and even owns a portion of the Memphis Grizzlies. Needless to say, he’s pretty successful at whatever he does.
And that success spans to the links, where Justin Timberlake is a 6-handicap golfer, meaning on a par-72 course, Timberlake can expect to shoot roughly a 78. In an interview with Golf.com, Timberlake, who said he feels watched everywhere he goes, said, “The golf course is … my refuge. It’s where I get a chance to be alone in the world.”
Jimmy Kimmel — MLB All-Star Celebrity Softball Game
New York’s own Jimmy Kimmel is the king of late-night talk show television. His big hit, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, has been nominated for 11 Primetime Emmy Awards. Kimmel, who cites David Letterman as one of his biggest inspirations, was named as one of the world’s 100 most influential people by TIME in 2018. Being from New York, Kimmel naturally has an interest in baseball, with his team being the less-popular New York Mets.
In 2004, the die-hard Mets fanatic had the honor of being chosen to play in the MLB All-Star Celebrity Softball Game. In the game, Mr. Late Night himself launched a home run. Years later, legendary Dodgers announcer Vin Scully dubbed the audio for the home run and announced the moment.
Jason Sudeikis — NBA Celebrity All-Star Game
Look at the form and the concentration! Look at Mr. Sudeikis’ hair as it billows in the wind as he drives in the lane. Sudeikis, a Kansas native, is best known for his roles in Horrible Bosses, Hall Pass, We’re the Millers, and Horrible Bosses 2. After dropping out of community college, which Sudeikis attended on a basketball scholarship, he got involved with improv comedy.
That blossomed into becoming a writer, and later, actor, for Saturday Night Live. After that, all doors opened up and he became a Hollywood staple. A two-time NBA Celebrity All-Star Game representative, Sudeikis dropped 11 points in just the first half of the 2016 game.
Jake Owen — Golf
Country singer Jake Owen wasn’t always destined to be one of Nashville’s biggest stars. Owen got involved with country music after a serious wakeboarding injury. While doing rehab, Owen picked up a guitar and learned to play. What started with a few chords evolved into a prolific music career. Had Owen not injured himself, he may have been a professional golfer.
As a junior golfer, Owen was ranked and intended to golf collegiately at Florida State University. After Florida State, Owen planned to turn pro. Today, he may not be a pro golfer, but Owen can hang with most golfers. At a 2018 Pro-Am event, Owen, who was paired with Jordan Spieth, played as a 1 handicap.
Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers) — LA Marathon
One of the most intense, high-energy bands around, the Red Hot Chili Peppers certainly know how to entertain. A large portion of that energy comes from the band’s bassist and one of its founding members, Flea, born Michael Peter Balzary. In 2009, Rolling Stone’s readers ranked Flea the second-greatest bassist of all time.
To date, Flea has been on every RHCP album and is one of the more iconic figures in music today. Nicknamed Flea because of his high energy and inability to sit still, Flea put his nickname to the test in 2011 when he ran the LA Marathon. Flea ran it to raise money for the Silverlake Conservatory of Music and was featured in Runner’s World magazine.
Elsa Hosk — Basketball and first pitch
No, Swedish model Elsa Hosk did not make this list because she threw out the first pitch for the Toronto Blue Jays. No, the Victoria’s Secret Angel and model actually has a much deeper athletic background than that. After high school, Hosk began playing professional basketball in her home country. For the next two years, Hosk would play basketball and model, balancing the rigorous schedule of juggling both.
Although the women’s professional basketball league in Sweden doesn’t stack up against the WNBA, the physical demands and constant traveling, according to Hosk, prepared her for her modeling career. Wonder how things would have turned out if she broke her nose playing ball …
Edward Norton — New York City Marathon
First rule of Fight Club? Don’t talk about Fight Club. That, for actor and Fight Club star Edward Norton, is the golden rule. While that might be his fictional golden rule, Norton, in real life, is a very philanthropic, albeit guarded, celebrity figure. One of Norton’s biggest missions, outside of his acting career, is helping raise money for the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust.
The Maasai are an East African people primarily located in Kenya and Tanzania. One of their greatest strengths is long-distance running, and when Norton decided to run the New York City Marathon in 2009, he fully integrated with the Maasai and trained with them. In addition to training with the best runners in the world, Norton raised money for the aforementioned charity. He finished the race in 3:48:01.
Dolph Lundgren — Celebrity boxing
Swedish actor Dolph Lundgren has seemingly starred in every action movie on the planet. It’s his niche and his life. Being a badass action star was always his calling, so being typecast into that role didn’t seem to faze Lundgren. You know what else doesn’t faze him? Getting hit in the face. That’s because Lundgren is a 3rd dan black belt in Kyokushin karate.
In 1980 and 1981, Lundgren won the European championships, and in 1982, he won the Australian championship. Simply put, the man’s hands are like lethal weapons. In 2007, at the youthful age of 47, Lundgren stepped into the boxing ring and fought former UFC fighter Oleg Taktarov. Lundgren lost via unanimous decision, but, to be fair, he was eight years older than his opponent.
Derek Hough — ‘American Ninja Warrior’
A professional Latin and ballroom dancer, Derek Hough is one of the top dancers in the world today. As a dancer on Dancing with the Stars, Hough has won a record six seasons and has won two Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Choreography. There isn’t a move under the sun that Derek can’t flawlessly execute.
Hough also had the honor of coaching two American ice skaters for the 2014 Winter Olympics. The skaters would go on to win the gold in ice dancing, the first in U.S. history in that event. In 2017, Hough, who looks more like a bodybuilder than a dancer, competed on American Ninja Warrior on Red Nose Day.
Cuba Gooding Jr. — NHL All-Star Celebrity Shootout
Academy Award-winning actor (Jerry Maguire) Cuba Gooding Jr. has been a Hollywood mainstay since the early ’90s. His roles have spanned from the serious (A Few Good Men) to the funny (Rat Race). One thing that remains consistent with Gooding, however, is his love of hockey. Gooding is a splendid skater with a nice shot. He’s participated in numerous NHL All-Star Celebrity Shootout events and was even a guest commentator for an LA Kings home game.
Per an ESPN Page 2 interview, the actor said he’s “had the opportunity to play in celebrity games and in pick-up games in L.A. with Mario Lemieux, Luc Robitaille, and a lot of the guys who play on the Kings.”
Bill Murray — Golf
Comedic legend Bill Murray is a living American classic. Murray rose to fame on Saturday Night Live and evolved into one of Hollywood’s most unique characters. With a deadpan delivery, Murray’s comedic humor is drier than the Sahara and more perfect than an In-N-Out burger (no, we’re not paid to say that).
As a teen, Murray worked as a golf caddy, which explains his deeply ingrained love of golf. Murray, who has a golf apparel clothing line, is actually an impressive golfer. He’s a 7 handicap and is a fixture at Pro-Am golf events around the country. In a sport notoriously lacking pizzazz, one can always count on Murray and his merry gang to inject some vitality into it.
Justin Bieber — NBA Celebrity All-Star Game
Bieber can ball. Look at this baby-faced Bieber, sans tattoos, sporting his globally recognizable mop-top hairstyle. This was the golden age of Bieber, before Selena Gomez reached in and took a precious part of his soul out. Bieber, who made his name singing pop songs, is a huge sports fan, and a fairly athletic one at that.
If you don’t believe us, check out this video of Bieber doing his best Kyrie Irving impression. At the 2011 Celebrity All-Star Game, Bieber won the MVP Award, finishing the game with eight points and four assists. After a multi-year hiatus, he returned to the game, where he did not put up the same kind of numbers he did as a teen.
Terrell Owens — NBA Celebrity All-Star Game
Arguably the best player to ever don the NBA Celebrity All-Star Game jersey, Hall of Fame wide receiver Terrell Owens is a freak athlete and, by default, a great basketball player. In 2008 and 2009, Owens was named the comically entertaining celebrity basketball game’s MVP, thanks to thunderous dunks and a nice shot.
In the 2009 edition, Owens dropped a game-high 17 points and led his team to a three-point victory. While Owens could technically get an asterisk next to his name because he’s not really a celebrity like the rest of the stars listed here, he still is, by definition, a true celebrity. His antics transcended the gridiron and, since retirement, he’s still managed to stay highly relevant.
Manute Bol, William Perry — Celebrity boxing
Size disparity? Yep. Everything about these two is different. Their weight, height, girth, and body structure. It’s like apples and oranges, and it made for one interesting night in the ring. Former NBA player Manute Bol, who is tied for the tallest NBA player in history, is the only player to finish his career with more blocks than points.
His opponent, William “The Fridge” Perry, is notorious for lining up at fullback in Super Bowl 20 and scoring a touchdown despite being a defensive tackle. In 2002, the two lined up against each other in a celebrity boxing match, with Bol dominating the fight thanks to his massive reach. Perry, who hardly moved during the fight, lost by unanimous decision.
Justin Bieber — NHL All-Star Celebrity Shootout
More Bieber! Being a Canadian, Bieber, of course, can skate. Hockey is in Canada’s DNA. While that may be slight hyperbole, there is no exaggerating the Toronto native’s love of hockey. A Maple Leafs fan, Bieber can lace up the skates and zip around the ice with aplomb. And all of that skating gave Bieber the opportunity to skate at the 2017 NHL All-Star Celebrity Shootout.
At the game, Bieber was notoriously checked into the board by former NHL great Chris Pronger. Despite the hit, Bieber maintained his composure and put on a show for his fans. In the game, Bieber racked up a goal thanks to an empty net.
Hope Solo — ‘Dancing with the Stars’
Well, Hope Solo’s career with the U.S. Women’s National Team ended in an ugly debacle. Prior to the minor meltdown, Solo was one of the most recognizable female soccer stars on the planet and a key part of the United States’ success in international play. One key element of Solo’s game was quick footwork that allowed her to get in front of the ball rapidly.
Well, it turns out that those quick feet would also help Solo on Dancing with the Stars. In 2011, Solo appeared on the 13th season of the most famous dancing show on television. She and her partner, Maksim Chmerkovskiy, were eliminated in the semifinal round.
Arne Duncan — NBA Celebrity All-Star Game
The United States Secretary of Education under Barack Obama, Arne Duncan was a somewhat controversial figure for the policies he implemented or attempted to implement. What he wasn’t bad at was basketball. Duncan, who attended Harvard, was a co-captain and was named first-team Academic All-American. Go figure.
After college, Duncan pursued a career in professional basketball in the Land Down Under, Australia. When that career ended, Duncan began his endeavor to reform and improve public education in the United States. He’s participated in three NBA Celebrity All-Star Games. In 2014, he put up a game-high 20 points and notched a double-double.
Emmitt Smith — ‘Dancing with the Stars’
While some wouldn’t consider Emmitt Smith to be the greatest running back in NFL history, there is no arguing that he’s the NFL’s all-time leading rusher. Smith, who won three Super Bowls with the Cowboys, was a one-of-a-kind back that was blessed with speed, agility, good health, and a great offensive line.
Two years after retiring from football, Smith was featured on Dancing with the Stars. In the show’s third season, Smith paired with professional dancer Cheryl Burke. The two had mesmerizing charm and charisma and were praised for complementing each other’s disparate dancing styles. In the end, Smith and Burke won the season.