The 30 best athlete movie cameos
Movies are great, but they’re even better when they have a recognizable cast audiences can relate to. To many sports fans, it’s exciting to see their favorite athletes on the big screen. Sports legends from Michael Jordan to Derek Jeter, Mike Tyson, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar have made cameos in box office hits. Which athlete’s cameo is best? There’s only one way to find out!
30. O.J. Simpson in The Naked Gun
Blame Simpson’s off-screen activity for his placement on this list. In The Naked Gun, Simpson plays Officer Nordberg, a law enforcement agent who always seems to get himself into painful situations. The Hall of Fame running back did a great job in his role on the big screen, getting a ton of laughs for his performance.
Crowds burst out in laughter at some of the antics the former MVP got himself into throughout the film. But it feels unfair to place Simpson any higher on the list due to his criminal history. He did a great job in The Naked Gun, but the movie doesn’t feel the same as it did prior to Simpson’s massive trial.
29. Patrick Ewing in Senseless
The 1998 film Senseless follows a college student who, hoping to win a competition, takes an experimental drug that is said to heighten all his senses by a factor of 10. One day, however, the character takes an extra dose of the drug and finds out about a shocking side effect.
Due to the extra dose, the character discovers that for one day, only four of his five senses would properly function at once. This leads to a hilarious scene at Madison Square Garden, where the protagonist ends up on the bench at a Knicks game and makes fun of legendary center Patrick Ewing!
28. Tom Brady and Lawyer Milloy in Stuck on You
The 2003 film Stuck on You featured Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear, who played a set of conjoined twins. But something many viewers may not have even noticed is that Super Bowl champions Tom Brady and Lawyer Milloy played a pair of computer nerds in a brief scene in the film.
Brady and Milloy’s roles in the film were so minor that they weren’t actually credited for the film. In their scene, the football stars can be seen trying to enlarge a photo of Cher on the computer. Maybe it’s for the best that Brady’s role was so minor, because the quarterback was a total geek in his role.
27. Hines Ward in The Dark Knight Rises
This brief cameo may be the shortest of any on the list, but it remains memorable nonetheless. In the iconic The Dark Knight Rises, legendary Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Hines Ward makes a quick appearance in one of the film’s most destructive scenes.
If you blink, you might miss this scene. Ward receives a kickoff to begin a football game, but the field begins to collapse. A massive hole forms in the ground and consumes all the other football players on the field. In the movie, Ward was actually a member of a fictional professional team located in Gotham. But after this scene, he seemed to be the only player left on the team.
26. Rex Ryan in That’s My Boy
Halfway into his six-year stint as the head coach of the New York Jets, Rex Ryan made a surprising movie cameo in That’s My Boy. Ryan’s appearance in the film is especially ironic, considering he plays an obsessive Boston sports fan. “He stepped in there and nailed it,” Adam Sandler said of the coach’s performance.
Ryan named his character Jim Nance, which was a nod to the Patriots’ star running back of the same name who dominated throughout the 1960s and had a quick stint with the Jets in 1973. Ryan’s marveling at Tom Brady’s jawline and cradling of a Bill Belichick bobblehead is hilariously ironic coming from their rival head coach.
25. Sammy Sosa in On the Line
Legendary Cubs home run masher Sammy Sosa made a small cameo in the movie On the Line alongside a couple of teammates and the team broadcaster in 2001. He wasn’t much of an actor, but the Dominican right fielder was a memorable figure in the film.
Sosa’s big scene came when he blasted a foul ball, which hit an unlucky spectator in the groin for the third time that season. Sosa’s fellow Cubs teammates Eric Young and Damon Buford also appeared in the film, as well as Chip Caray, who served as a broadcaster for the team for nearly a decade.
24. Tom Brady in Ted 2
It’s not too often you see an active sports superstar make a cameo in a high-profile movie, but that’s exactly what happened when Patriots quarterback Tom Brady appeared in Ted 2. The six-time Super Bowl champion made a legitimately funny appearance in the film, bringing crowds to laughter in movie theaters everywhere.
In his big scene, Brady is seen sleeping in his bed when John (played by Mark Wahlberg) and Ted approach and watch him slumber. Brady wakes up in anger that the two are watching him, throwing both out of the house. When the QB tosses Ted off his balcony, he throws the stuffed bear with a perfect spiral.
23. LeBron James in Trainwreck
Tom Brady isn’t the only sports superstar to steal the show on the big screen. NBA superstar LeBron James put on an awesome performance in Trainwreck, even outshining the hilarious Bill Hader despite his limited acting experience. In one of his best scenes, the three-time NBA champion offers dating advice in the form of a spoken-word monologue of Kanye West’s “Gold Digger.”
James was more than a one-scene wonder, though. The forward’s character was super cheap, and James nailed the part. In one scene, he says he would drive 40 minutes out of his way to buy a pair of sunglasses for $30. Many fans have suggested the basketball player should go into acting once he retires from the NBA.
22. Cam Neely in Dumb and Dumber
The legendary Boston Bruins right winger might not be a household name (despite his NHL success), but most fans of the film Dumb and Dumber probably recognize his face. Neely plays the role of confrontational trucker “Sea Bass,” who has a run-in with Lloyd and Harry (played by Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels) at a diner.
After he’s plunked with a saltshaker, Sea Bass feels the urge to dish out a beating to Harry. Despite being encouraged to do so by his friends, Sea Bass ultimately decides to spit a wad of chewing tobacco on Harry’s meal. The duo ends up getting revenge on Sea Bass, and the antagonist eventually loses the battle to Lloyd and Harry.
21. NBA stars in Like Mike
With a cast of NBA superstars that featured Allen Iverson, Dirk Nowitzki, Chris Webber, Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, and many more, Like Mike brought a legendary array of talent to the big screen in one of the more memorable sports movies of the early 2000s. Featuring 14 All-Stars, several legendary broadcasters, and even some real-life NBA referees, the film felt in some ways like an NBA All-Star game.
Calvin (played by Lil’ Bow Wow) took the NBA by storm in the film, making highlight reel plays against All-Stars like David Robinson, Tracy McGrady, and Vince Carter as he guided his team to improbable success. Who knew watching NBA stars get schooled by a kid could be so fun?
20. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in The Mummy Returns
The Mummy Returns isn’t known for being a legendary, can’t-miss movie. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Critics and audiences alike gave the 2001 film some poor reviews, but that doesn’t change the fact that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson gave a WWE-worthy performance as one of the main characters.
Playing the part of the Scorpion King, Johnson is pretty much the only character who is worth watching throughout the film. Despite the fact that the film uses some awful CGI in place of Johnson for some scenes, the actor comes out of this movie with a passing grade due to his performance.
19. Dale Earnhardt in BASEketball
The late, great Dale Earndhardt may be gone, but he will be remembered for a long time. His appearance as a NASCAR driver moonlighting as a taxi driver with a need for speed in the cult classic BASEketball won’t be forgotten any time soon either. The NASCAR Hall of Fame driver, whose son Dale Jr. is also a Hall of Famer, was a major hit in his cameo on the big screen.
In his hilarious cameo, Earnhardt surprises everyone with his driving antics as a taxi driver. When he’s asked if he can go any faster, the NASCAR driver puts on his trademark black Goodwrench race helmet, slams on the gas, and yells “HANG ON!”
18. Wilt Chamberlain in Conan the Destroyer
Legendary NBA Hall of Famer Wilt “The Stilt” Chamberlain is one of the greatest basketball players in history, and he’s the only person to score 100 points in an NBA game. But the big man could do more than score buckets. He also made a surprise appearance in the 1985 film Conan the Destroyer, which also featured Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Conan the Destroyer was an over-the-top film, and Chamberlain’s performance was no exception. Playing the role of Bombaata, a warrior who is sent to check up on Conan and ultimately betray him, the former center puts on a great performance in his cameo on the big screen.
17. Reggie Jackson in The Naked Gun
The 1988 film The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! featured a cast full of superstars in the sporting world, from O.J. Simpson to Dick Vitale, Jay Johnstone, and Mel Allen. But one cameo stood out above the rest: Yankees legend Reggie Jackson, who played the role of an unexpected assassin.
Jackson, known as “Mr. October,” is hilarious throughout the film. His character gets hypnotized, walks in from the outfield and grabs a gun that had been conveniently placed underneath second base, but before he can do any damage, an undercover officer disguised as an overzealous umpire (played by Leslie Nielsen) tackles him.
16. John McEnroe in Mr. Deeds
Adam Sandler has featured many athletic figures in his films, but there may not be a more iconic sports cameo in an Adam Sandler movie than John McEnroe’s appearance in Mr. Deeds. Sandler, playing a small-town, blue-collar type who is the surprising heir to a billion-dollar empire, meets McEnroe and goes out for a crazy night on the town with the tennis player.
McEnroe and Sandler’s wild night is chock-full of wild shenanigans, all of which is revealed on a tabloid news show the following morning. The two celebrities make a perfect team in the film, and McEnroe’s cameo takes the movie to a whole new level.
15. Brett Favre in There’s Something About Mary
The 1998 romantic comedy There’s Something About Mary is one of the most iconic rom-coms of the decade. Cameron Diaz stole the hearts of fans throughout the film, constantly referencing her mysterious boyfriend named Brett, who remains unseen for the majority of the movie.
At the end of the movie, however, there’s a surprise twist: The secret Brett that Diaz’s character has been dating this whole time is actually none other than Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre! In a highlight scene from the film, Ben Stiller’s character incorrectly pronounces the quarterback’s last name “Fav-ruh.” The surprise cameo by the Packers quarterback was a can’t-miss moment in ’90s cinema.
14. The Los Angeles Clippers in Van Wilder
The 2002 comedy Van Wilder: Party Liaison stars a young Ryan Reynolds, and some of the players from the 2002 Los Angeles Clippers made a hilarious cameo, including Darius Miles, Quentin Richardson, and Michael Olowakandi. Playing the part of a college basketball team in desperate need of an inspiring halftime speech, the Clippers looked to Reynolds’ character for encouragement.
He promises that if the basketball team wins, he’ll throw a big party over the weekend to celebrate the win. Miles responds with, “You invite them freak honeys from Mount Holyoke?” Reynolds says he already invited them, and the team wins the game.
13. Bob Uecker in Major League
One of the most memorable comedies of the 1980s, Major League is a classic sports film that boasts one of the most hilarious cameos of any movie on this list. Former Major League Baseball player turned broadcaster Bob Uecker delivers a classic deadpan delivery as a Cleveland Indians play-by-play broadcaster.
Uecker was full of iconic quotes. Despite broadcasting for the Indians, he is extremely cynical about the team. When he’s scolded for cursing on-air, Uecker says, “Don’t worry, nobody is listening anyway.” His “JUST a bit outside” quote is an all-timer, as well. Uecker’s sarcastic, deadpan style is a highlight of the movie, and it’s a major reason why he has most of the film’s most iconic quotes.
12. Lee Trevino in Happy Gilmore
Though he’s not even the most notable cameo in Happy Gilmore — Bob Barker gets into a fistfight with Happy in a charity tournament — Lee Trevino makes a hilarious cameo as a minor character in the classic film. The former professional golfer only has a brief line, but it’s one of the funniest one-liners in the entire film.
When Happy Gilmore taunts his archnemesis Shooter McGavin by saying he’s going to beat him on the course, McGavin responds with, “Yeah, right. And Grizzly Adams had a beard.” Trevino corrects McGavin, saying, “Grizzly Adams did have a beard.” The line is undeniably funny.
11. Dale Earndhart Jr. in Talladega Nights
One of the most successful drivers in NASCAR history, Dale Earndhardt Jr. makes a fitting appearance in the film Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, which features Will Ferrell as the main character. Earndhart Jr. is one of a number of NASCAR drivers to play themselves in the film, but his appearance is the most special.
Ricky Bobby, played by Ferrell, takes the NASCAR scene by storm in the film and quickly becomes one of the top drivers on the scene. But despite being one of Bobby’s competitors, Earndhardt Jr. lets his fellow racer know that he’s actually a big fan, and asks for an autograph.
10. Mike Ditka in Kicking and Screaming
One of Will Ferrell’s earliest movies, Kicking and Screaming is sometimes overlooked in the long list of the classics he’s been a part of. The film also featured one of the funniest sports cameos, with legendary Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka serving as a highly competitive assistant soccer coach alongside Ferrell.
Among Ditka’s comical highlights is a fight with Will Ferrell’s character in which Ferrell screams at Ditka to “Go to hell, and while you’re there, why don’t you grab me a juicebox!” Ditka also constantly forgets the name of one of the players on his team and calls him “Bing Bong.”
9. Dan Marino in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective
The 1993 classic comedy Ace Ventura: Pet Detective revolves around the Miami Dolphins, which made for a natural fit for the football team’s starting quarterback, Dan Marino. Ace Ventura (played by Jim Carrey) steals the show, but Marino holds his own throughout the film.
The plot of the film revolves around the Dolphins’ kidnapped team mascot. Soon, players on the team are kidnapped as well, including Marino. Ventura eventually closes in on the culprits, but not before getting himself into all sorts of wacky misadventures. Marino’s awesome cameo inspires one of the funnier lines in the classic movie: “Laces out, Dan!”
8. Lawrence Taylor in The Waterboy
One of Adam Sandler’s classic sports movies, The Waterboy features Sandler as a stuttering, angry, unlikely football superstar named Bobby Boucher. Sandler’s character, raised by an overprotective mother, is the water boy for a successful college football team. He eventually gets fired and becomes the water boy for a new team, before joining as a linebacker.
Boucher instantly becomes a star player for his team and is soon invited to serve as a guest speaker at a children’s football camp coached by Lawrence Taylor. After Boucher gives a motivational speech to the kids, Lawrence Taylor hilariously reminds them not to smoke crack.
7. Lance Armstrong in Dodgeball
Say what you will about Lance Armstrong’s athletic career, but his cameo in Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story was an amazing scene. Vince Vaughn’s character, Peter, is the captain of a dodgeball team that appears destined to compete in the world championship, but Peter eventually skips out on his team at the last minute. Enter Lance Armstrong.
When Peter seems at his wit’s end, Armstrong gives him a memorable speech on the importance of not giving up. The surprising speech inspires Peter to rejoin his dodgeball team as they prepare to face off against Ben Stiller’s Purple Cobras team in the world championship.
6. Mike Tyson in The Hangover
At one point in time, Mike Tyson had a pretty terrible public image. But for more than a decade, the former boxer has been viewed in a largely positive light, thanks in part to his appearance in The Hangover. One of the best comedies of the 2000s, the film brought Tyson back into the public’s good graces.
Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis star in the film as a trio of friends who take a trip to Las Vegas. When they wake up after a wild night, they realize they’ve stolen a pet tiger from Tyson’s house in the middle of the night. When Tyson tracks down the trio, they surprisingly become friends and get into all sorts of crazy shenanigans. (What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.)
5. Alex Karras in Blazing Saddles
Four-time NFL Pro Bowler and former professional wrestler Alex Karras was a wildly successful athlete, but he may be best recognized for his role as Mongo in Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles. Karras stole the show in the 1974 comedy, playing a dim-witted outlaw who turns good.
In one of the funniest moments of the film, Karras famously punches a horse for parking illegally. The character’s evolution from villain to hero is one of the highlights of Blazing Saddles. The former defensive tackle was intimidating yet lovable in a way that was perfect for the Mel Brooks film. Karras also starred in the ABC sitcom Webster alongside his wife, Susan Clark.
4. Derek Jeter in The Other Guys
The 2010 film The Other Guys has one of the most star-studded casts of any film, featuring Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Samuel L. Jackson, Eva Mendes, Michael Keaton, Rob Riggle, and more. But another member of the superstar cast was legendary Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, who made a hilarious cameo.
Wahlberg’s character has a troubled past in the film. In one scene, he reveals that he accidentally shot Jeter in Yankee Stadium right before Game 7 of the World Series, costing the Yankees a championship. His character becomes known as “The Yankee Clipper,” and another character tells him, “You shoulda shot A-Rod (Alex Rodriguez)!”
3. NBA stars in Space Jam
Speaking of movies with star-studded casts, the 1996 film Space Jam features maybe as many athletes as any movie in history. Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Muggsy Bogues, Shawn Bradley, Larry Johnson, Larry Bird, Vlade Divac, Charles Oakley, Alonzo Mourning, and more NBA stars all make appearances in the film. Big-name actors like Bill Murray and Danny DeVito also joined in on the fun.
Space Jam was a classic movie of the 1990s, and anyone who grew up playing sports in that era remembers the movie well. One of the film’s best scenes features Michael Jordan and Larry Bird on the golf course alongside Bill Murray and Wayne Knight.
2. Andre the Giant in The Princess Bride
Former wrestler Andre the Giant is one of the most recognizable figures in WWF history, but he also made a memorable cameo as Fezzik in the iconic 80s movie, The Princess Bride. The lovable giant was an awesome sidekick to Inigo Montoya, a Spanish fencing master who seeks to gain revenge on his enemy.
Andre the Giant was the perfect casting for his part, and The Princess Bride became the defining role of his short yet memorable acting career. Fezzik is a wonderful character who speaks in rhyming couplets, achieves nearly impossible feats of strength, and develops a heartwarming camaraderie with Montoya.
1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Airplane!
One of the best comedies in history, Airplane! features NBA Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as one of the film’s prominent characters. The Lakers legend played the role of copilot Roger Murdoch alongside Peter Graves as Captain Clarence Oveur. Abdul-Jabbar was a part of several memorable scenes throughout the film, often teaming up with the captain.
In one of the film’s best scenes, Abdul-Jabbar gets confused at the flight commands, being that his name is Roger. He then says, “We have clearance, Clarence.” The captain responds with, “Roger, Roger. What’s our vector, Victor?” The film is filled with deadpan comedy, and Abdul-Jabbar is a perfect fit for his role.