15 of the best performances by athletes in movies

  • Some of the athletes in the world have also taken turns in movies and television.
  • These athletes-turned-actors often play an amplified version of themselves, but will also occasionally take on an entirely new role.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Superstar athletes are used to putting on a show.

Whether it’s a dazzling highlight on the court or in a boxing ring or a thoughtful post-game interview, the best athletes in the world are used to being able to perform on cue.

Some athletes are able to take this particular talent and parlay it into a career in acting, whether playing a version of themselves on screen or taking on an entirely new persona.

Below are 15 athletes who were able to transition into film and television roles successfully.


LeBron James is undeniably the biggest star in basketball, winning three NBA championships with the Heat and Cavaliers before joining the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2018 offseason.


James has impressed in numerous acting performances, playing a hilarious version of himself in “Trainwreck” as well as hosting “Saturday Night Live.”

Universal PicturesLeBron James with Bill Hader in ‘Trainwreck.’

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won six NBA titles during his incredible 20 years in the league.


Abdul-Jabbar made numerous turns in film and television, none more infamous than his performance as co-pilot Roger Murdock in “Aeroplane!”

Paramount PicturesKareem Abdul-Jabbar as Roger Murdock in ‘Aeroplane!’

Before he was well known as an actor, Carl Weathers was an NFL linebacker, signing with the Oakland Raiders after going undrafted in 1970.

Al Levine/NBC/NBCU Photo BankCarl Weathers on ‘Saturday Night Live.’

While his football career would peter out, Weathers went on to be a phenomenal actor, including an iconic performance as Apollo Creed in the “Rocky” film series.

United ArtistsCarl Weathers in ‘Rocky IV.’

Mike Tyson was the most dominant heavyweight of his time, knocking out 44 opponents during his career as a fighter.


After boxing, Tyson could still be found on the big screen. He’s best known for his role in “The Hangover” franchise, but also had his own animated show, “Mike Tyson Mysteries” on Adult Swim.


Andre the Giant was one of the most imposing wrestlers in the history of WWE, overpowering opponents with his incredible size and strength.

WWEAndre the Giant wrestling.

Outside the wrestling ring, Andre the Giant is likely best known for his role in “The Princess Bride,” where he played Fezzik.

20th Century FoxAndre the Giant in ‘The Princess Bride.’

Ray Allen will go down in NBA history as one of the best shooters to ever play the game, hitting one of the most iconic shots of all time — his Game 6 buzzer-beater in the 2013 NBA Finals.


Just two years into his NBA career, before he was the superstar he would become, Allen starred alongside Denzel Washington in “He Got Game” as Jesus Shuttlesworth, a high school basketball phenom navigating all the difficulties such a position brings.

Touchstone PicturesRay Allen playing Jesus Shuttlesworth in ‘He Got Game.’

Brett Favre was one of the greatest quarterbacks of his generation, setting numerous records in his 20 years in the NFL.

Getty ImagesBrett Favre with the Green Bay Packers.

Favre played himself for laughs in the 1998 comedy “There’s Something About Mary.”

20th Century FoxBrett Favre in ‘There’s Something About Mary.’

Ronda Rousey was the face of fighting while she dominated the UFC women’s bantamweight division.


Rousey has since been seen in more films, including “Furious 7,” “The Expendables 3,” and “Entourage.”

Universal PicturesRonda Rousey in ‘Furious 7.’

Dan Marino made nine Pro Bowls during his 18 years as quarterback for the Miami Dolphins.


Marino played himself alongside Jim Carrey in “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.”

Warner Bros.Dan Marino in ‘Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.’

Michael Jordan is widely considered the greatest player of all time, winning six titles with the Chicago Bulls.

Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesMichael Jordan with the Chicago Bulls.

For non-basketball fans, Jordan’s superstar turn came in “Space Jam,” where he teamed up with Bugs Bunny and company to take down the Monstars.

Warner Bros.Michael Jordan in ‘Space Jam.’

Lance Armstrong was the most famous cyclist in the world, dominating the Tour de France before a doping scandal brought him down.

Getty ImagesLance Armstrong riding.

Armstrong has since joked about his scandal, appearing in HBO’s “Tour de Pharmacy.” He also had a hilarious role in “Dodgeball,” playing himself.

HBOLance Armstrong in ‘Tour de Pharmacy.’

Before he was one of the biggest movie stars on the planet, Dwyane Johnson was a hero in the WWE, known as The Rock.

Ron Elkman/Getty Images SportDwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson.

Johnson is now a dominant force at the box office, playing a huge role in the “Fast and Furious” franchise, as well as starring in countless other action and adventure films.

Universal PicturesVin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson in ‘Fast Five’ (2011).

Gina Carano was one of the first big names in MMA, compiling an impressive 7-1 record.


Carano has since gone into acting and is best known for her roles in Deadpool and Fast & Furious 6, with fellow athlete The Rock. But her best role was probably as the lead in the underrated action flick, “Haywire.” She will also have a starring role in the upcoming Star Wars TV series, “The Mandalorian,” along with fellow athlete Carl Weathers.

Daniel Boczarski/WireImage for Disney

John Cena has also parlayed his success in the WWE into a solid acting career.


Cena appeared in “Trainwreck” in 2015, and in 2018 showed off both his comedy and action chops in “Blockers” and “Bumblebee” respectively.

Universal PicturesJohn Cena in ‘Trainwreck.’

Terry Bradshaw played quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers for 14 seasons before pivoting to a role in the broadcast studio.

Abbie Parr/Getty ImagesTerry Bradshaw interviews Nick Foles after Super Bowl LII.

Bradshaw has had cameos in numerous films, including “Failure to Launch” and “Father Figures.” He also appeared on the Fox reality competition, “The Masked Singer.”

Paramount PicturesTerry Bradshaw in ‘Failure to Launch.’

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