LeBron James is primed to take Hollywood by storm with Space Jam: A New Legacy coming to theaters and HBO Max on July 16. This isn’t James’ first movie, however, and he now joins a proud tradition. The Los Angeles Lakers, thanks to its proximity to Hollywood, has had many of its star players try their hand at acting. Here are some Lakers legends Gossip Cop has spotted on the big screen.
Space Jam: A New Legacy is not James’ acting debut. He’s been a successful producer for years, even creating and voicing a character in his own animated series The LeBron’s. He also holds credits on numerous documentaries and even hosted Saturday Night Live at the age of 22. Not too shabby.
In terms of his acting career, James is best known for his guest role in the Judd Apatow film Trainwreck also starring John Cena and Wu-Tang Clan rapper Method Man. James played himself and achieved critical acclaim for the role. The New Yorker highlighted his performance as “the greatest motion-picture acting performance by an active professional basketball player of all time,” rivaled only by the next Laker legend on this list.
Anthony Davis And Kyle Kuzma
James brought his teammates along for the ride in Space Jam: A New Legacy. Davis Gossip Cop wonders if any of the other Lakers feel a bit snubbed. The film features loads of other NBA players/buddies of James, including Chirs Paul and Uncle Drew star Kyrie Irving.
In the GOAT conversation, Kareem Adbul-Jabbar is often considered alongside Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell as the greatest center who’s ever lived. As an actor, however, Abdul-Jabbar stands alone. His role as co-pilot Roger Murdock in 1980’s Airplane! remains the high watermark for athletes in film.
If that’s not enough, Abdul-Jabbar also stood toe-to-toe with Bruce Lee in Game of Death. The all-time leading point scorer in NBA history can also be spotted in the Chevy Chase classic Fletch and has appeared in episodes of everything from iZombie to Scrubs. He even wrote an episode of Veronica Mars. Abdul-Jabbar’s film career trumps just about every other NBA player, and it only continues to grow.
Shaquille O’Neal’s outsized personality and love of fame made him a natural fit for Hollywood. He starred alongside Nick Nolte and fellow NBA legend Bob Cousy in 1994’s Blue Chips. That was only the beginning of a rather infamous film career.
O’Neal appeared in a series of movies typically regarded as some of the worst ever made. Kazaam was followed by Superman spin-off Steel, which combines for a whopping 17% on rotten tomatoes. He also had guest spots in Freddy Got Fingered and Grown Ups 2. O’Neal is one of the most dominant and beloved athletes of his generation, and his second life as an analyst on Inside the NBA is always a treat. You should focus on that before you focus on his films.
“Big Game James” was as integral a part of the Showtime Lakers as anyone else. The Finals MVP holds a lesser-known accolade: tallest Klingon ever. After meeting actor Robert O’Reilly on a plane, Worthy was talked into appearing on Star Trek: The Next Generation. He played Koral, a Klingon mercenary in the episode “Gambit, Part II.” Worthy’s acting career didn’t extend very far beyond this episode, although he did pop up on a 2010 episode of the Price is Right.
Chamberlain’s movie career began and ended with 1984’s Conan the Destroyer. The four-time MVP starred alongside Arnold Schwarzenneger, Mako, and Grace Jones. It’s a glorious time capsule and would be Chamberlain’s only film role. In a total coincidence, one of Chamberlain’s final television appearances would be with another Conan. On Late Night, you can enjoy Chamberlain talk about how Michael Jordan wouldn’t have been able to hang with the stars of his era.
Three-time NBA champion Rick Fox was able to jump from his team to Holywood as few players ever have. While in the NBA, Fox starred in the Spike Lee film He Got Game, starring fellow NBAer Ray Allen, and played inmate Jackson Vahue on HBO’s Oz. He later starred in many romantic comedies, children’s shows, and currently plays Darius Nash on Greenleaf. You owe it to yourself to see Dope, where Fox had a bit role as Councilman Blackmon. Fox has now been an actor far longer than he was ever a player.
Kobe Bryant remains a legend not just of the NBA, but of the city of Los Angeles. The Hall of Famer won an Academy Award for his short film Dear Basketball. In the late nineties, Bryant was a bonafide teen heartthrob as well, appearing as himself on Moesha, Sister, Sister, and Hang Time. He also had a cameo alongside fellow Laker Nick Van Exel in the cult classic Love And Basketball. Bryant’s influence is going to be felt for generations to come.