It got me to thinking – what is the best performance by an active sports star in a movie?
The answer was easy:
Now, we’re not talking about a cameo appearance, like any relevant sports star of the mid-1990s in Jerry Maguire or various players in various sports movies. We’re also not concerned about retired sports stars working in films, like the aforementioned Chamberlain. And, there is no chance that Shaq would ever be on this list.
Some website even had the gall to try and list the top-10 sports stars in movies and listed Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Michael Jordan without even mentioning Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
That is blasphemy.
Not only did Kareem appear in movies while he was dominating the NBA, he showed his acting chops in various forms.
He was a badass in Game of Death with Bruce Lee, a movie in which he wasn’t credited, but remained a major part of the film.
He was great in a bit role in Airplane! especially when he and Joey had the famous interaction:
Joey: Wait a minute. I know you. You’re Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. You play basketball for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Roger Murdock: 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.
Roger Murdock: I think you should go back to your seat now Joey. Right Clarence?
Captain Oveur: Nahhhhhh, he’s not bothering anyone, let him stay here.
Roger Murdock: But just remember, my name is…
[showing his nametag] ROGER MURDOCK. I’m an airline pilot.
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.
Roger Murdock: 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.
Classic. Not only did Kareem handle the part exceptionally, he drops relevant opponent names – Bill Walton and Bob Lanier.
Then, in one of our favorite movies of all-time, Kareem makes an appearance in “Fletch” during the classic dream sequence.
It’s not like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was similar to Chad Ochocinco in his field of play – very good, but not the best, while bringing gobs of attention to himself. He was the best player in the NBA during his time, and if not the best, certainly a top-five player.
And, he had the ability to carry himself well on the silver screen.
It’s not even close, either. Any list of active sports stars in movies starts and ends with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.