NBA pros on the big screen: can these stars act?

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NBA pros on the big screen: can these stars act?

Does every NBA superstar really want to be in the movies? You might think so, given the long and checkered history of players going to Hollywood (not to mention the amount of flops in today’s games). As the recently released “Space Jam: A New Legacy” ushered in the era of remakes, the emerging sub-genre of films based on hoops talent, here are some of the best and most popular films by pro basketball players starting in the 1970s. Here’s a guide to poor performance.


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If we’re to believe this goofy 1979 movie — and why not? — Basketball at the height of disco meant players splitting buckets to celebrate, coached by astrology and Dr. Jay survives as the best man. Most of his melodious performances have been shot in slow motion, adding to its swagger. In one scene, he seduces a woman by taking her to the playground and submerging himself in street clothes. In another, he enters a game by hot air balloon, wearing a shiny silver uniform backed by funky soul music. If John Travolta had a sports counterpart, this was it.


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In this easy-going drama about a coach (played by Gabe Kaplan at the height of his “Welcome Back, Kotter” fame) who builds an underdog college program, Nike star Bernard King plays a sensible, live-in pool hustler. The performance provides a silky jump shot. He keeps up with a bunch of actors without overpowering the cast too much in court. Compared to the busy video-game aesthetic of “Space Jam,” this character-driven film feels refreshingly human.


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There’s no more famous jock cameo than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, pretending himself to be a pilot of an ordinary commercial airplane. The idea that the seven-foot superstar is able to disguise himself even after being challenged by a young fan is one of the countless jokes in this classic comedy. But when his frustration is supposed to turn into anger, Abdul-Jabbar can’t overcome his quiet untamed conservatism.

In the greatest basketball movie of all time, this five-time All-Star makes a brief but electric appearance, appearing as a man in anger after clearing the courts by wielding a knife after being harassed by money. gives. It’s so reassuring that you’d never know that he became famous for basketball, not acting.

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Stream it on Hulu and Paramount+.

This unsung morality tale about a Bobby Knight-like college coach (Nick Nolte, crusty as ever) is filled with performances from famous players (Shaquille O’Neill, Larry Bird) and coaches (Rick Pitino, Knight). They all competently play versions on themselves, but the revelation here is Boston Celtic great Bob Cousy, who turns into a morally ambitious athletic director. It’s a Surprisingly Sure Display of the Hall of Famer from the NBA’s Early Years

Shaq is the most charismatic big man in history, in cameos as the witty and talking head, but as the star of his film, his track record is like his foul-mouthed shooting. When he made one of the most forgotten DC superhero movies (“Steel”) a year ago, he made a lot of fun of it as a rapping genie in this scholastic fantasy. Trying to satisfy the wishes of a soft-loving white kid with divorced parents, he ends up screaming, laughing and even laughing at his lines.


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Despite winning three Razzie Awards for this Jean-Claude Van Damme flop, Dennis Rodman is actually an admirable action star. He kickboxes strongly, looks good in flamboyant get-ups (lots of hair die and leather) and flaunts mushy streaks on his personality. (“You’re more crazy than my hairstylist.”) All the camp humor in this movie comes from the gleam in his eyes, which he needs when delivering one of the many basketball references, despite the fact that He must not be a sportsman but rather an extremely tall arms dealer.

Making his major film debut opposite Denzel Washington should be as tough as entering the pros and guarding LeBron James in his first game. Possessing innocence and quiet charisma, Ray Allen, in the soulful role of Coney Island basketball prodigy Jesus Shuttlesworth, eats himself up well, even if you never forget he’s moonlighting. He’s inspiring as an isolated, paralyzed high school star with pent-up anger at his father. It is a role player performance of a performance that executes the game plan efficiently, sometimes with panache.

nineteen ninety eight

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At 7 feet 7 inches, Romanian center Gheorghe Muresen was the tallest player in NBA history long enough for a solid pro career, even though his skills, especially beginners, were unsophisticated. But for amateurs, acting can be more difficult than sports. In this Billy Crystal Buddy movie, he is caught in a meltdown. He can be difficult to understand (English is not his first language), and in his reaction shots, he may hold another record: the least expressive star in the history of comedy.

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When it comes to movies starring the Brooklyn Nets, “Uncle Drew” featuring Kyrie Irving is charming and fun. But it doesn’t have anything quite as impressive as Kevin Durant, who pretends to be terrible at basketball in this harshly healthy “Freaky Friday”-like movie, in which he accidentally trades talent with a clumsy high school kid. does. A common trope for the genre (“Space Jam” also includes a plot point with NBA stars losing their skills), Durant tends to be really bad, tweaking his looks in subtle and coherent ways. adjusts. It is a pleasure to watch this perfectionist trip crossovers, dunk airballs and miss his patented midrange shots time and again.


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You know that old man on the playground that everyone underestimates because he looks slow and out of shape, but then dominates the game through clever moves and stealth changes of pace. Kyrie Irving’s performance is an affectionate omen for this figure, right down to the sweatpants. Most of the current stars moonlighting in the movies perform versions of themselves, so it’s a bold move for Irving to try out an entirely different character, doing a good deed of shifting his posture to a hunch. To do and effect a tired voice. And if that seemed a little harsh, it ain’t easy acting under such an elaborate makeup job.


Stream it on Netflix.

Court personality usually doesn’t translate to the screen, but this is a notable exception. Kevin Garnett playing an amped-up version of himself, Adam Sandler’s face was as intense and brutal as he was with Patrick Ewing.


Michael Jordan has enough star power to light up a commercial or “Saturday Night Live” sketch, but his wooden acting required Bugs Bunny’s animation to make the original Tune Squad a powerhouse.


Stream it on HBO Max.

Who is better: MJ or LeBron? This endless sports-talking debate has centered on the biggest stats ever and the rings won, but now we have another metric to debate: who is the best — or more accurately, the least awesome — lead actor. ? It’s close, but James gets the edge, showing more range playing the opposite cartoon, with goofy big kid corporate hero pretending to be the domineering sports dad, even tapping into the sloppy spirit that The Jordan mem-enabled Hall of Fame is reserved for induction.

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