5 Memorable Performances from NBA Players
Haven’t had a chance to see Space Jam: A New Legacy in cinemas? It has been granted express release for digital and is now available to buy or rent, at a premium price, in the Fetch Movie Store.
LeBron James’ career (and legacy) has mirrored Michael Jordan’s in many ways. While he may not yet match MJ’s six Championship rings with the Chicago Bulls, LeBron’s tenures at the Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat and now the Los Angeles Lakers have brought him four Championships and he’s right there in the G.O.A.T conversation. With A New Legacy LeBron adds another MJ achievement to his mantle, headlining the long-awaited return of the Space Jam franchise.
To celebrate the release of the film we’re taking a look at some of the most memorable performances from NBA players. There have been a bunch of great stunt cameos (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Airplane!), players appearing as themselves – MJ obviously, and Kevin Durant in Thunderstruck – and a pretty solid feature film, Uncle Drew, about a squad of aging hoopers (played by Kyrie Irving, Reggie Miller, Chris Webber, Shaq, Nate Robinson and Lisa Leslie under swathes of make-up) trying to claim the Rucker Classic street ball tournament. But, how often do NBA players get the chance to flex some of their acting muscles, while also obviously being professional basketball players acting as…professional basketball players?
LeBron James – Trainwreck (2015)
LeBron’s comic timing alongside the always-great Bill Hader leads to some Trainwreck-MVP moments. In Judd Apatow’s charming romantic comedy, their hang-out scenes (“it’s Kayne”) are hilarious with LeBron’s celebrated return to Cleveland to play for the Cavaliers and his convenient frugality serving as effective running gags. The pair even steal some of the thunder from the film’s lead, Amy Schumer, and the central relationship between Schumer’s free-spirited writer and Hader’s orthopedic surgeon, Aaron. LeBron stars as Aaron’s closest friend, and he’s thrilled to learn that he has started dating again (“give me some details, like eleven”), offering some NBA-hardened motivation and questionable dating advice along the way. As the face of the NBA and one of the most powerful and influential voices off the court, it seemed inevitable LeBron and his substantial status and charisma would find his way to Hollywood.
LeBron is also the host and Executive Producer of HBO series, The Shop. Trainwreck is available to buy or rent in the Fetch Movie Store.
Ray Allen – He Got Game (1998)
Iconic Spike Lee joint He Got Game revolves around the father-son relationship between Jake (Denzel Washington), a convicted felon serving a sentence for the accidental killing of his wife, and Jesus Shuttlesworth (Ray Allen), the top-ranked high school basketball prospect in the country. When Jake is released on parole for a week by the state’s governor he is tasked to persuade his estranged son to play for the governor’s former college in exchange for a reduced prison sentence. Spike’s considerations for the role of Jesus included Kobe Bryant, Tracy MacGrady and Allen Iverson, who reportedly didn’t impress in his audition. Allen, just 22 years-old during the off-season filming schedule, had been drafted 5th overall by the Milwaukee Bucks the season prior. He would go on to play 18 seasons in the NBA and became one of the greatest shooters of all time. Prior to his casting in He Got Game Allen had never acted before and worked with an acting coach for eight weeks prior to filming. It really is an extraordinarily charismatic performance from the young man, holding his own alongside a magnificent Denzel Washington.
Ray Allen also starred in Harvard Man.
Kevin Garnett – Uncut Gems (2019)
Garnett appears in Uncut Gems as himself, and from the moment he walks into Howard’s (Adam Sandler) jeweler the notoriously devastating trash-talker is a whirlwind of intimidation and energy. His meme-worthy performance is one of many jaw-dropping moments from the Safdie Brothers’ highly-stressful film. KG stars as a younger version of himself, back when he was playing for the Boston Celtics in the 2012 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals against the Philadelphia 76ers. This back-and-forth seven game series was playing out during the period that the film is set, with the film’s story and ensuing drama driven by the results of the games (and most notably Garnett’s play – which Howard, a gambling addict deep into debt, has placed multiple large bets on). The heavily-favoured Celtics needed a superhuman performance from Garnett to close it out (in reality). And just how did he find that next level…? You’ll have to watch Uncut Gems to find out. The late Kobe Bryant, Amare Stoudamire and Joel Embiid (a current player with the 76ers) were all reportedly considered for Garnett’s role. We can’t imagine how different this film would have been without KG on board.
Uncut Gems is available to stream now on Netflix.
Rick Fox – Oz (1997 – 2003)
Rick Fox, who you could mistake for a movie star, appeared in 11 episodes of the intense HBO prison-drama Oz, as Jackson Vahue (Prisoner #97V588). Vahue is a basketball superstar serving a 12-year sentence for attempted rape and assault. In the first series Vahue develops a serious drug addiction, which causes conflict with a fellow inmate, Augustus Hill (Harold Perrineau Jr.), who had long been an admirer of Vahue’s play. The longest stretch for Fox is in the fourth season, and his character’s arc centers around a trio of basketball games – Vahue and his nonathletic inmate teammate Agamemnon Busmalis against Emerald City’s Unit Manager Tim McManus (Terry Kinney) and correctional officer/NBA prospect Dave Brass. If Vahue can defeat the pair (on his own, basically) he’d be given another chance to return to Emerald City until his parole hearing. Fox had a solid NBA career, winning multiple championships alongside Shaq and Kobe for the Phil Jackson-coached Los Angeles Lakers and he was an electrifying presence in Oz amongst one of the most stacked casts of any show in television history.
Other notable acting credits for Fox include Dope and He Got Game.
Shaq – Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 2 (2001)
In 2001, with Shaq at the peak of his power with the Los Angeles Lakers, Larry David brought him into the parallel world of his unique comedy show, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and centered a second season episode (2.8: Shaq) around their ‘very-Larry’ interaction. In the episode Larry is having a rough run of luck, but when he accidentally trips and injures Shaq while sitting in a court side seat at Staples Centre he brushes off the entire city’s greater-than-usual disdain and embraces his twist of fortunes. That is until he visits Shaq in hospital (bringing him a bunch of Seinfeld video tapes – it’s Shaq’s favourite show) to make up for the incident. Shaq’s insistence that peanut butter is a dairy product during a lopsided game of Scattergories and his swift forgiveness of Larry (“You pop in The Contest and I’ll let bygones be bygones.”) make for one of the more memorable celebrity appearances in the show.
Other notable acting credits for Shaq include Blue Chips and Kazaam. Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 2 is available to Buy in the Fetch TV Store.