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Illustration by Dale Edwin Murray

The definitive, ranked guide to ballers running another kind of screen

NBA players in real movies, acting

It’s just not enough to be the type of athlete who drives the lane, knocks down 3-pointers or consistently records triple-doubles. Nope. Gotta be a movie star, too. Gotta try, at least. And these men did — even when, perhaps, they should not have. Running screens is fun — hey, it’s how these guys make a living, nab multimillion-dollar endorsement deals and become famous. But playing a caricatured version of yourself? That’s clutch, for real. Get ready for a lot of Shaquille O’Neal, plus fellow Hall of Famer Allen Iverson. Here’s the ultimate ranking — from worst to best — of the most Undefeated NBA stars of all time in their Hollywood moments.

39. Shaquille O’Neal

Jack and Jill (2011)

This Adam Sandler vehicle (with Katie Holmes and Al Pacino) is considered to be one of the worst films ever made – it won a record-breaking 10 Razzie awards because critics thought it was so horrible. And it was. Shaquille O’Neal has a cameo as himself in the film. What was he doing?

38. Dennis Rodman

Double Team (1997)

Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dennis Rodman talking over table of weapons in a scene from the film '

Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dennis Rodman talking over table of weapons in a scene from the film ‘Double Team’, 1997.

Columbia Pictures/Getty Images

A certified box office disaster. Dennis Rodman co-stars with Jean-Claude Van Damme in this action comedy. The Worm is a flamboyant arms dealer and he earned three Razzie awards: worst supporting actor, worst new star and worst screen couple (Rodman and Van Damme). Welp.

37. O’Neal

Freddy Got Fingered (2001)

Remember Tom Green? Yeah, we barely do either. But for a while he was a regular MTV prankster with his own show, who somehow persuaded a studio to give him a film. Like Jack and Jill, this too is considered one of the worst films ever. And like Jack and Jill, this also features a cameo by O’Neal (as himself). Coincidence? You decide.

36. O’Neal

Good Burger (1997)

 Kenan Thompson, Shaquille O'

Kenan Thompson, Shaquille O’Neal, Kel Mitchell Dexter in Good Burger.

United Archives GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

Starring Kel Mitchell and Kenan Thompson, as well as Abe Vigoda and Sinbad, this movie is based on the classic comedy sketch from Nickelodeon’s All That: One Good Burger and one Good Shake please! The big-screen treatment takes place at a fictional burger joint with all of the trimmings. O’Neal has a quick cameo — in the locker room after winning the game, he’s craving a Good Burger. This cameo thing is what he does. Clearly.

35. O’Neal

Grown Ups 2 (2013)



AF archive / Alamy Stock Photo

Wow. The newly minted Hall of Famer can’t catch a break, huh? Another Adam Sandler film, and another badly reviewed picture altogether. And O’Neal isn’t even portraying himself in this one: He’s cast as a police officer, Officer Fluzoo. Starring Chris Rock, Kevin James and Salma Hayek, and featuring cameos from everyone from Taylor Lautner to Stone Cold Steve Austin, the film itself was a box office success, but critically? No, sir.

34. Tony Parker

Asterix at the Olympic Games (2008)

When this film was released, it was the most expensive French (and non-English speaking) film ever made. Makes sense that NBA world champion and native son Parker has a cameo in this animated fantasy adventure set during the Olympic Games, in that case. Sadly, this was awarded the worst French film made that year at the country’s equivalent of the Razzies. Ah, well.

33. O’Neal

Steel (1997)



AF archive / Alamy Stock Photo

The Big Aristotle stars as a superhero in this flick based on a DC Comics character. He’s the lead in the film, which co-stars Richard Roundtree and Judd Nelson, and was panned by critics. And moviegoers didn’t exactly flock to it — it cost $16 million to make and only made about $1.7 million at the box office. Ouch.

32. Carmelo Anthony, Allen Iverson

Imagine That (2009)

Sadly, this Eddie Murphy film — featuring Thomas Haden Church, Nicole Ari Parker and Martin Sheen — was a box office bomb (budget was $55 million and it only made about $23 million), but it featured a quick on-court cameo with Anthony and Iverson rocking Denver Nuggets jerseys.

31. Kevin Durant

Thunderstruck! (2012)

John Whitesell and Kevin Durant in Thunderstruck

John Whitesell and Kevin Durant in Thunderstruck

Collection Christophel / Alamy Stock Photo

Kevin Durant stars in this little-seen film that also co-stars Jim Belushi and features cameos by Reggie Miller and Marv Albert. In the film, his talent gets transferred over to a 16-year-old high school kid after a chance meeting at a game. (Spoiler alert: Durant gets his skills back just in time to qualify for the playoffs.)

30. O’Neal

When In Rome (2010)

Once again, O’Neal plays himself in a cameo. In this film about a young, ambitious New York woman (Kristen Bell), who happens to be totally unlucky in the romance department, two other athletes — Lawrence Taylor and David Lee — also appear as themselves.

29. O’Neal

The House Bunny (2008)

Starring Anna Faris and Colin Hanks, a Playboy bunny gets kicked out of the mansion and finds a new job being the housemother of a sorority on campus — naturally, you need some NBA presence there, right? Here comes your boy O’Neal again!

28. O’Neal, Gary Payton and Karl Malone

After the Sunset (2004)

Directed by Bruce Ratner in the Bahamas, this diamond-drenched caper comedy featured several NBA stars, including Gary Payton and Karl Malone — and Phil Jackson — as themselves. Everyone seemed to hate it. Also featured are Naomie Harris, Pierce Brosnan, Don Cheadle and Woody Harrelson.

27. Darius Miles

The Perfect Score (2004)



AF archive / Alamy Stock Photo

Darius Miles (drafted third overall in 2000, now experiencing some difficulties) portrays high school basketball star Desmond Rhodes, who needs to nab a score of 900 or better to join the basketball team at St. John’s University. OK. But, yawn.

26. Tyrone “Muggsy” Bogues, Spud Webb, “Doc” Rivers, Corie Blount, Cedric Ceballos, Anthony Miller, Nick Van Exel, “Hot Rod” Williams, Brad Daugherty, John S. Battle, Bobby Phills, Terrell Brandon, Dennis Rodman, Avery Johnson, J.R. Reid, Cory Alexander, Olden Polynice, Walt Williams, Randy Brown, Tyus Edney, Brian Grant, Mitch Richmond, Duane Causwell, Sam Mitchell, Dale Davis, Danny Manning, Elliot Perry, Wayman Tisdale, Larry Johnson, David Wingate, Scott Burrell, Anthony Mason, Herb Williams and John Starks

Eddie (1996)

Whoopi Goldberg Stars As Manhattan Limo Driver "Eddie" Who Becomes Honoary Coach Of The New York Nicks

Whoopi Goldberg Stars As Manhattan Limo Driver “Eddie” Who Becomes Honorary Coach Of The New York Kncks

Getty Images

Whoopi Goldberg is the New York Knicks’ biggest fan — and she gets the shot of a lifetime when she takes over as coach of the team. The film is jam-packed with tons of NBA players, but even the many appearances by some of the biggest in the game failed to make this film a hit. It had a $30 million budget and made a hair over $31 million.

25. Charles Barkley, Chris Mullin, David Robinson, Kevin Johnson, Sean Elliott, Patrick Ewing, Tim Hardaway, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Reggie Miller, Charles Oakley, Kurt Rambis, John Starks, Isiah Thomas, Spud Webb, Marques Johnson, Bill Walton and Bill Laimbeer

Forget Paris (1995)

 Billy Crystal in Forget Paris

Billy Crystal in Forget Paris

United Archives GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

Billy Crystal is an NBA referee. Debra Winger is his girl. Joe Mantegna is here, as well. It features a bunch of great cameos from NBA stars, who appear as themselves. And eh, the film got mixed reviews.

24. O’Neal

Kazaam (1996)

Shaquille O'

Shaquille O’Neal in Kazaam

United Archives GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

My God, man, have you no shame? Once again, Shaq Diesel stars in a film — this time as a 5,000-year-old genie who magically appears out of a boombox. This movie did horribly. It cost $20 million to make, and made just over $18 million — and critics, and well, everyone really, hated it. O’Neal explains here.

23. Michael Jordan

Looney Tunes: Back In Action (2003)



AF archive/Alamy Stock Photo

This live-action and animated film was the third that featured those loveable Looney Tunes characters. Space Jam (with Michael Jordan) was a huge hit, but he refused to come back and do this film. So archival footage of him from Space Jam was used. That didn’t work out so well for the studio.

22. O’Neal

Scary Movie 4


Shag (SHAQUILLE O’NEAL) and Dr. Phil (DR. PHIL MCGRAW) spoofing ‘Saw’ in a scene from SCARY MOVIE 4

United Archives GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

Like its predecessors, the reviews were mixed for this comedy spoof franchise that co-starred Faris, Regina Hall and Anthony Anderson, but that didn’t stop people from checking it out. It had the third-best opening of the Scary Movie franchise, maybe because O’Neal has a cameo as himself?

21. O’Neal

The Wash (2001)

The title says it all. This film was inspired by 1976’s Car Wash, the beloved celebration of California’s working class — with a classic soundtrack. This go ’round co-stars Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, and is filled with a whole bunch of hip-hop cameos. But hi again, Shaq! Hi!

20. Bogues, Dikembe Mutombo and Rasheed Wallace

Juwanna Mann (2002)

In the fictional world of the NBA (the UBA, as it’s called in this movie), Jamal Jeffries (Miguel A. Núñez Jr.) is a hoops star who can’t stay out of trouble, loses it all and decides to dress as a woman so that he can play in the fictional WNBA (WUBA) as Juwanna Mann. Vivica Fox is this, as well as Ginuwine. Eh.

19. Amar’e Stoudemire

MacGruber (2010)

Fake take on the original MacGyver, this is another Saturday Night Live sketch that becomes a film — doesn’t do well at all at the box office — and then becomes a cult classic in its aftermarket life. Amar’e Stoudemire has a cameo as himself.

18. Rick Fox

Meet The Browns (2008)

Rick Fox ("Harry," left) and Angela Bassett ("Brenda," right) star in Lionsgate Home Entertainment'

Rick Fox (“Harry,” left) and Angela Bassett (“Brenda,” right) star in Lionsgate Home Entertainment’s TYLER PERRY’S MEET THE BROWNS.

Alfeo Dixon/Lionsgate

Rick Fox, the former Los Angeles Laker, rocks it out in this Tyler Perry film, an OK romantic comedy based off of Perry’s play of the same name. Angela Bassett, Lance Gross and Sofia Vergara also star.

17. Alex English

Amazing Grace and Chuck (1987)

The plot of this film sounds like something that could happen today in real life: a fictional Boston Celtics star (Alex English) reads a blurb in the newspaper about a 12-year-old kid who protests the existence of nuclear weapons by refusing to play baseball — and his Little League team has to forfeit the game. Amazing Grace – what English’s character is known as – decides to protest as well, and his protest inspires other pro athletes. Real life big-time scorer English was surrounded by some tony Hollywood talent for this one: Gregory Peck and Jamie Lee Curtis.

16. Patrick Ewing and John Robert Thompson

Exorcist III (1990)

Starring George C. Scott, Georgetown University great Ewing is the Angel of Death and legendary Georgetown coach Thompson, who was the first black coach to win a major collegiate championship, have roles in this horror film set in — where else? — Georgetown, Washington, D.C. Fabio and Larry King are in this, too. Some liked it.

15. Fox

Holes (2003)

Rick Fox in Holes

Rick Fox in Holes

A kid-friendly Disney film that had Fox playing Clyde “Sweet Feet” Livingston, a fictional Texas Rangers baseball player. The film was successful — it cost $20 million to make and earned about $71.4 million at the box office, and critically, people loved it. It earned MTV Movie Award and Critics Choice nominations.

14. Ray Allen

Harvard Man (2001)



The film centers around Alan Jensen (Adrian Grenier), the point guard for Harvard University’s basketball team, who needs money and gets caught up in a crime caper. Sarah Michelle Gellar co-stars. Ray Allen is Marcus Blake, and the film did very well once it was released on VHS and DVD. Plus Roger Ebert liked it.

13. Barkley

Hot Shots! (1991)

The comedy spoof of Top Gun is one of the best-received comedies in the last 25 years, and it features a cameo by Barkley as himself in a hilarious rematch with on-court competitor Laimbeer. The film itself stars Charlie Sheen, Cary Elwes, Valeria Golino, Lloyd Bridges, Jon Cryer, Kevin Dunn and Kristy Swanson, and it debuted at No. 1 and grossed more than $180 million at the box office.

12. Dwight Howard (also Dwyane Wade and Rashard Lewis, Bobby Simmons, Jalen Rose, Rajon Rondo, Kenny Smith and Elton Brand)

Just Wright (2010)

Common in Just Wright

Common in Just Wright

AF archive / Alamy Stock Phot

The only NBA guy who actually had speaking lines in this underrated gem is Dwight Howard, who is a charismatic, understanding colleague — and he pulled it off going up against Common, who was portraying an injured, lovesick New Jersey Nets NBA player (before the sale!), hoping to get back in the game. Queen Latifah is great in this, and Paula Patton, too.

11. John Salley

Bad Boys 2 (2003)

This sequel to this cop film isn’t as amazing as its predecessor, but it’s still awesome, and John Salley is back to reprise his role as Fletcher, the nerdy computer hacker. A Jerry Bruckheimer behemoth, it grossed $270 million worldwide. Gabrielle Union glows in this movie. And, Bad Boys For Life, round three in the series, may be coming this summer.

10. Vince Carter, Michael Finley, Steve Francis, Allen Iverson, Jason Kidd, Desmond Mason, Tracy McGrady, Alonzo Mourning, Gary Payton, Jason Richardson, David Robinson, Rasheed Wallace, Gerald Wallace, Chris Webber

Like Mike (2002)



AF archive / Alamy Stock Photo

Ah, the magic sneakers. This feel-good film hit just the right note for every little guy sitting at home on the couch dreaming of an NBA career. Lil Bow Wow, who is now known by his given name, Shad Moss, portrays the orphan Calvin Cambridge, who was the youngest — and shortest! — fictional guy to ever play in the NBA. And he went head to head with some of the game’s biggest big men. Co-stars Morris Chestnut and Eugene Levy. Also interesting is that this 20th Century Fox film was produced by NBA Productions – hence all of those great cameos.

9. Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Tyrone “Muggsy” Bogues, Larry Johnson, Alonzo Mourning, A.C. Green, Charles Oakley, Derek Harper, Jeff Malone, Anthony Miller, Sharone Wright

Space Jam (1996)



AF archive / Alamy Stock Photo

A worldwide phenomenon, this is a brilliant mashup of animation and real life — Jordan comes back to basketball by saving the Looney Tunes, and the biggest takeaway from the film is that Jordan still had it. That and Bugs Bunny is in this. Bugs. Bunny. The film grossed more than $230 million, making it the highest-grossing basketball movie of all time. And if you missed it back in the day, you’re in luck — it’s hitting theaters again next month in honor of its 20th anniversary.

8. O’Neal

CB4 (1993)

Directed by Tamra Davis, and probably one of the best mockumentaries ever made, this was a real breakout moment for Chris Rock. The film is about a hip-hop group a la N.W.A. that becomes famous by being offensive and irks a politician who doesn’t like the lewd language they spew. It’s peppered with cameos by the superfamous folks who side with them. O’Neal once again appears as himself — saying that the hip-hop group is being unfairly targeted, just take a look-see at live rock concerts. Black Rappers Matter, Shaq.

7. Julius Erving

The Fish that Saved Pittsburgh (1979)


Julius Erving in The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh

This sports comedy fantasy wouldn’t make sense without one of NBA’s most important stars of that era — Dr. J, Julius Erving. He is the star of this film that over the years has become a certified cult classic — the authenticity and the peppering of all sorts of other hot NBA players such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar certainly helped with that. Debbie Allen and Stockard Channing also appear. And the disco soundtrack is money.

6. Wilt Chamberlain

Conan the Destroyer (1984)

Actor Wilt Chamberlain poses January, 1984 in Hollywood, CA. He plays Bombaata in "Conan.

Actor Wilt Chamberlain poses January, 1984 in Hollywood, CA. He plays Bombaata in “Conan.

Dirck Halstead/Liaison

It wasn’t a cameo by Wilt Chamberlain as himself — it was a full-on acting role for The Big Dipper, who, in his first film, transforms into Bombaata, the captain of Taramis’ guard. It was a major success, bringing in more than $100 million at the box office (made for about $18 million).

5. LeBron James

Trainwreck (2015)

Amy Schumer and Lebron James in Trainwreck

Amy Schumer and Lebron James in Trainwreck

Courtesy of Universal Pictures

The real star of this film (which actually stars Amy Schumer and Bill Hader) is clearly LBJ, who plays a version — an extremely funny, scene-stealing version — of himself and quite frankly, he nails it. After LeBron James is over winning world championships and producing hit cable TV shows, perhaps he has a real future in acting.

4. Ray Allen

He Got Game (1998)

Denzel Washington and Ray Allen in a scene from the film '

Denzel Washington and Ray Allen in a scene from the film ‘He Got Game’, 1998.

20th Century-Fox/Getty Images

Star basketball prospect Jesus Shuttlesworth is a wanted man — every college everywhere is after him. Future Hall of Famer Ray Allen (in his first acting role) absolutely holds his own next to Oscar-winner Denzel Washington. The Spike Lee film hit on college basketball scandals, as we see the younger Shuttlesworth getting offered cash and women while being recruited, before he ultimately decides to play for Big State. John Turturro is here, as well as Lonette McKee, Hill Harper and Rosario Dawson.

3. John Salley

Bad Boys (1995)

Will Smith, John Sally & Martin Lawrence in Bad Boys

Will Smith, John Salley & Martin Lawrence in Bad Boys

AF archive / Alamy Stock Phot

This movie made global stars of Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. They were the two smart-aleck Miami narcotics detectives, but Salley stood out — quite literally, as he rose up on Lawrence’s character, revealing all 6 feet 11 inches of himself — as a computer hacker who helps the duo crack much-needed files. At the time, Salley was a power forward for the Miami Heat — a position that came right before he retired from the game. Bad Boys proved there was more to the NBA world champion than being a tenacious defender.

2. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Airplane! (1980)

FWP9RP Y a t il un pilote dans l'

FWP9RP Y a t il un pilote dans l’avion Airplane 1980 real : Jim Abrahams et David et Jerry Zucker Peter Graves Kareem Abdul Jabbar COLLECTION CHRISTOPHEL

Collection Christophel / Alamy Stock Photo

Originally, baseball star Pete Rose was to play co-pilot Roger Murdock in this hilarious movie, but a scheduling conflict allowed Los Angeles Lakers superstar Abdul-Jabbar to take on the role. What’s even funnier is later in the parody — considered to be one of the funniest films of all time — Murdock is revealed to actually be Abdul-Jabbar living a secret double life.

1. O’Neal

Blue Chips (1994)

Shaquille O'

Shaquille O’Neal in Blue Chip.

ZUMA Press, Inc. / Alamy Stock Photo

Finally! The Big Shamrock hits us with a fantastic film. Coincidentally, his best is also the first one that he ever acted in. Starring Nick Nolte and Lou Gossett Jr., this basketball drama scores high because it featured real-life basketball players and legendary college coaches in a film that dared to take on point-shaving, impermissible benefits and seedy recruiting efforts. O’Neal was joined by Penny Hardaway and Allan Houston, and coaches such as Bob Knight and Rick Pitino had cameos. The film remains an authoritative look at the world of scandal-ridden college basketball on and off the court, and it’s amazing.

Kelley L. Carter is a senior entertainment writer at The Undefeated. She can act out every episode of the U.S version of "The Office," she can and will sing the Michigan State University fight song on command and she is very much immune to Hollywood hotness.