27 Most Surprising Cameos By Athletes In Movies

From Seabass to Tom Brady, all the most surprising cameos by sports stars

Athletes and movie stars have mingled for decades, and while movie stars rarely show up on the sports field, athletes show up in movies quite a bit. Some, like the late Jim Brown, even become professional actors. Here's a list of the most surprising times an athlete has popped up in a movie.

(Paramount Pictures)
Alex Karras - Blazing Saddles

Alex Karras had an impressive acting career after he retired from the NFL. Most notably, Karras starred as George Papadopoulos, foster father to Webster on Webster. He was also a professional wrestler as well. By far his funniest role, though, was that of the powerful Mongo in Blazing Saddles. The scene of Mongo riding into town on a bull and punching a horse is cinema history.

(Warner Bros.)
Mike Tyson - The Hangover

There is no more surprising moment in any movie than when former heavyweight legend Mike Tyson shows up in The Hangover with his tiger. To make matters even better, he takes a healthy swing at Stu (Ed Helms) and knocks him cold, just as you'd expect. Who knew Mike Tyson was such a huge Phil Collins fan?

(Warner Bros.)
Dan Marino - Ace Ventura: Pet Detective

In Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, the former Dolphins quarterback, Dan Marino, is the innocent villain of the movie's real villain Ray Finkle (Sean Young). After being talked about the whole movie, the legend himself finds himself rescued at the end by our hero, Ace (Jim Carrey). Laces out, Dan!

(Warner Bros.)
Lee Trevino - Happy Gilmore

Golf legend Lee Trevino was known for his sense of humor on the course, and it shows in his brief moments on camera in Happy Gilmore. Trevino is like a golf angel looking out for Happy, sometimes disappointed, sometimes proud, but always watching.

Lawrence Taylor - The Waterboy

Lawrence Taylor was another NFL legend who was known for big hits, big plays, and big controversy off the field. In The Waterboy, Taylor recognizes those off-the-field struggles when he tells the whole kids team exactly what not to do with their lives.

(Buena Vista Pictures)
Brett Favre - There's Something About Mary

The thing about Mary (Cameron Diaz) in There's Something About Mary is that basically any guy who meets her falls in love with her. That includes former Packers quarterback and hall of famer Brett Favre. His name is mentioned a few times in the movie before he shows up towards the end, still in love with Mary.

(20th Century Fox)
John McEnroe - Mr. Deeds

The best part about John McEnroe's cameo in Mr. Deeds is that he gets to be exactly what we all love about him. Famous for on-court meltdowns, the tennis hall of famer dodges getting hit by a car and yells at the driver as he yelled at umpires on the court.

(Sony Pictures)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. - Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

Racing legend Dale Earnhardt, Jr. may not have the best acting skills on this list, as is evident by his brief appearance in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby but when he called Ricky Bobby (Will Ferrell) a "LIAR" it still brings a hearty laugh that makes the brief scene worth it.

(Sony Pictures)
Shaquille O'Neal - Good Burger

Shaquille O'Neal is no stranger to the screen, both in movies and on TV, so he's hardly the most surprising on this list, still when he showed up in 1997's Good Burger, no one was expecting it. A true legend on and off the court.

(Paramount Pictures)
Dale Earnhardt, Sr - BASEketball

What better role for one of the all-time great race car drivers than of a crazy cab driver speeding through traffic? Dale Earnhardt, Sr's turn in BASEketball is hilarious and when he pops his helmet on after being told to speed up, you know what's going to come next.

(Universal Pictures)
Reggie Jackson - The Naked Gun

There is no wilder, or funnier, cameo on this list than Reggie Jackson in The Naked Gun. It's always refreshing to see athletes not take themselves too seriously and Jackson definitely doesn't when he turns robot in his quest to "kill the Queen." It might not have taken a lot of acting chops, but he's perfect in the role.

(Paramount Pictures)
Mike Ditka - Kicking And Screaming

In the Will Ferrell movie Kicking and Screaming Mike Ditka actually has more of a role than a simple cameo, yet all the scenes still feel like each one is a classic athlete cameo. Often those cameos include a bit of wisdom or advice, be it good or bad. Ditka offers both in his scenes in the movie.

Cam Neely - Dumb and Dumber

Boston Bruins great Cam Neely has one of the most famous cameos of all time by an athlete in Dumb and Dumber. Neely plays the truck driver "Seabass" at the diner who gets hit in the head with a salt shaker. Even the delivery of his lines is perfect, along with his costume.

(New Line Cinema)
Roger Clemens - Kingpin

Roger Clemens isn't the first athlete you'd expect to make a cameo in a movie. Then you turn on Kingpin and boom, there he is. The former MLB pitcher plays a role that seems well-suited, an angry Southerner trying to pick a fight with Ishmael Boorg (Randy Quaid). After Roy Munson (Woody Harrelson) knocks out Ishmael to save him from a worse beating from Clemens and his buddies.

Serena Williams - Ocean's 8

There are times when it seems Serena Williams is everywhere. The tennis legend, fashionista, and mom even managed to find time to shoot a quick scene for Ocean's 8. She plays herself, of course, on the red carpet at the Met Gala where the diamond heist is set to take place. Even though it's something in her wheelhouse – a TV interview in the movie – she nails it with grace and aplomb, as we would fully expect.

(Warner Bros.)
Tom Brady - Ted 2

Mark Wahlberg and Tom Brady have one thing in common: both are legends in Massachusetts. It stands to reason that they would team up at some point, and it happened where else but in Ted 2. In what is maybe the most bizarre moment in the movie to sneak into Brady's house to steal something very private. When Brady chases them out, he throws Ted the teddy bear with a perfect spiral, naturally.

(Universal Pictures)
Lance Armstrong - Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story

One thing that comes over and over with athletes make cameos in movies is sage advice. In the case of Lance Armstrong in Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, it's really more of a dressing down than straight advice. When Peter (Vince Vaughn) quits the team, Armstrong is there to tell him all he had to go through to win the Tour de France, inspiring – or guilting – Peter to return to the team.

(20th Century Fox)
LeBron James - Trainwreck

Aaron Conners (Bill Hader) needs a lot of advice in Trainwreck. Thankfully, he's BFFs with the one and only LeBron James, who plays himself in the movie. Like many athletes in movies, James is there to give his buddy sage advice, which he does when it comes to dating and everything else.

(Universal Pictures)
Derek Jeter - The Other Guys

All of Detective Terry Hoitz's (Mark Wahlberg) problems in life point back to one moment. The moment he shot Yankees legend Derek Jeter. The whole city hates him for it, so he struggles to move past it. Jeter's role is quick but pivotal, and he does a great job.

(Sony Pictures)
Marty McSorley - Con Air

Okay, this is a deep cut. Con Air is one of the best action movies of all time, but Marty Sorley's cameo as the pilot of the prison plane isn't the reason. That's not to say he's not good in the role -- who can tell, it's so brief. For a guy who was once known as Wayne Gretzky's bodyguard, the former NHL enforcer plays the part well, if briefly.

(Buena Vista Pictures)
Jimmy Butler - Office Christmas Party

NBA star Jimmy Butler's scenes in Office Christmas Party work like a series of cameos. He's got more than one of them, but all are brief, and he says little. Playing himself, Butler is recruited to the party to bring a little life to it. It doesn't work, but soon the party gets cooking and he's still meeting new people and taking photos with them.

(Paramount Pictures)
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar - Fletch

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's appearance in Fletch isn't his most famous moment in cinema, but it is pretty hilarious. Playing himself on a Lakers' broadcast with the legendary Chick Hearn, Abdul-Jabber plays up the importance of the newest Laker, Fletch (Chevy Chase) in a dream of Fletch's as he falls asleep watching the game.

(Universal Pictures)
Dennis Rodman - Eddie

1997's Eddie starring Whoopi Goldberg as the first female NBA coach is filled with cameos by basketball players and prominent New Yorkers, including Donald Trump in a random appearance. The funniest exchange Goldberg has is with NBA bad boy Dennis Rodman as they trade barbs on the court about their appearances.

(Buena Vista Films)
Patrick Ewing - The Exorcist III

This is by far the weirdest cameo on this list. The Exorcist III is one of the scariest movies in the series, and it has some truly bizarre scenes, but none more so than Kinderman's (George C. Scott) very strange hallucination/dream that he is walking through heaven. Fabio makes a cameo, and then comes Patrick Ewing as an angel. He doesn't have any lines, which makes it all the stranger.

(20th Century Fox)
Xavier McDaniel - Singles

In Singles, Steve Dunne (Campbell Scott) has a preoccupation with Seattle Supersonics' star Xavier McDaniel. The X-Man, as he was known, comes up a couple of times in the movie, and even makes an appearance at a very inopportune time for Dunne. What is seemingly a standard post-game interview gets very weird for Scott, but it makes for a good laugh.

(Warner Bros.)
Hines Ward - The Dark Knight Rises

This might be the easiest cameo for an athlete to make. NFL star Hines Ward and some other Steelers play, what else, football players in The Dark Knight Rises. They are on the field when Bane attacks the stadium in Gotham. Hines manages to outrun the collapsing field... for a time. It's one of the craziest scenes they shot in the movie.

(Warner Bros. Pictures)
Kevin Garnett - Uncut Gems

Kevin Garnett's appearance in Uncut Gems may qualify as a little more than a simple cameo. He doesn't have a lot to do in the film, but he plays a pivotal role, as it's his championship ring that gets Howard (Adam Sandler) into so much trouble. The scene in the beginning when Garnett first sees Howard's black opal is entrancing.


Sports stars have been crossing over into entertainment forever, and it's great when you they randomly pop up in movies, so here are some of the best.