[caption id="attachment_169938" align="alignleft" width="300"] Warner Bros.[/caption]
Acting and basketball don't immediately seem to have much in common — one involves running, jumping, passing, dribbling and heaving a big orange ball through a ten-foot-high net; the other involves standing in front of a camera. So it's safe to say that being good at one does not make you good at the other.
That hasn't stopped plenty of basketball players from making the leap to feature films, though. So with March Madness upon us, we thought we'd take a look at basketball stars whose acting turns were either slam dunks — or flagrant fouls.
We've ranked the players from worst to best in terms of their acting, but ranking them in terms of their basketball skills would be much tougher: Every one of the eight players on our list won at least one NBA championship. But do any of them have a chance at an Oscar? Check it out and let the Madness begin.
8. Julius Erving in 'The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh' (1979)
[caption id="attachment_169930" align="alignright" width="150"] United Artists[/caption]
So here's the premise of the sports comedy "The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh": a struggling basketball team suddenly becomes the best team in the world when a boy astrologer comes up with the idea of signing only players who happen to be Pisces. In other words, this isn't exactly "Citizen Kane." And that's a good thing, because the legendary Dr. J proves he's not exactly a born thespian with his hamfisted portrayal of Pittsburgh Pisces star Moses Guthrie. But hey, at least the basketball scenes are great.
7. Dennis Rodman in 'Double Team' (1997)
[caption id="attachment_169929" align="alignright" width="150"] Columbia Pictures[/caption]
Dennis Rodman has done his damndest to become famous for something other than winning five NBA championships as one of the best rebounders of all time. Hell, he even recently took a much-criticized tour of North Korea. But chances are even Kim Jong-un wouldn't have let Rodman into the country if he had seen "Double Team," which featured Rodman as an arms dealer alongside Jean-Claude Van Damme's anti-terrorist agent. How bad was it? Rodman won three Razzies, including Worst On Screen Couple for his partnership with JCVD. It might have been Rodman's worst relationship, which is saying something considering he was once married to Carmen Electra.
6. Shaquille O'Neal in 'Kazaam' (1996)
[caption id="attachment_169934" align="alignright" width="150"] Touchstone Pictures[/caption]
The Big Aristotle is no stranger to the movie business, having appeared in a number of films, including the fairly well-received 1994 Nick Nolte vehicle "Blue Chips." That was Shaq's film debut, but unfortunately it was all downhill from there, as proven by his second film, "Kazaam," in which O'Neal plays a big, gregarious genie. The magic of the one-time Orlando Magic center fizzled, leading to the movie earning a pretty darn terrible 4% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Our wish: that Shaq never does anything like this again.
5. Wilt Chamberlain in 'Conan the Destroyer' (1984)
[caption id="attachment_169928" align="alignright" width="150"] Universal[/caption]
We're guessing the casting call for "Conan the Destroyer" looked something like this: "Wanted: A really big guy." And on those terms, it's hard to argue that Wilt Chamberlain's appearance as the sinister royal bodyguard Bombaata was anything but an unqualified success. Of course, fans wanting anything resembling actual acting were s.o.l. with this one. But since the people watching this epic fantasy (and epic stinkbomb) were mainly just looking for Arnold Schwarzenegger to kill people with a sword, well, we have to say Wilt did just fine. Hey, some roles almost play themselves.
4. Michael Jordan in 'Space Jam' (1996)
[caption id="attachment_169935" align="alignright" width="150"] Warner Bros.[/caption]
Here's the thing about Michael Jordon: He's always kind of acting. One of the reasons the Greatest of All Time has become an international pop culture icon is his ubiquitous and carefully maintained public persona, which is equal parts charming and approachable. And so in "Space Jam," all he basically had to do was be the version of Michael Jordan everyone expects — and he does exactly that, alongside classic Warner Bros. cartoon characters like Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. Of course, the real Michael Jordan is a ruthless, pitiless competitor with a chip on his shoulder, but you'd never know it from "Space Jam" — all those years of playing the role of "Michael Jordan" paid off perfectly.
3. Rick Fox in 'Tyler Perry's Meet the Browns' (2008)
[caption id="attachment_169933" align="alignright" width="150"] Lionsgate[/caption]
Of all the basketball players on our list, Rick Fox is the only one who has gone on to make acting a full-time career. Which is no surprise, as the three-time NBA champion has been mixing it up with Hollywood types from the moment he joined the Los Angeles Lakers and married actress Vanessa Williams (they later divorced). These days, Fox does most of his acting on television, where he most famously appeared a a regular on the lauded HBO drama "Oz." But for a look at some of his best film work, we suggest checking out the Tyler Perry ensemble "Meet the Browns." Hey, some people are just born stars, you know?
2. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 'Game of Death' (1978)
[caption id="attachment_169931" align="alignright" width="150"] Columbia Pictures[/caption]
One of the greatest players in basketball history, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is also one of the smartest dudes the NBA has ever seen, so it's no surprise that the multi-talented (and occasionally controversial) Abdul-Jabbar has made some pretty good movies. What is a surprise is that he has not one but two absolutely iconic film moments on his resume, something many top A-list actors can't claim. As much as we love his hilarious appearance in the 1980 comedy classic "Airplane!," though, we think his epic battle with Bruce Lee in "Game of Death" is even more amazing. It's just too bad Abdul-Jabbar is too busy with all his other interests to do more film work.
1. Ray Allen in 'He Got Game' (1998)
[caption id="attachment_169932" align="alignright" width="150"] Touchstone Pictures[/caption]
Ray Allen is unique on our list for the simple reason that he's still an active NBA player. And we're not the only fans hoping that when his career finally comes to an end, Allen (who currently plays for the Miami Heat) decides to make a return to Hollywood. That's because, while he's only appeared in two films so far, the first of those was Spike Lee's "He Got Game," where Allen knocked critics out with his portrayal of Jesus Shuttlesworth, a college b-baller whose dad (Denzel Washington) can get a parole from prison if he talks Jesus into playing for the governor's alma mater. Going toe to toe with Washington, one of the greatest actors of his generation, is no easy feat, but Allen more than held his own, earning an MTV Movie Awards nomination in the process. There's no doubt: When it comes to basketball stars in movies, Ray Allen is the undisputed world champion.