The Best and Worst Athlete Acting Performances Ever
It's Oscar time again! Which means that Hollywood's finest actors, directors and producers will soon convene at a televised black-tie event to spend four tragically unfunny hours shamelessly gushing and handing out awards to each other.
Awards shows are definitely not my thing. If there is a hell, I'm pretty sure it's just Billy Crystal reading stale jokes off a teleprompter with forced laughter echoing loudly through the fiery mountains of hell.
Sports and all things related are my thing. I would definitely tune in to the Oscars if Peyton Manning's saga with the Indianapolis Colts was nominated for Best Performance in a Drama or if the Jeremy Lin story was nominated for Best Original Screenplay.
Many athletes, coaches and mascots dabble in acting on the side. Why is there no award show to honor their acting achievements or mock their failures? The time has come to publicly recognize the best and worst acting in sports—thankfully, handing out fictional awards is also my thing. I like the power it affords me.
Let's take a look at the best and worst of athletes attempting to act.
Best Performance in a SportsCenter Commercial: Brian Wilson
If you've got the confidence to rock a spandex tuxedo with a cane then you're a natural-born entertainer.
Giants pitcher Brian Wilson's performance in "Fear the Beard" is surprisingly natural—playing the part of an unhinged creeper comes naturally to him.
Worst Performance in a SportsCenter Commercial: Albert Pujols
Los Angeles Angels slugger Albert Pujols' performance in "The Machine" is about as stiff as an oversized coffee mug filled with Jack Daniels.
The concept behind the commercial actually calls for a robotic performance, but Pujols somehow is completely unbelievable as a person making copies.
Best Drama Female: Gina Carano, Haywire
Even though the reviews weren't bad, I wasn't overly excited to see MMA superstar Gina Carano's acting debut in Haywire. Eventually I decided to give it a chance—and I am glad I did.
Carano's performance was legit and she was more than believable as a badass broad who can, and will, kick your ass. This was her first big starring role, but probably won't be her last.
Best Drama Male: Ray Allen, He Got Game
Boston Celtics guard Ray Allen turned in one of the greatest acting performances by an athlete ever in He Got Game.
Director Spike Lee asked Allen to audition for the part, despite the fact that he'd never acted a day in his life—he wanted a basketball player who could act, not an actor who could play basketball.
Worst Drama Male: Howie Long, Firestorm
Howie Long had a Hall of Fame career in the NFL—his acting career was substantially less impressive. Long's starring role in the action film Firestorm is probably the "highlight" of his acting career.
Firestorm was a cinematic tornado of suck. The plot was stupid, the special effects were cheesy and the acting performances were about as bad it gets—no small accomplishment in the action movie genre.
Best Comedy Male: Bob Uecker, Major League
After retiring from MLB in 1967, Bob Uecker went on to have success as a broadcaster, a comedian and an actor. His most famous role is probably starring as Harry Doyle in the Major League movies. Uecker was hilarious in all three films—and one of the only redeeming qualities in those two atrocious sequels.
I definitely loved Uecker in Major League, but his performance in Mr. Belvedere is still my personal favorite.
Worst Comedy Male: Shaquille O'Neal, Kazaam
I really love Shaq and I always have. The fact that Shaq believed he could make a movie about a genie who appears from a magic boombox to grant wishes is what I love most about him.
That being said, calling Shaq's performance in Kazaam terrible would be an insult to the word terrible. He was awful, the movie was awful, the soundtrack was awful—the whole production is a crime against cinema, maybe even a crime against humanity.
I still love you Shaq, and I forgive you for unleashing this cinematic plague on humanity.
Best Reality Show Performance: Rex Ryan and the Jets, Hard Knocks
HBO's Hard Knocks is a real-time documentary series that chronicles an NFL team each year from the start of training camp to the opening game of the season. Every season has been worth watching, but the 2010 season featuring the New York Jets definitely created the most media buzz.
What Ryan's whole "players coach/buddy"-style of coaching lacks in discipline, it more than makes up for in the overall entertainment department. Now—let's go get a goddamn snack!
Worst Reality Show Performance: Kris Humphries, Keeping Up with the Kardashians
New Jersey Nets forward Kris Humphries' marriage to and divorce from media harlot Kim Kardashian made him famous—famously hated.
Going from no-name Net to the most hated player in the NBA in just over a year is actually pretty impressive.
Personally, I think Kim K was the obvious villain in this whole scenario, but Kris didn't do himself any favors with his willingness to play the buffoon on Keeping Up With the Kardashians.
Best/Worst Dive NFL: Jerome Simpson, Cincinnati Bengals
In late 2011, Bengals wide receiver Jerome Simpson delivered an Oscar-worthy dive that resulted in a penalty for Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita. The NFL didn't fine Simpson for the over-the-top flop, but it was definitely discussed.
Maybe the NFL didn't appreciate the performance, but plenty of YouTube viewers did.
Best/Worst Dive MLB: Derek Jeter, New York Yankees
In September 2010, Yankees slugger Derek Jeter was almost hit by a pitch from Tampa Bay Rays reliever Chad Qualls, but you wouldn't have realized the ball missed him based on Jeter's reaction.
Jeter acted his butt off and was rewarded with first base. The next batter hit a home run, which ultimately gave the Yanks a win.
Best/Worst Dive NBA: LeBron James, Miami Heat
Mercifully, Miami Heat superstar LeBron James has finally hired a PR firm to help reform his public image. I'm not a public relations professional, but I have a few tips if you want to avoid playing the villain.
1. Don't call NBA fans losers.
2. If you accidentally fall on to small children in the audience, get up immediately and apologize.
3. Don't announce your free-agency decision via an hour-long ESPN special.
4. Don't take a shameless dive against one of the NBA's most likable players and follow it up with a wink and a smirk.
Boom. Feel free to send me a check.
Best/Worst Dive NHL: Sean Avery, New York Rangers
Rangers agitator Sean Avery's talent for diving far exceeds his hockey abilities. Avery (then with the Los Angeles Kings) reacts to a nudge from Rangers winger Jaromir Jagr as though it was a cannonball to his stomach…that eventually knocked him on his head.
Best Performance in a Classic Commercial: "Mean" Joe Green
The Coca-Cola commercial starring Pittsburgh Steelers legend "Mean" Joe Green is considered one of the best Super Bowl commercials of all time. Even better than that Sketchers commercial starring Mark Cuban and an awesome dog in tennis shoes.
Worst Performance in a Classic Commercial: Mickey Mantle
In 1976, New York Yankees legend Mickey Mantle cashed in on his fame by starring in this horrifying commercial about athlete's foot. Maybe Mantle's performance isn't that bad, but I'm too distracted by him rubbing medication on gigantic fungus-infested feet to even notice.
This is literally one of the weirdest, creepiest and ill-advised commercials of all time.
Best Performance in a Commercial: Peyton Manning, MasterCard
Peyton Manning's MasterCard commercials were absolutely hilarious and may have been the reason he landed a host gig for Saturday Night Live a year after the first commercial premiered.
I have no idea why they stopped making the commercials, but I think it's about time to bring them back. Manning doesn't seem all that busy these days anyway.
"Cut that meat! Cut that meat!"
Worst Performance in a Commercial: Jonathan Ogden, Gebco Insurance
Retired Baltimore Raven Jonathan Ogden's popularity helped land him a spot in a series of commercials for Gebco Insurance. This commercial is definitely the weirdest, but Ogden sings and/or dances in all of them.
Ogden's acting ability is seriously lacking, but having a 6'9", 345-pound man doing a jig definitely qualifies as "so bad it's good" territory.
Best Musical Performance: Alexander Ovechkin Raps
Russian rap music probably isn't your thing—it's definitely not my thing. Actually, I didn't even know the genre existed until this video of Washington Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin surfaced on YouTube.
Ovi's performance didn't inspire me to broaden my music horizons, but he is the only player in the history of the NHL who could sell a performance like this.
Worst Musical Performance: Shaq Raps
The Shaquille O'Neal/Kobe Bryant feud is one of the nastiest and most entertaining feuds in sports history. After years of trading verbal barbs with Kobe, Shaq decided to try something new—attacking Kobe via freestyle rap.
Thankfully, Shaq was really good at basketball because "tell me how my ass tastes" isn't exactly lyrical genius.
Best Performance NFL: Dennis Green, Press Conference
The vast majority of NFL press conferences are boring, repetitive and forgettable. But every now and again, someone comes through with an unhinged, off-the-wall performance and makes all the boring ones seem worth it.
After losing to the Chicago Bears in 2006, Arizona Cardinals coach Dennis Green absolutely lost it and the result was nothing short of glorious.
Worst Performance NFL: Jason Campbell, Eastern Motors
In 2007, former Washington Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell starred in a commercial for Eastern Motors, a D.C.-area car dealership. Thankfully, Campbell had very little dialogue because his wooden delivery and vacant stare instantly freaked me out.
Best Performance MLB: Keith Hernandez, Seinfeld
In 1992, retired slugger Keith Hernandez appeared in two episodes of NBC's hit sitcom Seinfeld—instant classics. Hernandez played a bro to Jerry, a creeper love interest to Elaine, and villain to Kramer and Newman.
The episodes became fan favorites thanks to Hernandez's standout performance, which begs the question—why the crap hasn't he gotten his own show yet?
Worst Performance MLB: Dustin Pedroia, Sullivan Tires Commercial
In 2008, Boston Red Sox slugger Dustin Pedroia demonstrated his terrible math skills and complete lack of acting ability in this commercial for Sullivan Tires.
It certainly didn't help Pedroia that former Sox outfielder Jim Rice makes a cameo and basically knocks it out of the park—at least it seemed that way in comparison.
Best Performance NBA: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Airplane!
Los Angeles Lakers legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar put together a pretty decent acting resume after retiring from the NBA. His performance in the 1980 comedy Airlane! definitely stands out among the rest.
Sharing the screen with a comedy legend like Leslie Nielsen is no joke, but Kareem holds his own in a picture-perfect performance.
Worst Performance NBA: Chris Bosh, Entourage
In 2010, Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh had a brief cameo (as himself) in an episode of HBO's Entourage.
I don't want to beat up on Bosh because he seems like a nice guy—so let's just say that Chris Bosh played the least convincing Chris Bosh imaginable, and leave it at that.
Best Performance NHL: Gordie Howe, SportsCenter Commercial
Hockey players routinely turn in the least-convincing acting performances of all athletes—Detroit Red Wings legend Gordie Howe is the exception to that rule.
Mr. Hockey outshines ESPN's (one-time) chief ham Keith Olbermann in this classic SportsCenter commercial, proving, once again, there's nothing he can't do.
Worst Performance NHL: Wayne Gretzky, SNL
Over the years, plenty of athletes have hosted Saturday Night Live and usually they're completely awful. Hockey legend Wayne Gretzky's appearance in 1989 did not buck the trend.
The Great One gave it his all, but his performance shifted between painfully dull and uncomfortably awkward.
Best Performance by a Mascot: Stanford Tree
Conveying emotion and acting like something other than a ridiculous spectacle while dressed as a mascot is a pretty tall order—especially when the mascot is a tree with a psychotic smile. It's difficult, but certainly not impossible.
In "Bat Making," the Stanford Tree delivers. You can actually see the horror growing in his insane face as Jason Heyward describes the wood-murdering process of bat-making.
Even Better Performance by a Mascot: Wally
As demonstrated by the Stanford Tree, delivering emotion is the key to a great mascot commercial. Obviously the Boston Red Sox mascot Wally was up for the challenge.
In this SportsCenter commercial, Wally happens by the conference room just as Red Sox slugger David Ortiz tries on Jorge Posada's New York Yankees cap—which is like a dagger straight to that furry monster's heart.
Best SNL Performance: Peyton Manning, United Way
This is Peyton Manning's second appearance on this list, but this comically inclined quarterback could have a list of his own. Manning's performance on Saturday Night Live wasn't great "for an athlete"; it was just great.
He showed off his acting and dancing skills in a number of funny sketches, but his commercial for United Way was the definitive standout.
Worst SNL Performance: Deion Sanders, Opening Monologue
Considering all the flash and excitement Deion "Prime Time" Sanders brought to the football field, he probably seemed like a natural choice to host Saturday Night Live.
Unfortunately, Sanders was unable to bring any of that magic to the show—he couldn't even play himself convincingly during the opening monologue.
Best Performance at a Press Conference: Allen Iverson
NBA legend Allen Iverson may not be great with money, but he is great at giving a memorable press conference. Iverson can't believe he has to sit there and talk about practice...practice man...come on, we're talkin' about practice...practice.
Worst Performance at a Press Conference: Eli Manning
The New York Giants' two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Eli Manning may very well be "elite" in terms of production and success. But it's moments like this awkward, sparsely attended press conference in late 2010 that make it hard for people to see him in that light.
This just wouldn't happen to Tom Brady or his big brother Peyton. It's plausible that they've encountered an empty media room in their career, but we just never heard about it because they didn't wander around awkwardly for a few minutes before approaching the podium.
Honorable Mention: Tom Brady on SNL, "Sexual Harassment"
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has a little fun with his pretty-boy persona in this Saturday Night Live sketch—which (jokingly) points out that it's only sexual harassment if the harasser is ugly.
It's rare to hear Brady say anything that isn't a Patriots talking point—he was surprisingly funny and refreshingly self-aware on SNL.
Dishonorable Mention: Bronson Arroyo, Champion Ford Commercial
I'm not sure if this commercial for Champion Ford starring Cincinnati Reds pitcher Bronson Arroyo is an outtake or something that actually aired.
It seems like an actual commercial, but then Arroyo audibly and obviously says "s**t," which isn't common in advertising. The performance isn't good, but the oddly placed s-bomb makes the commercial totally worth watching.