The Strangest Athlete Acting Debuts

Dan TalintyreSenior Analyst IINovember 9, 2012

The Strangest Athlete Acting Debuts

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    Athletes are recognizable people.

    They're famous because of their on-field performances and reputations and as a result, the logic says that they'll be just as famous and reputable off the field as well.

    We'll see our favorite stars in movies and in commercials, and sometimes the results are great. But far too many times, the results aren't that great at all.

    Maybe it was bad acting; maybe it was just a bad choice by some manager or agent that thought they could make a quick bit of cash and nobody would notice.

    Problem is, we did.

    Read on to see the 20 strangest athlete acting debuts.

20. Michael Phelps, Swimmer

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    Michael Phelps debut in Saturday Night Live (2008)

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    American swimming sensation Phelps stepped out of his calorie-eating, water-pounding regime to do what every swimmer dreams of doing once in their life: host Saturday Night Live.

    And give credit where credit's due to Phelps; during the actual footage, he didn't burst out laughing on too many occasions—he just drew his mouth together and made sure that no emotion or feeling was going to be shown towards the audience.

    "No matter how badly Michael does, he'll still be a really good swimmer" was the line directed towards the American star prior to the filming of SNL.

    Perhaps we should have seen this one coming then. The fish flopped, shall we say, and we were left wondering why Phelps debuted on Saturday Night Live.

19. Pete Rose, Retired MLB Player

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    Pete Rose debut in Aqua Velva commercial (1976)

    Cincinnati Reds star Pete Rose stepped onto the acting circuit for a little shot in the commercial world—putting together a number of commercials throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s—but none caught our eye as much as his debut performance did.

    Rose debuted in an Aqua Velva commercial—men's aftershave—and whilst his acting wasn't completely terrible, the decision for him to sing, dance and have a little vocal solo definitely was.

    But what can you say? There just something about Aqua Velva.

18. Wayne Gretzky, Retired NHL Player

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    Wayne Gretzky debut in 7UP commercial (1981)

    According to IMDB, Wayne Gretzky had two acting appearances in 1981—this stellar commercial for 7UP and a stint as Wayne on The Young and the Restless.

    And while we're not completely sure which came first, we're happy to give the ice hockey legend a pass here and say that the 7UP commercial aired first—making this his acting debut.

    Having said all of that, I genuinely don't understand the decision by Gretzky to make a 7UP commercial the place to launch his stellar acting career.

    Bench press, sit up, have a drink. 

    Surely the Great One has a little bit more in him than that?

17. Dale Earnhardt Jr., NASCAR Driver

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    Dale Earnhardt Jr. debuts with father (Dale Earnhardt Sr.) in Chevrolet commercial

    Dale Earnhardt Jr. made his acting debut with his father in a rare Chevrolet commercial—perhaps the only commercial made together before the late Dale Earnhardt Sr. passed away.

    And while I can understand the decision to film a quick 30 seconds with the old man, I think that the Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s manager might have sold him out a little bit here.

    Clearly he isn't the more famous of the two in the car, and doesn't get to say anything other than the phrase "blah, blah, blah." By comparison, his father gets to drive, look the hero and drop some nasty trash talk with his "seven NASCAR championships".

    I understand why he wanted to make a commercial with his father.

    This just seems a strange one to debut in. Very strange.

16. Bronson Arroyo, MLB Player

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    Bronson Arroyo debut in Champion Dealer Group commercial (2006)

    Bronson Arroyo is really very good at many things in life—one of them just doesn't seem to be Champion Dealer Group commercials.

    Put the acting and concept behind the commercial aside for the moment, and just wonder as to why the Cincinnati Reds pitcher feels the need to delve into the commercial world.

    Great baseball player, fantastic singer—it's a little bemusing as to why he feels the need to make a commercial. I mean, this is guy who has a Golden Glove Award and a World Series title next to his name; why does he need a commercial?

    And then, out of all the options he could most likely have found, this 15-second grab was the one that tickled his fancies the most? No, Bronson. I do not believe it.

    Warning: swearing included in commercial.

15. Steve Nash, NBA Player

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    Steve Nash debut in Vitamin Water infomercial (2009)

    Los Angeles Lakers point guard Steve Nash will most likely go down as one of the most decorated and notable basketball players of the past decade or so.

    However, he won't be going down as the next ShamWow guy following his brief but bizarre career in infomercials—starting and ending with this one for Vitamin Water.

    The guy does deserve some credit; his acting isn't all that bad in this—except for perhaps his four-step plan to making Vitamin Water in the middle.

    But anytime Steve Nash and 50 Cent make an infomercial together, it simply has to go down on a list of bizarre athlete acting performances. 

14. Dan Marino, Former NFL Player

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    Dan Marino debut in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994)

    Regardless of where you stand on Jim Carrey as a quality actor, you'd have to say that the decision for legendary quarterback Dan Marino to take part in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective will have to go down as somewhat of a bizarre career move.

    Granted, he did at least get to play himself, but still, I don't quite understand why he deemed it a necessary acting role to play in his career.

    Guess it was better than Dancing With the Stars.

13. Chris Bosh, NBA Player

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    Chris Bosh debut in Tall Justice (2010)

    Chris Bosh is justice. Parking justice.

    If you haven't watched his acting skills in Tall Justice, then you're certainly missing out on one of the greatest acting performances from the Miami Heat star—not that there were a whole lot to choose from to begin with.

    Basically, just put Steven Seagal together with a meter maid, and that's what Bosh attempts to do here. It's funny, it's clever, but at the end of the day, it's just downright bizarre.

    Why he felt the need to make this...I guess we'll never know.

12. Brian Bosworth, Former NFL Player

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    Brian Bosworth debuts in Stone Cold (1991)

    Former Seattle Seahawks linebacker Brian Bosworth might not have left much of an impression on the National Football League during his three seasons, but what he failed to do on the field, he certainly tried to make up for off the field.

    IMDB has Bosworth down as making 12 films—the first of which is a '90s classic called Stone Cold that the linebacker should never have taken part in.

    His acting isn't terrible, but if he had known that we would be mocking him decades after his debut movie, he might have given his movie choice a little more thought.

    Fortunately for us, he didn't, and now we can now all marvel at a hero who is able to catch wannabe thieves who spend more time shooting at biscuits than they do at people.

11. Milan Lucic, Current NHL Player

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    Milan Lucic debuts in NMTW Credit Union commercial (2012)

    Even without ice hockey on at the moment, Milan Lucic still found a way to get himself on camera by swapping his skates for a set of acting skills to make this credit union commercial.

    Lucic could be sharpening his game for when the season finally does come.

    He could be working out at the gym, or running some drills with his teammates.

    Or...he could just film a commercial I guess.

10. Howie Long, Former NFL Player

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    Howie Long debuts in Gringo Mojado (1984)

    Howie Long makes this list for bizarre debuts simply because of the fact that he was making poor movies and demonstrating his terrible acting skills while he was still playing.

    Gringo Mojado was a 1984 film; Long didn't retire from the NFL until 1993. That's nine long years for Long to suffer through having that movie, and only that movie, next to his name under "acting performances". 

    Just doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me.

    But hey, at least it wasn't Firestorm.

9. Dennis Rodman, Former NBA Player

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    Dennis Rodman debuts in Double Team (1997)

    Dennis Rodman has always been one of the more out-there characters involved in the NBA—perhaps more so since his retirement from the game.

    And while I'm not quite sure whose idea it was for Rodman to run around in spandex and strange silver bras with Jean-Claude Van Damme, what I am sure of is that this has to be one of the more bizarre acting debuts seen in recent years.

8. Alexander Ovechkin, NHL Player

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    Alexander Ovechkin debuts in Eastern Motors commercial (2009)

    I do not have the words to describe this, or even begin to understand how or why someone thought this would be a good commercial for Washington Capitals player Alexander Ovechkin.

    But please.

    If this is him without the vodka shots?

    Oh man.

    Plain old bizarre.

7. Shaquille O'Neal, Former NBA Player

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    Shaquille O'Neal debuts in Blue Chips (1994)

    Shaq was taken in the first overall pick in the 1992 NBA Draft. Why he was making college basketball movies two years after that date is somewhat of a mystery—especially when he finished second in MVP voting that season as well.

    The acting was bad, the movie choice was horrific, and if he weren't one of the most dominant forwards ever to play the modern game, I think a few more people might have called Shaq out on his bizarre acting debut in Blue Chips.

    It's just that nobody has been game enough to do that yet.

    Which I completely understand.

6. Joe Namath, Former NFL Player

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    Joe Namath debuts in C.C. & Company (1970)

    Why Joe Namath decided to launch into an acting career as a bikie still remains one of life's greatest mysteries. Forget the Bermuda Triange—this is a mystery.

    The legendary NFL quarterback once said:

    "I think at some point in your life, you realize that you don't have to worry if you do everything you're supposed to do right. Or if not right, if you do it the best you can. What can worry do for you? You're already doing the best you can..."

    I'm assuming this was his best, then? Or was it not his best? Or was it right, but not his best about the best that he could learn to do right?

    Man, I'm confused. I don't understand Joe Namath.

    This movie debut didn't make it any easier.

5. Deion Sanders, Former NFL Player

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    Deion Sanders debuts on Saturday Night Live (1995)

    Watch via

    It might have been Prime Time on the TV, but it certainly wasn't Prime Time television on the part of Deion Sanders, whose spectacular flop on Saturday Night Live really wasn't the ideal start to his acting career.

    The expectations weren't that high for Sanders, and yet he still managed to flunk it—especially once he attempted to show off his rapping skills as well.

    Just weird.

4. Brett Favre, Former NFL Player

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    Brett Favre debuts in There's Something About Mary (1998)

    Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre will go down as one of the all-time legends of the game—no questions asked there.

    So at the high point of his career and the year after back-to-back Super Bowl championships, it does seem a little strange to Favre making a cameo appearance in There's Something About Mary.

    It's just downright weird.

    Even if he was just there to play the Dolphins, dumbass.

    Check out Favre at 1:27. It'll blow your mind.

3. Mickey Mantle, Former MLB Player

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    Mickey Mantle debuts in athlete's foot spray commercial (1976)

    Member of Major League Baseball's All-Century Team. Triple Crown winner in 1956. 20-time All Star; seven-time World Series champion; three-time American League MVP.

    Yes, we're talking about that Mickey Mantle—the greatest switch-hitter of all time.

    So what on earth is he doing in this video?

    And why the heck is he in the middle of two feet?

2. Carson Palmer, NFL Player

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    Carson Palmer debuts in John Morrell commercial (2007)

    I don't know what this is.

    I don't know why, when or who thought this would be a good idea for Carson Palmer—all I know is that it exists, and this was his on-screen debut.

    Surely they could have found him a script that didn't include the phrases smoked sausage, one inch bigger and something about getting a measurement. 

    One bizarre commercial.

1. Jason Campbell, NFL Player

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    Jason Campbell debuts in Eastern Motors commercial (2007)

    Proof that this is simply a trend for Oakland Raiders quarterbacks, Jason Campbell takes out the top spot with this commercial he made for Eastern Motors.

    I get they're going for quirky and strange.

    But this is something entirely different.

    And I have no idea what that is.


    What's the most bizarre acting debut you've seen from an athlete?

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