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Grading the Acting Skills of 10 of the NBA's Biggest Stars

Sean HojnackiFeatured ColumnistFebruary 13, 2013

Grading the Acting Skills of 10 of the NBA's Biggest Stars

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    The 85th Academy Awards are right around the corner, but unfortunately, no NBA superstar received a nomination.

    Most shockingly, Kevin Durant didn't impress Academy voters with his lead role in Thunderstruck.

    Still, a few stars have flashed some surprising talent in TV shows, commercials and online shorts. While they're just cameos, a few of these ballers might get acting jobs once the sun sets on their NBA careers.

    We have already seen Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Airplane, Michael Jordan in Space Jam and Shaquille O'Neal in Blue Chips and Kazaam

    And I would be remiss not to mention Ray Allen's excellence as Jesus Shuttlesworth in He Got Game. How the voters at the 1999 MTV Movie Awards gave the nod for Breakthrough Male Performance to James Van Der Beek instead of Allen, I'll never know. 

    But Allen is on his way out in the NBA, hanging around long enough to knock down some more threes and snag another championship ring if he's lucky. He is excluded from consideration, but if it was five years ago, I would have to give him an "A."

    The same goes for Steve Nash, an aging point guard whose time on camera ensures hilarity. Just check out this infomercial from the "Canadian celebrity" himself.

    With that said, let's review the acting chops of some of the league's biggest stars and ponder which ones would be worthy of a role in Kazaam 2—if it ever comes out, that is. 

Chris Paul

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    Grade: A-

    Chris Paul is probably the best point guard in the NBA, and he belongs on any short list of MVP candidates this season.

    But as seen in a recent ad for State Farm car insurance, his hypothetical identical twin separated at birth is also "born to assist." 

    Cliff Paul is absolutely magnificent in this ad. Props to CP3 for portraying someone other than himself on the small screen—a rare feat for NBA ballers. While he doesn't have any lines, Cliff's slack-jawed grin is priceless.

    One of the major television networks needs to develop a sitcom with Chris and Cliff. More than a decade removed from The Wayans Bros., this brotherly duo could be big. 

Kevin Durant

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    Grade: C-

    Kevin Durant inexplicably released a movie, Thunderstruck, in 2012.

    KD is pretty awkward in the first scene of the trailer and only slightly better in his second appearance when he's talking trash (at 1:31). My favorite line has to be his simply stated "Whoa" (at 2:00).

    Durant is downright wooden when he's trying to act.

    This vehicle seems like a hastily slapped together, tired concept that is worthwhile only for the biggest fans of the Durantula. 

    The movie received a score of 20 percent on the website Rotten Tomatoes, but somehow, 72 percent of audience voters liked it. I'm guessing the Oklahoma City Thunder fanbase voted favorably for it en masse.

    To Durant's credit, his acting skills seem to have improved in this Sprint commercial.

Dwight Howard

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    Grade: B+

    Dwight Howard is petulant and demanding, and in my opinion, he's an unlikeable diva.

    He's known as "Superman," and even donned the cape for the slam dunk contest in 2008. Isn't Shaq the only Superman?

    But then there's also Dwight's SportsCenter commercial where he plays a mild-mannered Clark Kent version of himself. Now that's funny.

    He has an elegant use of props with his glasses and shows a talent for physical comedy.

    And in case you needed more proof that Dwight is a funny dude, there's also his "Save the Centers" spoof, which lampoons Sarah McLachlan's depressing ads for the ASPCA.

    Howard almost flubs the first line ("This year, centers have been...left off the All-Star ballot"), but he recovers and is downright funny. His head-bob on the attempted three-pointer is my personal favorite (at 1:00).

Carmelo Anthony

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    Grade: B

    Carmelo Anthony stretched his talents onto the small screen with a bit part on the Showtime comedy Nurse Jackie (warning: video has strong NSFW language)

    He doesn't rush his lines, but his acting is far from good. His first utterance will shock fans who know him as a professional basketball player: "Professional baseball player. Same here."

    Wait, what? Wow. Now that's acting.

    Melo also giggles at an uppity elderly woman (1:12) and has his own monologue (1:36). But his best line is certainly, "I gotta take a leak. Don't nobody touch my cards" (at 2:09).

    He's not bad per se, but he had better not quit his day job.

    If you want a blow-by-blow, Ross Bernhardt of Charged.fm has an amusing breakdown here.

Jeremy Lin

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    Grade: C

    Jeremy Lin attempts to show off his acting abilities in this online short, The Last Pick.

    I suppose his acting is decent, mostly because Lin himself is that bland in real life. And at least this is not hocking a product, but a promo for Lin's charity foundation.

    That said, his thespian abilities are fairly lackluster.

    I don't see a future in acting for Lin. He should stick to the pre-game kung fu rituals with his Houston Rockets teammates.

Blake Griffin

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    Grade: A-

    Blake Griffin has roles in many commercials. One of them was during the 2011 slam dunk contest, which was essentially an ad for Kia.

    But throughout all of his commercials, one thing is certain: He is great at the deadpan.

    Also, is he flipping the bird in this ad?

LeBron James

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    Grade: B

    LeBron James is quite amusing while playing multiple parts in this commercial. Of course, the old man is the funniest, even if it is a thinly-veiled version of John Witherspoon in Friday.

    But LeBron's acting has been criticized before. 

    First, let's consider his flop against J.R. Smith of the New York Knicks in last year's playoffs. Next, there was his performance following a Tyson Chandler "flagrant" foul, where James rolled around on the floor before appearing fine moments later. 

Dwyane Wade

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    Grade: B-

    Dwyane Wade was pretty good in the Gatorade "Good vs. Evil" commercial. But I probably think that's just because the evil version of himself is so hilariously overdone, not to mention that it closely resembles Jason Terry. 

    Wade also starred in a series of T-Mobile commercials with Charles Barkley. He wasn't very good in any of them, unfortunately, especially the first one.

    "Why not? I'm Duh-Wyane Wade. My five's hot!"

    Ugh.

Kevin Garnett

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    Grade: B

    That's right, Kevin Garnett played Wilt Chamberlain in the TV movie Rebound: The Legend of Earl "The Goat" Manigault (warning: strong NSFW language). 

    He's not going to make anyone think he's actually "The Stilt," but he's pretty convincing as a brash trash-talker. His sole line, "Welcome to the big league, schoolboy," seems totally believable.

    I wonder what young baller would play KG in Smack Talk: The Legend of Honey Nut Cheerios.

Kobe Bryant

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    Grade: A-

    Kobe Bryant actually had a part in the show Moesha back in 1996. YouTube has disabled embedding for the video, but you can watch it here.

    In the episode, Kobe portrays an unscrupulous individual who wants Moesha to take a test for him.

    Oh, Black Mamba, so nefarious!

    Kobe is pretty convincing, and I would love to see him in further episodes if they ever revive the series.

    The two friends have a natural chemistry, which was nurtured when Bryant took her to senior prom.

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