Rolling Stone


As ‘Space Jam: A New Legacy’ hits theaters on July 16th, we look back at some of the all-time great cinematic performanc­es by NBA stars . . . and a few that bricked


10. Shaquille O’Neal

Kazaam 1996

Google Kazaam and a top autofill is “one of the worst movies ever?” Like its seven-foot-one-inch star, it’s up there! Shaq plays a genie who emerges from a boombox to grant a whiny 12-year-old three wishes. One is for candy, the others involve helping the kid find his “real” dad. For some reason, Da Brat and Spinderell­a show up, but not before the titular Kazaam — “a rappin’ genie with an attitude,” per one tag line — spits a bunch of truly terrible rhymes.

9. Gheorghe Muresan

My Giant 1998

In this movie inspired by André the Giant, Billy Crystal plays a sleazy American talent agent who stumbles on the seven-foot-seveninch Romanian import after the agent’s sports car flies off the road in Muresan’s native country. His instinct: Put the big man in pictures and make him a star! Like the beloved André, Muresan’s sweet and gentle demeanor is endearing. But when it comes to screen presence, this might be the first time he ever came up short.

8. Wilt Chamberlai­n Conan the Destroyer 1984

Aside from cameos, Wilt the Stilt’s acting career basically began and ended with this sequel to Conan the Barbarian, which sees him face off against a spear-wielding Grace Jones and the well-oiled torso of Arnold Schwarzene­gger. In a flowing wig, Chamberlai­n is believable as the warrior Bombaata and nimble with fight choreograp­hy. Maybe

Hollywood came knockin’ again, but Wilt’s trailer was too busy rockin’.

7. Julius Erving The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh 1979

Good luck figuring out what’s going on in this “astrologic­al disco-sports extravagan­za” (as an ad raved), which features funky musical performanc­es and montages of Dr. J hoopin’ in slo-mo. He plays the star of a perenniall­y awful pro team whose management turns to an astrologer to help them turn things around. Her advice: Cobble together a roster composed entirely of Pisces (actual sign of Dr. J). Has anyone suggested this tactic to James Dolan?

6. Michael Jordan

Space Jam 1996

His Airness gives a motley crew of Looney Tunes characters, from Daffy Duck to Pepé Le Pew, the Secret Stuff they need to defeat the evil Monstars of Moron Mountain in this hybrid of live action and animation. Jordan’s acting against a green screen is impressive, though he had plenty of experience early in his career playing with teammates who weren’t really there.

5. LeBron James

Trainwreck 2015

As a square, selfabsorb­ed version of himself, King James earns some of the biggest laughs in this rom-com starring Amy Schumer and Bill Hader. LeBron plays best friend to Hader’s star sports doctor, Aaron, dispensing key advice — sometimes in the form of “Gold Digger” lyrics — as Aaron begins dating Schumer’s louche journalist Amy. Best running gag: that James is a cheapskate.

4. Kyrie Irving

Uncle Drew 2018

In this feature film spawned by an ad, Kyrie Irving reprised his title role from Pepsi Max shorts that saw him don old-man makeup to show up to public courts, where he (and, later, his all-star friends) would trounce the locals. With a cast of Hall of Famers like Reggie Miller, plus comic actors like Nick Kroll and J.B. Smoove, the whole thing is way more fun than it has any business being. MVP goes to Irving’s raspy septuagena­rian patter: “Don’t reach, youngblood!”

3. Kevin Garnett

Uncut Gems 2019

KG plays himself in the Safdie brothers’ adrenaline-soaked New York thriller, but this is no cameo. He’s so natural as all-star “Kevin Garnett,” who gets mixed up with second-rate Diamond District hustlers, you almost forget the ex-Celtics forward was a real NBA champ. Though surely he’d never entrust his 2008 ring to someone as shady as Adam Sandler’s jeweler Howard.

2. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Airplane! 1980

Kareem played a villain in Bruce Lee’s final film, The Game of Death, but his work as “co-pilot Roger Murdock” (a.k.a. Abdul-Jabbar trying to go incognito in a pilot’s uniform) is iconic. The six-time NBA MVP gives a master class in side-eye as young cockpit visitor Joey regurgitat­es his dad’s complaints that Kareem doesn’t get back on D. “Tell your old man to drag Walton and Lanier up and down the court every night for 48 minutes!” he sneers. Roger that, Roger.

1. Ray Allen

He Got Game 1998

Ray Ray brings his A game in this Spike Lee film, giving a moody performanc­e as high school basketball phenom Jesus Shuttlewor­th, who’s deciding whether to go to college or turn pro just as his dad (Denzel Washington) is released on parole after several years in prison for killing Jesus’ mom. A tense father-son battle builds throughout the movie to a climactic oneon-one, where someone gets dunked on — we’ll Allen let you guess who.

 ??  ?? O’Neal
 ??  ?? Abdul-Jabbar
Abdul-Jabbar (left)
 ??  ?? Chamberlai­n
 ??  ?? Jordan
 ??  ?? Irving
 ??  ??

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