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Becoming a professional athlete is hard enough. You have to be in tip-top shape, be a better player than countless competitors, and find a balance between work life and home life among all of the time it takes to travel and compete. 

Some athletes, however, manage to find time to do it all and then some, and find time to act in movies somewhere in their hectic schedules. 

Acting may be an unlikely skill for professional athletes, but many of them are just as smooth as players on the big screen as they are on the field. 

From behemoth World Wrestling Federation (WWF) legends to convicted National Football League (NFL) murderers, players of all games and sizes have passed the ball from athletics to acting. 

Here are 3 of the most famous (and infamous) names that have exchanged the helmets and jerseys for spotlights and scripts. 

Andre the (Gentle) Giant is a Treasure in The Princess Bride

If you haven’t seen this cherished 1980s adventure-fantasy hybrid, you’ve at least heard of it. 

The Princess Bride, filmed in 1987 and has earned over 80% satisfaction from its viewers over the decades, features Andre the Giant as Fezzik, a towering WWF icon, as a docile sidekick to Spanish swordsman Inigo Montoya.

Andre the Giant, formally Andre Rene Roussimoff, was a French-born pro wrestler whose domination in the WWF lasted from the early ‘70s into the latter half of the ‘80s. 

Standing at a staggering 7’4” and weighing over a quarter of a ton, Andre was a sufferer of gigantism and acromegaly, but his monumental stature and soft-spoken character’s demeanor in the film led to a larger than life legacy long after its release. 

The simplicity of Andre’s role in stark contrast to the complex personalities built into the more forefront stars of The Princess Bride, combined with the other characters’ tendency to see Fezzik as a utility brute and nothing else, invokes a fondness in viewers that has withstood the test of time. 

While Andre’s acting career as a whole was short-lived, most likely cut short by his death in 1993, he remains a large presence in fans’ minds both literally and figuratively. 

Lebron James Throws His Name in the Acting Ring in Trainwreck

Yep, the king joined the likes of Amy Schumer and Bill Hader in the 2015 rom-com Trainwreck, a moderately enjoyed film that follows a modern, career powered woman that flees commitment. 

Lebron’s basketball followers were skeptical of his decision to take a shot at the acting game, but the general consensus is that he did surprisingly well.

Then again, it was probably pretty easy to succeed when his role was literally “Lebron James as himself.”

Lebron’s role in the film is a familiar one, as the mother-hen-like gatekeeper of a lead character’s fragile emotional state. Viewers probably didn’t expect the role to be played by the 6’9” ball star, though, which is why watchers were surprisingly charmed by Lebron’s appearance. 

The movie’s famous support character has been regarded as not so much of a supporting character at all, and more of a pivotal role that nudged the film from meh to memorable.

Producers didn’t miss the chance to slip in a scene where Lebron’s day job comes to spotlight: he mops the basketball court with the unsurprisingly less skilled character played by Bill Hader. 

Movie presences by other ball legends including, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Ray Allen and Shaquille O’Neal, have paled in comparison to the easy-flowing on-screen talent that Lebron has an abundance of. 

O.J. Simpson Gains Momentum in The Naked Gun Franchise

Who would have thought that the Juice’s legend progressed the way it did? From NFL star to an actor to... convicted killer? 

The rise and fall of O.J. was a wild ride for everyone involved but, apart from the whole double murder thing, the Heisman Trophy winner can be remembered as the fumbling dunce of a detective, Nordberg, throughout The Naked Gun series. 

Officer Nordberg is a habitually ungraceful and unlucky character whose very first appearance is a whole mess of bumbling through a crime bust on a ship gone wrong, including getting shot, stepping on a bear trap, and tumbling overboard. 

The lovable goofball of a role was significantly less lovable in 1995 when O.J. went on trial for the murder of his ex-wife and her boyfriend. 

His reputation soured so much, in fact, that the Golden Raspberry Awards slapped a “Worst Supporting Actor” title on his final film role before conviction. 

In the two and a half decades since then, The Naked Gun has been under scrutiny for its affiliation with the athlete-turned-actor-turn-convict, with one brash critic going as far as saying that O.J.’s face should be digitally converted to that of another actor in 2017.

Directors tried to rally up enough enthusiasm for a fourth Naked Gun after the football player was behind bars, but fans and staff couldn’t get behind the reworking the franchise had to undergo following O.J. 's conviction, and essential people jumped ship for the emerging Scary Movie franchise. 

The Juice’s empire rose and fell with high speed, with widespread recognition no matter if he was wearing a football jersey, a detective’s hat or an orange jumpsuit. 

Athlete Movie Appearances Enjoyed by Sports and Film Fans

Cameos from famous professional athletes are a pleasant surprise for sports and movie fans alike. Even when the players’ acting talents are less than remarkable, their presence in a film alone is amusement enough to most viewers. 

When a prominent athletic figure plays a character in a film, fans are likely to watch it for the presence of their role model alone, generating more revenue for the movie, the actors, and the athlete. 

From timeless roles like Andre the Giant’s to Lebron’s quirky presence to the acting exposure that further led to O.J. 's fallout, athletes in movies add extra flavor to the film experience if anything just by giving us all a chuckle at a professional sports player’s attempt at acting. 

You might also be interested in: The 10 Best Football Movies To Get You Ready For Thanksgiving Weekend

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Feb 20, 2020

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