4 Bizarre Movie Roles Played By Famous Basketball Players



With Kobe Bryant recently teaming up with director Robert Rodriguez on a film project by Nike, we’ve decided to look back at some movie roles played by ballers.

More specifically, the weirder ones.

1. Wilt Chamberlain as Bombaata in Conan the Destroyer (1984)

Wilt Chamberlain was and still is considered to be one of the greatest basketball players of all time.

At the same time, John Milius’s 1982 film Conan the Barbarian was a landmark of a movie, spawning its own genre and practically revitalizing the Italian exploitation film industry as it mobilized to release dozens of movies imitating it.

Conan the Destroyer was the sequel to the successful barbarian movie, bringing back Arnold Schwarzeneggar and respected Japanese actor Mako from the first film.

Wilt Chamberlain plays Bombaata, a soldier sent by an evil queen to betray Conan.

Standing seven-foot-one, he’s a fearsome presence in the movie, a He-Man action figure come to life.

As film debuts for basketball legends go, playing an evil henchman in a Dino De Laurentiis fantasy sequel is a mighty weird one.

But is it as weird as…

2. Shaquille O’Neal as Steel in Steel (1997)

I know what you’re thinking: why didn’t Kazaam show up on the list? Everyone thinks of Kazaam when they think of Shaq’s film career. It’s become a punchline.

But how many of you remember this little-seen superhero film from 1997? Shaq plays a John Henry Irons, a weapon designer who decides to fight crime in a costume that looks like he borrowed it from the Power Rangers backlot.

Not many fans saw it. The film only grossed 1.7 million dollars, almost a ninth of its estimated budget.

The film lands Shaq the number two spot on this list for both putting Shaq in that cartoonish armour and casting former 80s heartthrob Judd Nelson as the villain.

But at least it didn’t have a respected international director and a massively popular action star in it, right? I guess that brings us to…

3. Dennis Rodman as Yaz in Double Team (1997)

At first we were going to pick Rodman’s role as an Interpol agent opposite Dane Cook in the little-seen actioner Simon Sez (1999).

But why would we choose that when Rodman co-starred in a film directed by legendary Hong Kong filmmaker Tsui Hark, opposite a then-superstar Jean Claude Van Damme?

Rodman’s character here is suitably weird, a bizarre arms dealer who “boasts that he stocks military hardware so new that even he does not know he has it”.

When an evil Mickey Rourke kidnaps JCVD’s wife, JCVD and Rodman have to team up to stop him.

The movie didn’t do well commercially or critically. Critics noted that Rodman’s eccentric arms dealer was a distracting presence. We can understand that. Rodman has an interesting look in the film, with his multi-hued hair, blue shades, orange mesh wife-beater and purple pants with orange piping.

But when it comes to an interesting look, I think the next entry on the list has it beat…

4. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as Mantis in Game of Death (1978)

We’ve saved the best for last.

There are few images as iconic as Bruce Lee’s striped yellow jumpsuit from his unfinished final film Game of Death (1978).

An equally striking image is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s enormous sunglasses-sporting fighter, dressed in a loose blue shirt and white short-shorts.

This was Abdul-Jabbar’s debut appearance, and he would go on to feature in multiple movies and tv episodes.

In possibly the coolest role on this list, Abdul-Jabbar plays Mantis, the “5th Floor Guardian”, who fights Lee with an eerie calmness.

The bizarre costume choice of loose shirt and shorts was presumably made to help show the contrast between the heights of Lee and Abdul-Jabbar.

A runner-up for this list would be his appearance in the 1980 comedy Airplane!, where he plays “Roger Murdock”, a co-pilot, opposite a kid who is convinced he is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

We’ll end this list with their dialogue:

Joey: Wait a minute. I know you. You’re Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. You play basketball for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Roger Murdock: I’m sorry son, but you must have me confused with someone else. My name is Roger Murdock. I’m the co-pilot.

Joey: You are Kareem! I’ve seen you play. My dad’s got season tickets.

Roger Murdock: I think you should go back to your seat now Joey. Right Clarence?

Captain Clarence Oveur: Nahhhhhh, he’s not bothering anyone, let him stay here.

Roger Murdock: But just remember, my name is Roger Murdock. I’m an airline pilot.

Joey: I think you’re the greatest, but my dad says you don’t work hard enough on defense. And he says that lots of times, you don’t even run down court. And that you don’t really try, except during the playoffs.

Roger Murdock (breaking character): The hell I don’t! Listen, kid! I’ve been hearing that crap ever since I was at UCLA. I’m out there busting my buns every night. Tell your old man to drag Walton and Lanier up and down the court for 48 minutes!


Kaylea at 14 Jan 2012

The forum is a brighter place thnaks to your posts. Thanks!

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