10 Sports Stars Who Became Actors
Entertainment Sports

10 Sports Stars Who Became Actors

Being a great athlete is one thing. Being a great actor is another. Those who can make the transition from one to the other is a rarity that a select few have performed with ease. Many have tried and failed, some quite miserably, such as Dennis Rodman and Brian Bosworth.

While some actors’ athletic histories are known to many (think Dwayne Johnson and John Cena’s pro-wrestling careers), you’d be surprised by how many of them actually started their professional careers on the pitch and in other arenas. Here are some prominent athletes who became actors with great success.

Note: Champion Peoples is not affiliated with any of the sports stars listed below

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was a football player and a WWE superstar long before he made his profitable jump to the silver screen. Luckily, his trademark showmanship and athleticism continue to be valuable assets in the movie industry. By the 2010s, Johnson was established as one of the most bankable leading action stars.

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The actor commands franchises from “Fast and Furious” to “Jumanji” with his signature camera-ready talents. And, his eternal confidence helps push any film series or solo action film into the stratosphere. With a knack for fight scenes and one-liners, the former wrestler makes for a natural movie presence.

Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan is often considered to be the greatest basketball player of all time. He won multiple NBA championships with the famous Chicago Bulls team of the 1990s, plus he even tried his hand at baseball – something that wasn’t quite as successful as his NBA career.

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Jordan’s first major movie role saw him play himself in the classic hit Space Jam, alongside many famous cartoon characters such as Bugs Bunny.

Jason Statham

After looking at two sports stars that have dipped their toes into the world of acting, now we go into some that have carved out legitimate careers. Statham falls firmly into that category and many forget that he actually started out as a diver, representing Great Britain at the 1990 Commonwealth Games.

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He initially moved into modelling and spent time working on market stalls before getting his big break courtesy of Guy Ritchie in ‘Lock, Stoke and Two Smoking Barrels’. Ritchie was clearly a fan as he offered up further roles in ‘Snatch’ and ‘Revolver’, while he’ll also have a part in ‘Five Eyes’ which is set for release in 2022. Often cast as the antihero, Statham has also turned out in ‘The Transporter’, ‘The Italian Job’, ‘The Expendables’ and the ‘Fast & Furious’ franchise to name a few.

John Cena

If you can’t see him then, you sure can see him now! When discussing former athletes who became actors, you can’t leave out the name John Cena. Before his days of spouting witty one-liners and flexing his muscles on the big screen, Cena was spitting rhymes and winning championship belts in the WWE. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time, tying with former pro wrestler Ric Flair for the most world championship reigns in professional wrestling history.

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Cena’s acting career began with starring roles in The Marine, 12 Rounds, and Legendary — all three of which were produced by WWE Studios, the motion pictures arm of the WWE. Since then, he has brought his charismatic presence to comedies such as Trainwreck and Blockers, as well as high-profile blockbusters like Bumblebee and The Suicide Squad. He will also reprise his role as Peacemaker in the upcoming HBO Max series.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Before he became one of the most famous action stars of the 20th century, Arnold Schwarzenegger was a champion bodybuilder. From his roles in “The Terminator” films to “Conan the Barbarian,” he was the ultimate symbol of the muscled action hero.

Schwarzenegger just oozes this underrated charisma that injects humor into so many of his projects. It’s likely what made his transition into comedies such a resounding success. You all remember “Kindergarten Cop,” right? All these years later, his impact on both the worlds of entertainment and bodybuilding is just as relevant as it was in the 80s and 90s.

Vinnie Jones

Jones was known as a hard man on the pitch and he was already putting that persona to good use before officially calling time on his footballing career. The former midfielder got his first gig via the previously mentioned Ritchie in the 1998 hit ‘Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’, just months before playing his final game for Queens Park Rangers.

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A role in ‘Snatch’ as Bullet Tooth Tony followed in 2000 and he was lining up alongside Nicolas Cage and John Travolta not long after in ‘Gone in 60 Seconds’ and ‘Swordfish’ respectively. Jones’ first leading role came in 2001 in the sports comedy ‘Mean Machine’, while he was part of a star-studded cast in the ‘X-Men’ franchise when playing Juggernaut.

Burt Reynolds

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Burt Reynolds has made a name for himself as a seasoned actor, but football was his first passion. He played at Palm Beach high school and was running back at Florida State. Unfortunately, Smokey the Bandit star got injured during his freshman year – an injury that was later re-aggravated following a car accident. This effectively ended his football career with the Seminoles, where he has two touchdowns and 146 rushing yards to his name.

Dave Bautista

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To wrestling fans, he will always be ‘Batista’ a.k.a. The Animal.  Known for his hulking muscular frame, Bautista began his professional wrestling career in 1999 and signed with the WWE the next year. He quickly rose to fame under the aforementioned ring name and would go on to become a six-time world champion, winning the World Heavyweight Championship four times and the WWE Championship twice.

Kevin Garnett

Kevin Garnett’s skills on the court led him to a legendary run on teams like the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Boston Celtics. While it seemed unlikely, the power forward managed to find his way into the movie industry with a chance call from the Safdie Brothers. Starring alongside Adam Sandler, Garnett plays a fictionalized version of himself in the thrilling film “Uncut Gems.”

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His ability to trade lines with a great cast of actors makes for an essential part of the story. Avoiding the perils of stunt casting, the athlete builds a realistic character on top of his own NBA persona.

Jon Stewart

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Back when he was still going under the name Jon Leibowitz, the former Daily Show host played on the William & Mary men’s soccer team. Stewart came to the team as a walk-on and he eventually became a starter as a senior. The future funnyman helped the team make it into the the NCAA tournament.

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