Five NBA Stars Turned Actors

Five NBA Stars Turned Actors (photo)

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After directly jumping from high school to the NBA, LeBron James never got to experience the college basketball ritual of March Madness, but if it were a condition rather than an event, I’d say his decision to star in the Universal comedy “Fantasy Basketball Camp” might just count for some sort of insanity. James is set to play the lead in the film, directed by “Soul Men” helmer Malcolm D. Lee, about a group of friends who head to Vegas and learn life lessons in addition to tips on how to set picks at the Cleveland Cavalier’s fantasy camp.

Of course, James already has some big screen experience under his belt with last year’s Spirit Award-nominated doc “More Than a Game” about his Ohio high school squad, as well as some small-screen experience on “Saturday Night Live” and multi-character Nike commercials. Still, the track record for basketball stars crossing over into movies is about as ugly as the Nets’ standing this season. With that in mind, somewhere between the steadily working former forward Rick Fox to the one-film wonder Michael Jordan (“Space Jam”), here’s our starting five for players who became Hollywood leading men.

03312010_kareem.jpgKareem Abdul-Jabbar

As with all basketball stars, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s height made him enticing to movie studios, but as far as film careers go, his natural charisma and ability to pick parts is what made him tower above all others. He had bit parts and cameos as himself through the years, but his two most notable performances came in “Airplane!” where he spoofed himself as co-pilot Roger Murdock, whose strong resemblance to a certain Laker isn’t lost on one of the plane’s young passengers, and “Game of Death,” where he got to show off his Jeet Kune Do martial arts skills. Released after his death in 1978, Bruce Lee’s final film was Abdul-Jabbar’s first and came about after Abdul-Jabbar befriended and trained under Lee while he attended UCLA. Abdul-Jabbar told the L.A. Times, “Bruce, more or less, backed up what I had learned from John Wooden. The whole thing about being prepared and understanding your own skills. What you have to offer and what you don’t have to offer. Channeling to your approach to everything specific. It was just an echo of John Wooden, from Hong Kong as opposed to Indiana.”

03312010_shaq.jpgShaquille O’Neal

When the Shaq Attack came to Los Angeles via free agency in 1996, he had his eye on winning a championship with the Lakers, but he also prized the opportunity to build upon a burgeoning rap career (believe it or not, 1993’s “Shaq Diesel” went platinum) and a supporting role in William Friedkin’s college basketball drama “Blue Chips,” which co-starred his then-Orlando Magic teammate Penny Hardaway. One could argue that his first attempt at leading man status as a larger-than-life genie in Disney’s “Kazaam” was due to the fact that the project was rushed from script to screen to accommodate O’Neal’s basketball schedule after writer/director/former Starsky Paul Michael Glaser dreamed up the idea after meeting him during the ’95 All-Star Game.

However, there was no such excuse for O’Neal’s ill-fated stab at the superhero Steel in 1997, which when coupled with that summer’s “Batman and Robin” marked a particular low point for the DC Comics universe. (Another fun fact: It was also Judd Nelson’s last major studio movie.) Long known for the Superman tattoo on his right arm, O’Neal proved to be no man of steel at the box office, grinding out $1.6 million at the box office, earning a Razzie nom for worst actor and all but ending his acting career, which has been limited to cameos in “Freddy Got Fingered,” “The Wash” and “Scary Movie 4.”


Gheorghe Muresan

According to Entertainment Weekly, Columbia Pictures had to spring for a modified van to drive the 7’7″ Romanian star to the set of his lone big-screen appearance in the Billy Crystal comedy “My Giant.” (He would also play a ventriloquist in Eminem’s “My Name Is…” video.) Remembering his earlier work with Andre the Giant in “The Princess Bride,” Crystal wrote “My Giant” with Muresan in mind, crafting a story about a small-time Hollywood agent who traveled to Romania in search of someone he could turn into a star and Muresan spent the 1997 offseason back in his home country having Crystal help him pronounce his lines in English. Of course, Muresan never was as big in Hollywood as he was on the court, with “My Giant” grossing a mere $7.9 million when it was released the following year.


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.