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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.


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.