Developing multiple skill sets and talents makes a person a much more valuable commodity in any profession. While valuable, can be a difficult feat to accomplish, especially if you’re trying to be an expert in multiple categories as opposed to simply being adequate.
Professional athletes are used to being watched by thousands of people and feeling the pressure of spectators, and some love the spotlight so much that it’s somewhat of a natural transition for them to start acting as well. There are a number of actors that have had incredible careers as professional athletes. Find out who in the slides to follow!
#18 Jason Lee
Jason Lee’s first real occupation was that of a professional skateboarder and extreme sports entrepreneur. After trying his hand at acting in the early 1990s, he was discovered by Kevin Smith who decided to use Lee for a lead in the 1995 film “Mallrats”. To many, Lee is most well known for his role in the NBC comedy “My Name Is Early.”
#17 Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
Perhaps one of the most notable athletes turned actors is Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Not only did he have a successful career as a professional wrestler in WWE, he was a football player in the Canadian Football League for a short period of time. What’s most admirable about Johnson’s career trajectory is the incredible success he’s had in the film industry since making the change. Films like “The Fast and The Furious” and HBO shows like “Ballers” have further boosted his star status.
#16 Stacey Keibler
Fans of the World Wrestling Federation will recognize Stacey Keibler was one of the most popular wrestlers for years. She eventually left wrestling to pursue opportunities in a few different reality shows and TV series. Sadly, the role that earned her the most fame in her life was that of being George Clooney’s girlfriend for numerous years.
#15 Terry Crews
While he might not look like it, Terry Crews was actually a huge lover of art from the beginning of his days in college. He earned an art scholarship but ultimately decided to pursue a football scholarship with Western Michigan University. He was later drafted as a defensive end for The Los Angeles Rams in 1991. Crews had a short career in football as he retired in 1997, but he’s had great success in acting with roles in popular films like “The Expendables” and television shows like “Brooklyn Nine Nine.”
#14 John Cena
If you didn’t know John Cena had a background as a Division III football player at Springfield College or that he’s had a promising career in professional wrestling, you might have guessed it from looking at his frame. That badass look has helped him land roles in films like “The Marine.” Cena still focuses more on wrestling than he does acting, but it’s likely that his film career is far from over.
#13 Michael Jordan
Although it’s recently been disputed, many consider Michael Jordan to be one of the best professional basketball players ever. His professional basketball spanned many years, but his acting career only featured one film, “Space Jam.” The film was incredibly successful and has spawned much talk of a sequel, but it was Jordan’s only acting role in a movie.
#12 Joe Namath
Joe Namath, or “Broadway Joe,” as he was also known, had a huge career in football with the New York Jets. He even won the Super Bowl as their quarterback. While he never had a huge acting career after football, he did accept some small roles on television, but they mostly involved him playing himself. Nowadays, he’s been featured on multiple talk shows and he continues to commentate on pro football.
#11 Chuck Connors
Chuck Connors was a member of not one, but three professional sports leagues after he served in the military. He played for the Boston Celtics in the NBA, the Brooklyn Dodgers in the MLB, and he was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the NFL. After his colored history in sports, he went on to enjoy a 40-year career in television and film. One of his most popular roles was on the ABC series, “The Rifleman,” in which he played Lucas McCain.
#10 Bruce Lee
Bruce Lee actually began acting before he started developing his martial arts skills, but he became a cultural icon for his martial arts performances in films like “Game of Death” and in the TV series “The Green Hornet.” Sadly, Lee died at the young age of 32, but he had already led the popularization of martial arts into the US and starred in multiple films.
#9 Chuck Norris
Chuck Norris is most popularly known for being used in almost every internet meme imaginable, but it’s less well known that he was actually a Karate champion athlete at one point. Norris got his first big acting break when Bruce Lee decided to put him in his movie “Return of the Dragon” in 1972 as the main villain.
#8 Arnold Schwarzenegger
Arnold Schwarzenegger has had a diverse and accomplished career that has ranged from being a championship bodybuilder in 1982 to a hugely successful actor on films like “Conan The Barbarian” and “The Terminator.” Not only has he been a bodybuilder and an actor, but he was also the Governor of California for a number of years. Since leaving office, he’s returned to acting in a follow-up film to “The Terminator” along with other films.
#7 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
As a key member of the Los Angeles Lakers, Jabbar won several NBA championships with the team. When the Lakers became their most dominant self, Jabbar was already acting in films. His biggest role was in “Game of Death” in which he fought Bruce Lee, but he was had a role in the comedy “Airplane” in which he played himself. He’s put the acting hat away as he now acts as a commentator for TIME magazine and is a noted expert in Jazz music.
#6 Ronda Rousey
Ronda Rousey has dominated Mixed Martial Arts by becoming a world champion, but she also began her foray into the acting world with roles in The Expendables 3, the Entourage movie, and The Fast and The Furious franchise. It’s likely that her filmography will continue to grow as she’s still young and very ambitious.
#5 Kurt Russell
It’s not commonly known that Russell was once an athlete, but he played minor league baseball. When push came to shove, he chose to pursue acting instead of baseball because he had been doing it since he was a young child. Russell seems to have chosen wisely as he’s had enormous success in movies like “The Thing,” and “The Hateful Eight.”
#4 Shaquille O’Neal
Shaquille O’Neal, or simply “Shaq” as he’s more commonly known, is a talented man with a very diverse skill set. He’s won NBA championships, acted in numerous films, starred in countless commercials, and has even put a rap album. His acting career continues with recent appearances on television, such as the one on ABC show “Fresh Off the Boat.”
#3 Jason Statham
From his film career, you would imagine Jason Statham having a professional background in some kind of martial art, but he was actually a member of the British National Diving Squad for twelve years, even competing in the Olympics. You would have never thought that, right? He’s had many noteworthy film roles including The Transporter and The Expendables.
#2 Mark Harmon
Mark Harmon is actually the son of NFL legend Tom Harmon, and evidently, the football genes carried over to Mark. He was the quarterback on the UCLA Bruins when they won the Rose Bowl, but his destiny was clearly in acting as he’s starred in numerous TV shows, including “Chicago Hope,” “St. Elsewhere,” and most famously on crime investigation show “NCIS.”
#1 Lawrence Taylor
Lawrence Taylor played football as a linebacker for the University of North Carolina and the New York Giants, and his success led to him being included in the Hall of Fame. Despite personal troubles like drug addiction and legal issues, Taylor also enjoyed some acting success when he starred in films like “Any Given Sunday” with Al Pacino and Jamie Foxx.
It seems that God really does give generously with two hands sometimes. Not only did some of these famous celebrities enjoy success in one career, but they accomplished much in both sport and acting.
In the case of most of these celebrities, they decided to pursue either an athletic career or an acting career predominantly instead of straddling both simultaneously. That sure does seem to indicate that it’s not so easy to be successful in two high-pressure careers!
Were you surprised by the backgrounds of any of the stars featured on the list? Let us know in the comments, and please remember to share with your family and friends!