Issue 41: The 5 Best Movie Scenes Featuring NBA Players

NBA players are no stranger to the silver screen. For as long as we’ve had color movies, we’ve had NBA players ditching their laces and putting on their…I don’t know, Sketchers? Whatever kind of shoes actors typically wear.

Now, to be fair, the safest route for a casting director is to have the player portraying either himself or a fictional basketball player. Most ballers cannot act super well, which is okay, because that would be too much talent for one person to have.

Sometimes, though, a player really embraces his role and delivers a performance (or at least a scene) that stands the test of time. Here’s a look at five fantastic movie scenes featuring NBA players.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — Airplane!

Airplane! is a delightfully silly movie. You probably have a friend that regularly references it (spoiler alert: that friend is me). Of course, a LOT of famous lines have come from that movie. Despite it first being released 40 years ago, it still holds up. Sure, a few parts are…questionable today, but there are still many LOL moments.

Leslie Nielsen steals the show as a doctor, but a solid role in this movie belongs to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He’s playing the co-pilot named Roger Murdock, which offers lots of fun wordplay with his fellow pilots Clarence and Vector (“Do we have clearance, Clarence? What’s your vector, Victor? Roger, Roger.”).

At one point, a little boy named Joey (ayeeeee) comes into the cockpit. Kids touring the cockpit used to be a frequent occurrence and I’m sad I never got to do it as a kiddo because I bet the view from an airplane’s cockpit is super cool.

In any case, Joey seems to be the only one who knows Roger’s secret identity. And Abdul-Jabbar does some great non-verbal work here, even if he’s most certainly reading his lines off a cue card.

LeBron James — Trainwreck

If Trainwreck were an hour and a half movie that featured only Bill Hader and LeBron James bantering back and forth, I would watch it.

Alas, we merely get a few moments of the duo together, but each one is very entertaining. My favorite is when LeBron and Hader (who plays LeBron’s agent in the film) are discussing a problem Hader is having.

LeBron tries to offer advice and brings up going back to Cleveland after he played with the Miami Heat for four years. Hader doesn’t think his situation is the same, but the door has been opened. LeBron begins a full-on sales pitch for Cleveland.

It’s hard to argue with him. The Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame is pretty cool.

Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Muggsy Bogues, Larry Johnson, and Shawn Bradley — Space Jam

When I was growing up, I once watched Space Jam 30 times in one month. And that month was February. It’s safe to say I have seen this movie way too many times.

The general plot: Space aliens come down to Earth and try to kidnap the Looney Tunes. To maintain their freedom, Bugs, Daffy, and co. challenge the aliens to a game of basketball. The aliens are, like, eight inches tall, so this should be a cakewalk, right?

NOT SO FAST. The aliens steal the talent of some of the league’s best players, including Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Larry Johnson, and Muggsy Bogues. Shawn Bradley also has his powers stolen, but that’s largely his 7’6″ height (and ability to be viciously dunked on).

With “Basketball Jones” playing in the background, the crew of now talentless players desperately tries to figure out what’s wrong. There are a lot of great lines in this scene, but my personal favorite is the psychiatrist asking if Patrick Ewing is having trouble performing in other areas of his life. In the song, Barry White smoothly baritones a “yes” while Ewing looks disgruntled and shouts “No!” Just perfection. 😙👌

Olden Polynice — Eddie

In 1987, Olden Polynice was selected by the Chicago Bulls in the NBA Draft. He was then immediately traded to the Seattle Supersonics in exchange for a young pup named Scottie Pippen.

Pippen went on to become one of the greatest NBA players ever, winning six championships with the Bulls. Polynice bounced around both the NBA and the D-League and finished his NBA career with modest 7.8 points and 6.7 rebounds per game averages.

But Pippen has never been in a movie, while Polynice gets to educate us all on what a black hole is. The more you know!

Darius Miles — The Perfect Score

Darius Miles’s first movie role was in the 2002 movie Van Wilder (my, how far Ryan Reynolds and Kal Penn have come). He played a college basketball player.

Flash forward two years and Miles portrayed a high school basketball player in the 2004 film The Perfect Score. He’s got range, for sure.

In this scene, the ragtag crew of high school students — featuring young Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson — have located the test they need to fudge their SAT scores. And now, as the scene title suggests, it’s time to trust each other’s talents.

Apparently, Miles’ talent is…solving math word problems? He swiftly corrects Johannson on a question about mixing juice and water. I do not miss standardized testing one bit.

The Crisp Bounce Pass Holiday Corner

Perhaps you’re like me and didn’t quite realize we’re already a week into December. And maybe, also like me, you’re scrambling for some last-minute gift ideas.

Well, I’ve got you covered. For the rest of the month, this section will provide a pair of hoops-themed gift ideas for your enjoyment.

Grab them as a gift for someone else or snag ’em for yourself. And if you have any must-have suggestions, send them my way!

Homage NBA Shirts

Homage Dennis Rodman Worm Tee

For the basketball fan that wants a little flair, it’s hard to beat these retro NBA shirts from Homage. To start, they are UNFAIRLY comfortable. Secondly, they have a ton of fun designs, like NBA Jam duos and cityscapes.

They also do delightful takes on individual players. I have a boombox-carrying, leather jacket-wearing Damian Lillard and a Zion Williamson shirt where last year’s top pick has just destroyed a basket because he is an oversized human being.

You can also get something like this ridiculous Dennis Rodman “The Worm” shirt. It’s just as fabulous as Rodman’s NBA and off-court career has been.

Globe Basketball from Urban Outfitters

Urban Outfitters Globe Ball

Sure, a normal orange basketball is fine. But if you want to be the coolest kid on the playground, you can snag a ball that also serves as a globe.

My favorite part of this ball? It’s like gifting the ability to travel. You can sink a shot from, say, The Maldives without ever having to step off the court. Baller.

That’s all ’til next time. Thanks for reading!


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