Entertainment
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The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors

Updated June 14, 2019 8.5k votes 1.4k voters 17.8k views35 items

List RulesVote up the athletes-turned-actors who have had the best acting careers

You probably didn’t even know that some of your favorite actors got their start in the sports world! In fact, several athletes found a second career in film and television, thanks to their talent on and off the field. These athletes who became actors prove that they have star power no matter what industry they’re in.

From football players and pro skateboarders to soccer stars and basketball legends, plenty of athletes turned actors are shaking off the dumb jock stereotype and proving that they’ve got true emotional depth. Or at least a knack for comedic timing. Some went on to star in their own TV shows and movies, other played spot-on impressions of themselves on screen.

Who is the most famous athlete turned actor? Sean Connery is definitely one of them. The actor best known for playing James Bond was such a good soccer player that he was offered a position with Manchester United. He ultimately declined, saying, “I realized that a top-class footballer could be over the hill by the age of 30, and I was already 23. I decided to become an actor and it turned out to be one of my more intelligent moves."

Former professional skateboarder Jason Lee has starred in the hit TV show My Name is Earl. Carl Weathers appeared in the Rocky films and he also played a parody of himself in the series Arrested Development.

Are you surprised that there are so many actors who used to be athletes? Vote up the former sports stars who became the best athletic actors to ever grace the screen. Vote down the hacks who should have stuck to their first love.
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  • 1
    356
    102

    Carl Weathers

    Rocky, Predator
    Professional football player, 1970-1974
  • 2
    312
    101

    Sean Connery

    Goldfinger, The Untouchables
    Bodybuilder and footballer
  • 3
    296
    95

    Kurt Russell

    Forrest Gump, The Thing
    Professional baseball player
  • 4
    283
    99

    Chuck Norris

    The Expendables 2, DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story
  • 5
    278
    118

    Lou Ferrigno

    The Avengers, The Incredible Hulk
    Professional bodybuilder, 1969-1994
  • 6
    230
    111

    Esther Williams

    That's Entertainment!, Till the Clouds Roll By
    Competitive swimmer
  • 7
    193
    127

    Bruce Lee

    Enter the Dragon, Limitless
  • 8
    180
    123

    Arnold Schwarzenegger

    Terminator 2: Judgment Day, The Terminator
  • 9
    147
    99

    Merlin Olsen

    The Undefeated, Mitchell
    Professional football players, 1962-1976
  • 10
    137
    94

    André the Giant

    The Princess Bride, Conan the Destroyer
    Professional wrestler, 1963-1992
  • 11
    144
    107

    Jason Lee

    The Incredibles, Almost Famous
    Professional skateboarder
  • 12
    140
    103

    Bubba Smith

    Police Academy, Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment
    Professional football player, 1967-1976
  • 13
    225
    191

    Dwayne Johnson

    Fast & Furious 6, Fast Five
  • 14
    149
    122

    Ed O'Neill

    Wayne's World, Wreck-It Ralph
  • 15
    115
    100

    Jesse Ventura

    Predator, Batman & Robin
    Professional wrestler, 1975-1986
  • 16
    105
    90

    Dolph Lundgren

    Rocky IV, The Expendables
  • 17
    108
    95

    Fred Williamson

    From Dusk till Dawn, MASH
    Professional football player, 1960-1967
  • 18
    79
    87

    Alex Karras

    Blazing Saddles, Porky's
  • 19
    80
    89

    Jim Brown

    Mars Attacks!, Any Given Sunday
  • 20
    82
    99

    Terry Bradshaw

    Robots, The Cannonball Run
  • 21
    78
    95

    Tony Danza

    Crash, Don Jon
  • 22
    71
    88

    Howie Long

    Broken Arrow, 3000 Miles to Graceland
  • 23
    84
    111

    Michael Jordan

    Space Jam, He Got Game
  • 24
    79
    109

    Shaquille O'Neal

    Grown Ups 2, Jack and Jill
  • 25
    86
    121

    Steven Seagal

    Machete, Above the Law