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The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors

Updated June 14, 2019 11.5k votes 1.4k voters 17.3k 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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  • Carl Weathers1
    388
    113

    Carl Weathers

    Rocky, Predator
    Professional football player, 1970-1974
  • Sean Connery2
    344
    113

    Sean Connery

    Goldfinger, The Untouchables
    Bodybuilder and footballer
  • Chuck Norris3
    307
    102

    Chuck Norris

    The Expendables 2, DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story
  • Lou Ferrigno4
    305
    126

    Lou Ferrigno

    The Avengers, The Incredible Hulk
    Professional bodybuilder, 1969-1994
  • Esther Williams5
    253
    126

    Esther Williams

    That's Entertainment!, Till the Clouds Roll By
    Competitive swimmer
  • André the Giant6
    152
    96

    André the Giant

    The Princess Bride, Conan the Destroyer
    Professional wrestler, 1963-1992
  • Merlin Olsen7
    158
    107

    Merlin Olsen

    The Undefeated, Mitchell
    Professional football players, 1962-1976
  • Jason Lee8
    161
    115

    Jason Lee

    The Incredibles, Almost Famous
    Professional skateboarder
  • Bubba Smith9
    154
    112

    Bubba Smith

    Police Academy, Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment
    Professional football player, 1967-1976
  • Dwayne Johnson10
    254
    224

    Dwayne Johnson

    Fast & Furious 6, Fast Five
  • Kurt Russell11
    324
    307

    Kurt Russell

    Forrest Gump, The Thing
    Professional baseball player
  • Ed O'Neill12
    158
    136

    Ed O'Neill

    Wayne's World, Wreck-It Ralph
  • Fred Williamson13
    119
    104

    Fred Williamson

    From Dusk till Dawn, MASH
    Professional football player, 1960-1967
  • Caitlyn Jenner14
    151
    162

    Caitlyn Jenner

    Jack and Jill, Can't Stop the Music
  • Terry Bradshaw15
    90
    103

    Terry Bradshaw

    Robots, The Cannonball Run
  • Jim Brown16
    81
    97

    Jim Brown

    Mars Attacks!, Any Given Sunday
  • Alex Karras17
    78
    95

    Alex Karras

    Blazing Saddles, Porky's
  • Michael Jordan18
    95
    119

    Michael Jordan

    Space Jam, He Got Game
  • Steven Seagal19
    100
    128

    Steven Seagal

    Machete, Above the Law
  • Mike Tyson20
    94
    126

    Mike Tyson

    The Hangover, The Hangover Part II
  • Howie Long21
    73
    99

    Howie Long

    Broken Arrow, 3000 Miles to Graceland
  • Shaquille O'Neal22
    86
    118

    Shaquille O'Neal

    Grown Ups 2, Jack and Jill
  • Bob Uecker23
    66
    102

    Bob Uecker

    Major League, Major League II
  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar24
    67
    106

    Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

    Airplane!, Fletch
  • Ed Marinaro25
    50
    113

    Ed Marinaro

    Urban Legends: Bloody Mary, Fingers