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The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors

Updated June 14, 2019 11.4k votes 1.4k voters 17.2k 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
    Carl Weathers is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
    388
    120

    Carl Weathers

    Rocky, Predator
    Professional football player, 1970-1974
  • 2
    Sean Connery is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
    344
    121

    Sean Connery

    Goldfinger, The Untouchables
    Bodybuilder and footballer
  • 3
    Kurt Russell is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
    320
    111

    Kurt Russell

    Forrest Gump, The Thing
    Professional baseball player
  • 4
    Chuck Norris is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
    309
    110

    Chuck Norris

    The Expendables 2, DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story
  • 5
    Lou Ferrigno is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
    305
    133

    Lou Ferrigno

    The Avengers, The Incredible Hulk
    Professional bodybuilder, 1969-1994
  • 6
    Esther Williams is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
    253
    133

    Esther Williams

    That's Entertainment!, Till the Clouds Roll By
    Competitive swimmer
  • 7
    André the Giant is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
    152
    102

    André the Giant

    The Princess Bride, Conan the Destroyer
    Professional wrestler, 1963-1992
  • 8
    Merlin Olsen is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
    158
    114

    Merlin Olsen

    The Undefeated, Mitchell
    Professional football players, 1962-1976
  • 9
    Jason Lee is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
    158
    122

    Jason Lee

    The Incredibles, Almost Famous
    Professional skateboarder
  • 10
    Bubba Smith is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
    155
    119

    Bubba Smith

    Police Academy, Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment
    Professional football player, 1967-1976
  • 11
    Dwayne Johnson is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
    252
    234

    Dwayne Johnson

    Fast & Furious 6, Fast Five
  • 12
    Ed O'Neill is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
    158
    143

    Ed O'Neill

    Wayne's World, Wreck-It Ralph
  • 13
    Jesse Ventura is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
    126
    110

    Jesse Ventura

    Predator, Batman & Robin
    Professional wrestler, 1975-1986
  • 14
    Fred Williamson is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
    118
    110

    Fred Williamson

    From Dusk till Dawn, MASH
    Professional football player, 1960-1967
  • 15
    Caitlyn Jenner is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
    150
    167

    Caitlyn Jenner

    Jack and Jill, Can't Stop the Music
  • 16
    Tony Danza is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
    87
    107

    Tony Danza

    Crash, Don Jon
  • 17
    Alex Karras is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
    78
    101

    Alex Karras

    Blazing Saddles, Porky's
  • 18
    Jim Brown is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
    80
    105

    Jim Brown

    Mars Attacks!, Any Given Sunday
  • 19
    Michael Jordan is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
    93
    126

    Michael Jordan

    Space Jam, He Got Game
  • 20
    Steven Seagal is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
    99
    136

    Steven Seagal

    Machete, Above the Law
  • 21
    Howie Long is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
    73
    105

    Howie Long

    Broken Arrow, 3000 Miles to Graceland
  • 22
    Mike Tyson is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
    92
    132

    Mike Tyson

    The Hangover, The Hangover Part II
  • 23
    Shaquille O'Neal is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
    85
    125

    Shaquille O'Neal

    Grown Ups 2, Jack and Jill
  • 24
    Michael Strahan is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
    77
    123

    Michael Strahan

    Magic Mike XXL, The NFL's Funniest Players
  • 25
    Bob Uecker is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Former Athletes Turned Actors
    66
    110

    Bob Uecker

    Major League, Major League II
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