We love it when athletes turn up on the silver screen. Whether it's in starring roles (O.J. Simpson in Naked Gun, Ray Allen in He Got Game, etc.), or in cameos (Brett Favre in There's Something About Mary, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Airplane!), you can feel the mood kick up in the theatre when a sports star appears.
But I'd argue that the small screen is where athletes have given their most memorable performances. Sitcoms have done the best job of showcasing our favorite sports figures, and the genre just seems like a natural fit for athletes. Plus, with repeats of the better sitcoms being shown on a daily basis -- and sometimes on more than one channel -- there are more opportunities to catch these episodes. Here are my 10 favorite appearances by a sports figure on a sitcom.
1.Keith Hernandez, Seinfeld, Feb, 12, 1992: Where to begin? This is the granddaddy of all appearances by an athlete on a sitcom. In this hour-long episode, Jerry and George meet Hernandez in a gym locker room (when we learn George is a "chucker"). Keith later meets Elaine and a battle breaks out between Jerry and Elaine for Hernandez' attention. However, both soon sour on the Mets star for typical Seinfeld reasons. Keith asks Jerry to help him move to a new residence, a step Jerry is not ready to take in their relationship. Meanwhile, Elaine is turned off by the first baseman's smoking habit. (Quick side note: My all-time favorite Seinfeld scene takes place in this episode, when George, upon hearing Kramer answer a phone call in which the person asks for George's fake place of employment, storms out of Jerry's bathroom, with his pants at his ankles, screaming "Say Vandelay Industries, say Vandelay Industries," and falls to the floor.)
2.Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams, Seinfeld, Nov. 21, 1996: The memorable scene featuring the two longtime Yankees was highlighted by a classic George Costanza retort. George had decided that Jeter and Bernie needed some hitting tips. The duo explained that they did in fact win the World Series the previous season. With a look of disgust on his face, all George could say was "Yeah, in six games."
Larry David has an interesting history with NBA players.
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3.Shaquille O'Neal, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Nov. 11, 2001: Shaq was on his way to the scorer's table when he was tripped by star Larry David, who was sitting in the front row. The Diesel landed in the hospital. When Larry went to apologize, O'Neal made a small request in order to help him forget about the incident: he wanted a tape of "The Contest," one of Seinfeld's most famous episodes. We also saw Shaq argue with someone over a game of Scattegories, with the Big Fella saying peanut butter was an acceptable answer for "dairy product." Larry, in trying to get in O'Neal's good graces, confirmed to Shaq's opponents that peanut butter is indeed a dairy product.
4.Joe Namath, Brady Bunch, Sept. 21, 1973: Who could forget Bobby getting into trouble for exaggerating his relationship with the legendary Jets quarterback? Bobby had bragged to friends that Namath was a pal of the Brady clan. When Bobby had to prove his claims, Cindy took matters into her own hands and wrote a letter to Namath, telling him that Bobby was dying and his last wish was to meet Broadway Joe. Namath came though and tossed the pigskin around with Bobby. Of course, we were also treated to a lecture by Mike about lying. What more could you want?
5.Paul O'Neill, Seinfeld, Oct. 12, 1995: O'Neill didn't do much in this episode, but his facial expression while delivering a particular line was priceless. Kramer had promised a sick boy that O'Neill would hit two homers in a game for him. When Kramer revealed the scenario to O'Neill in the New York locker room, the Yankees outfielder explained that the request was absurd and with a look of utter confusion asked Kramer, "How the heck did you get in here anyway?"