Mike Tyson On Death Row And 13 Other Athlete Guest Appearances We Loved
When athletes trade the playing field for the small screen
Last night Mike Tyson appeared on Law & Order: SVU as Reggie Rhodes, a death-row inmate whose crimes stemmed from a history of sexual abuse. The casting choice had drawn much criticism in recent weeks, though no press is bad press in the cutthroat environs of February sweeps, and it’s likely the stunt casting will pay off for NBC’s long-running spin-off.
Of course Kid Dynamite is far from the first sportsman to bring his talents to the small screen. Here are 13 of our other favorite TV guest appearances by athletes.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on Diff’rent Strokes (1985)
The NBA’s all-time leading scorer, who’d already honed his comedy chops with a hilarious turn in Airplane!, played a substitute teacher who punishes Arnold then must defend himself against charges of abuse. Stunningly it all works out in the end.
Joe Namath on The Brady Bunch (1973)
Long before he appeared on The Simpsons, Broadway Joe paid a visit to Bobby Brady, who’d feigned a serious illness to make it happen.
Jim Harbaugh on Saved By The Bell: The New Class (1996)
This long-forgotten cameo by the 49ers coach (then a quarterback with the Colts) became a hot topic of conversation during the fortnight leading up to this year’s Super Bowl.
Reggie Jackson on The Jeffersons (1985)
Fast-forward to the 2:00 mark for Weezie Jefferson’s memorable locker-room meeting with Mr. October (with a bonus cameo from future All-Star pitcher Mike Witt).
Kevin McHale on Cheers (1991)
In the first of McHale’s two appearances on the long-running NBC hit, the Celtics forward is enlisted as a ringer for the upcoming basketball game against Gary’s Old Towne Tavern.
Kevin Garnett on The Jamie Foxx Show (2000)
Garnett, then with the Timberwolves, plays a guest at King’s Tower. Poor Wally Szczerbiak.
Thomas Hearns on Martin (1994)
Go to the 2:00 mark to see the five-division world champion take on Martin in a charity boxing match that ends badly for the WZUP deejay.
Bo Jackson on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1990)
The two-sport phenomenon appeared in a dream sequence during the first season of Will Smith’s breakout series.
Chase Utley and Ryan Howard on It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia (2010)
The Paddy’s Pub gang (some of them anyway) got to live out every Philly fan’s dream: getting drunk with their baseball heroes.
Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams on Seinfeld (1996)
The seminal NBC sitcom enjoyed visits from Keith Hernandez and Paul O’Neill, but it got a double dip from Jeter and Williams late in its nine-season run. For Jeter, it presaged his cameo in the 2010 film The Other Guys, which was a funny movie for the first 20 minutes.
Muggsy Bogues on Curb Your Enthusiasm (2004)
Larry David breaks the cardinal rule of urinal etiquette with the shortest player in NBA history.
Don Mattingly on The Simpsons (1992)
In which Mr. Burns channels his inner George Steinbrenner at the expense of the Yankees first baseman.
Barry Bonds on Beverly Hills, 90210 (1994)
Irony ahead. Bonds didn’t need to stray far to play Barry Larson, a ballplayer competing against Steve and Rush Sanders in a father/son golf tournament. With the Sanders clan a few strokes behind, Steve discovers that his father has been using illegal “Superballs” designed to provide the aging Rush a few extra yards on his drive. Appalled that his father would stoop to such measures “just to win a game,” Steve threatens to expose his dad, a leering Rush objects, and Steve starts throwing the game on purpose. It all culminates with Steve’s moving sermon on the ethics of sports and cheating — followed by Rush’s teary-eyed confession bemoaning the competitive drive that had pushed him to such dishonest ends. Maybe this guy could have learned something.