LeBron James, whose Miami Heat trounced the Brooklyn Nets in the opening game of the second round of the NBA playoffs last night, had time to tweet that he has closed a deal to join the cast of Trainwreck. That’s the Universal comedy that Judd Apatow will direct and also just also got Cliff (Method Man) Smith. Script is by the film’s star, rising comedienne Amy Schumer. James joins her, Bill Hader, Brie Larson, Colin Quinn, Vanessa Bayer, Tilda Swinton, John Cena and Mike Birbiglia.
This comes after Universal bought a pic about the formative years of James and his high school teammates that will be scripted by Frank E. Flowers, with Rachel Winter and Terence Winter producing with James and his manager, Maverick Carter. As if that wasn’t enough, James, who just moved from CAA to WME, had been expected to make his feature starring debut opposite Kevin Hart in the Universal/Imagine Entertainment film Ballers.
He’s got at least a bit of work left before the playoffs are over and he has time to make movies. Let’s hope they are better than the ones that Shaquille O’Neal made when he was moonlighting off the court and made Kazaam. He improved his résumé over time, and there certainly have been some hoop stars who’ve done good movies, including James’ teammate Ray Allen. He made an auspicious debut starring alongside Denzel Washington in the Spike Lee-directed He Got Game (1998). Michael Jordan, the player to whom James is most often compared, also did well in his debut playing himself in 1996’s Space Jam. Another good first-time performance came from Jamaal Wilkes, the UCLA and Lakers star who played a rising hoops great in Cornbread, Earl And Me (1975). Perhaps the most peculiar early performance by a hoops star came when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar battled Bruce Lee in the martial artist’s final film, Game Of Death. It seemed a mismatch — when Abdul-Jabbar threw a sidekick, his foot seemed bigger than Lee’s head — but Lee took the big man down. Abdul-Jabbar went on to produce and act in numerous films, and maybe his most memorable role came as the food-poisoned airliner pilot Murdock in Airplane!