Movie athletes whose performances make us want to get off the couch and into the game.
Major League: Willie Mays Hays
[Wesley Snipes] Why we like him: Speed, confidence and determination
Shortly after arriving at the Cleveland Indians spring training site, Willie is told, “You run like Mays, but you hit like sh*t.” A few days later, his bed is carried outside — while he’s in it. Refusing to take the hint, Willie hops out of bed, sprints into practice and wins a race to first. The speedster literally runs his way onto the team, and his batting improves as the season progresses. His best line comes when a rival first baseman asks him where he thinks he’s going. Willie replies, “’Bout 90 feet,” then steals second in a flash. Willie had young athletes nailing batting gloves to their bedroom walls throughout the ’90s.
Blue Chips: Neon Bodeaux
[Shaquille O’Neal] Why we like him: Power, game and a conscience
Look past the horrible acting and worst name of all time and you’ve got the most natural-looking onscreen athlete we’ve seen. We first meet the young Diesel in action as Neon when Coach Bell (Nick Nolte) watches him play pick-up ball in New Orleans. Neon’s size and power (displayed with thunderous sound effects) cause Bell’s jaw to drop—literally. The seven footer goes on to dominate the collegiate ranks at Western University and eventually gets his pass to the League. Neon’s most impressive act is choosing to stay clean by turning down a sports car offered to him by a group of shady alumni.
The Natural: Roy Hobbs
[Robert Redford] Why we like him: Talent, purity and love of the game
After a woman shoots him, an aging Hobbs returns to the game. His passion for baseball and serious power—even with a bullet lodged in his rib cage—bring new life to the New York Knights, elevating every other player’s game. Without the support of suspect supplements, Hobbs uses his lucky bat, which he made from a lightning-struck tree, to knock out a stadium light tower with a game-winning homer. The stage is set for one of the most memorable scenes from a sports movie: Hobbs, bleeding from his side, rounding the bases as the stadium lights shower the field with sparks.
The Longest Yard: Earl Megget
[Nelly] Why we like him: Courage, speed and his jacked physique
Yes, the camera can do amazing things, but the 5’10”, cock-deez Nelly looks like he could step out of the Allenville Penitentiary and onto an NFL roster. The speedy running back is the first black inmate to ignore the color line and join the ragtag team after watching its QB [Adam Sandler] take an unfair beating from Michael Irvin on the blacktop—then get up. Megget consistently turns the other cheek in the face of racist taunts from the Aryan guards, and patiently waits until he can dole out paybacks on the field in the form of spin moves and TDs.