Ever since the first Hollywood sports film hit theaters, a passionate debate has been raging. This intense war of words has been waged in locker rooms, playgrounds, courts, fields, living rooms and here in the STACK offices. To stir the pot a little, we’ve come up with our list of top fictional athletes. Feel free to disagree—what, no Joe Kingman?—by emailing me at [email protected].
Note: The following are our picks for the best movie athletes in their respective sports from the past 25 years. Real athletes playing fictional characters and non-fiction (documentary) portrayals of real athletes were not considered.
Happy Gilmore [Happy Gilmore]
Monster drives, crazy putts and the sickest slapshot ever give Happy the nod here. This below-average hockey player is also the only person to shoot a hole-in-one on a par four. After one day of training with Chubbs Peterson at Happy Land Mini-Golf, Happy was able to defeat the tour’s leading money winner, Shooter McGavin, for the coveted Tour Championship and a cheesy gold jacket. We’re not saying he would give Tiger a run for his money at the Masters, but Happy tops our list.
Others on our list: Roy McAvoy [Tin Cup], Danny Noonan [Caddyshack]
Santiago Munez [Goal I, II, III]
From immigrant landscaper to starting striker on one of the biggest clubs in the world, Santi lives the impossible dream. Over the course of three movies—filmed back-to-back-to-back—Santi chases his dream halfway around the world to prove he can hang with the likes of Steven Gerrard, David Beckham and Ronaldinho. According to his agent, Santi’s got flair; and he rides his charisma to the top, eventually representing his country on the biggest sports stage in the world, the FIFA World Cup. Santi kicks all others on this list to the curb.
Others on our list: Hatch [Victory], Gracie Brown [Gracie], Monk [Mean Machine]
Offensive MVP: Willie Beamen [Any Given Sunday]
More movies have been made about football than any other sport, so this selection raised the temperature in our office. Throw in the fact that every team has a standout QB, and you can understand how tough it was to narrow down this list. And for you Keanu Reeves fans, we considered both Shane Falco and Jonny Utah—a pair of Ohio State grads—but neither had the chops to match up with “Steamin” Willie Beamen. He runs like Tebow and throws like McNabb, and though his relationship with coaches and teammates can be rough, his raw talent and ability to make something out of nothing are irrefutable. His ability to change the outcome of any game would make him a top pick on anyone’s fantasy team, thus making him our offensive stud.
Others on our list: Paul Crew [The Longest Yard], Shane Falco [The Replacements], Paul Blake [Necessary Roughness]
Defensive MVP: Alvin Mack [The Program]
If there were a Hall of Fame for trash-talkers, Alvin Mack would be the inaugural inductee. A shattered knee ends his career, destroying his potential to become a top-five pick in the NFL Draft; but Mack changed the way linebackers should be portrayed on film. When he tells his coach that he’s going to hit an opponent so hard that his girlfriend will be hurting, he’s flirting with the crazy label. Deep down, though, it shows how much he is committed to winning. So what if he can barely read—all he needs to know is how to sign an NFL contract.
Others on our list: Bobby Boucher [The Water Boy], Daniel Bateman [The Replacements], Steve Lattimer [The Program]
BOWLING: Roy Munson [Kingpin]
The rubber hand takes home the top spot. Though he loses to Ernie “Big E” McCracken and his Trump-inspired comb-over—thanks to a nasty 7-10 split—we wonder what he could have done if he weren’t competing with a prosthetic meathook? Munson’s bowling knowledge and uncanny ability to perform the splits—who said bowlers aren’t athletes?—make him a winner in this category.
Others on our list: The Dude [The Big Lebowski]
Scott Howard [Teen Wolf]
Arguably the most outrageous, unrealistic character ever to step on the hardwood—besides Air Bud—Scott Howard might put a scare into LeBron James. It’s a shame that all the hoops scenes in Teen Wolf were put together as a montage, because we’d love to see more evidence of Howard’s rabid domination. Even in the state championship game—we’re guessing it was Division VIII or lower—when Howard decides to play as a regular teen, he still ends up hitting the game-winning shot. All joking aside, if he were in the NBA, he’d be playing for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Others on our list: Jackie Moon [Semi-Pro], Billy Hoyle and Sidney Deane [White Men Can’t Jump]
Connor Banks [Mystery, Alaska]
Some would say that Connor Banks, a grocery clerk with a slapshot that Happy Gilmore would love, lets his team down. He has a chance to net the game-tying goal against the feared New York Rangers, and he fails. However, we don’t see it that way. With a shot like his, and with his ridiculously smooth skating skills, it’s no wonder that the Rangers offered him a contract to play in the minors. That sold it for us.
Others on our list: Charlie Conway, Adam Banks and Gunner Stahl [Mighty Ducks and D2]
Offensive MVP: Roy Hobbs [The Natural]
This one was easy. A 35-year-old with a bullet wound bleeding through his jersey hits a ball so far that he shatters the lights in the right-field tower to win the pennant? And earlier in the season he tattooed a pitch so hard that he knocked the cover off? And they call him The Natural? Check, please. We’re done.
Others on our list: Crash Davis [Bull Durham], Willie Mays Hays [Major League], Bennie “The Jet” Rodriquez [The Sandlot]
Pitcher: Rick Vaughn [Major League, Major League II]
The matchup we’d like to see: Vaughn vs. Hobbs. “The Wild Thing” vs. “The Natural.” We’re not saying the Indians closer would fan the Knights’ slugger, but it’s fun to think about. With a fastball averaging a blistering 98 mph, Vaughn made his way from the California Penal league to the pros, managing to do so with a seriously nasty haircut [no comment on whether that influenced the judges]. Though he hit a bit of a slump in Major League II, by the end of the season he had reclaimed his bad-boy image as he delivered the eliminator to Parkman to win the game. Cleveland Indians fans, rejoice!
Others on our list: Nuke LaLoosh [Bull Durham]
Rocky [Rocky I, II, III, IV, V, Rocky Balboa]
This was a unanimous decision. Sure, there have been lots of boxing movies, both fictional and based on legends like Ali and James “Cinderella Man” Braddock; but the Italian Stallion still finds a way to knock out the competition. A southpaw from Philly whose entire life story is captured in six films, Balboa shows just what it means to be a champion. He takes on and defeats all comers—from Spider Rico, to Apollo “The Master of Disaster, The King of Sting, The Count of Monte Fisto” Creed, to Clubber “The Southside Slugger” Lang, Ivan Drago, Tommy “The Machine” Gunn and Mason “The Line” Dixon. Even a wrestling match with Thunderlips [Hulk Hogan] can’t stop the Stallion from emerging victorious, with Bill Conti’s music playing in the background. Balboa is the true American champ of all movies, so let’s just hope that a “Rocky VII” is in the making.
Others on our list: Tyler Durden [Fight Club]