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13 Athletes Who Became Actors: Chuck Norris, Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson and More

athletes who became actors
Source: MEGA

Jun. 1 2024, Published 12:01 a.m. ET

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Arnold Schwarzenegger

arnold schwarzenegger
Source: MEGA

Arnold Schwarzenegger was recently held at Munich airport and charged nearly $40,000 for not declaring an item during his travel.

Bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger started building his empire as an actor before becoming one of the most bankable stars in the 1980s and 1990s. Among his famous works are the Terminator franchise, Twins, True Lies and Total Recall.

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Carl Weathers

carl weathers
Source: MEGA

Carl Weathers' cause of death was listed as atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.

Before starring in The Mandalorian, Predator and more Hollywood projects, Carl Weathers focused on playing college football before making his way to the NFL. The Action Jackson star — who died on February 1 at the age of 76 — enrolled at Long Beach City College before transferring to San Diego State University in 1968.

Two years later, the Oakland Raiders signed him as a free agent. The opportunity allowed him to play seven games in the NFL before pursuing a career as an actor.

Chuck Norris

chuck norris
Source: MEGA

Chuck Norris' most recent project was 'Agent Recon.'

A report posted by the Los Angeles Times shared Chuck Norris' life before fame. The Walker, Texas Ranger, learned martial arts while stationed in South Korea in the late 1850s and 1960s. This inspired him to launch Chun Kuk Do, though it did not save him from having financial hardships.

Because of his status, he accepted his pal's advice to become an actor, and he was able to use his martial arts skills in the films and shows he starred in.

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Dave Bautista

dave bautista
Source: MEGA

Dave Bautista sparked rumors he would soon play a DC character.

Two-time WWE champion and four-time World heavyweight champion Dave Bautista joined the list of the few wrestlers who became successful actors by appearing in an episode of Smallville in 2006. He added more movie titles under his belt and starred in Guardians of the Galaxy, Dune and Knock at the Cabin.

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Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson

dwayne johnson
Source: MEGA

Dwayne Johnson returned to the WWE ring in February.

In 2001, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson marked his impressive acting debut in The Mummy Returns. The project launched his career as an actor, and he eventually became one of the highest-paid stars in Hollywood.

He was a cast member in the Fast & Furious franchise, Moana, Jumanji movie installments and San Andreas.

Johnson previously played in the 1991 national championship with the University of Miami football team but wasn't drafted. He went on to launch his professional wrestling career as The Rock in the WWF/WWE.

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Ed O'Neill

ed oneill
Source: MEGA

Ed O'Neill admitted to almost getting involved in an organized crime before pursuing an acting career.

Ed O'Neill's life as an athlete started when he was awarded a football scholarship to Ohio University. After his sophomore year, he transferred to Youngstown State University and played defensive lineman until he signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers as a free agent.

However, he was cut during a training camp.

A few months later, O'Neill made his film debut in Cruising and continuously appeared in more hit series and movies like Modern Family, Wayne's World, The Bone Collector and Wreck-It Ralph.

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John Cena

john cena
Source: MEGA

John Cena commented on Vince McMahon's sexual abuse allegations, expressing his love for the former WWE chairman.

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Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson

Johnson's WWE rival John Cena also took his shot in Hollywood and became a successful actor.

With his acting skills, Cena caught the eyes of filmmakers who tapped him to be part of their films like F9, Bumblebee, Dolitte and Trainwreck.

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John David Washington

john david washington
Source: MEGA

John David Washington is rumored to replace Jonathan Majors as Kang in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Denzel Washington's eldest child, John David Washington, became part of the NFL for a short time before debuting as an actor. John David was an undrafted free agent who signed with the St. Louis Rams in 2006 before scoring major projects like Amsterdam, Ballers and Malcolm & Marie.

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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

kareem abdul jabbar
Source: MEGA

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar sustained a hip injury after falling during a Los Angeles concert in December 2023.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is a successful basketball player and actor.

The NBA legend, who retired in 1989, made his film debut in Bruce Lee's Game of Death in 1972. He went on to appear in other movies and series, including Airplane!, Everybody Loves Raymond, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Fletch.

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LeBron James

lebron james
Source: MEGA

LeBron James is one of the greatest basketball players of all time.

LeBron James is not only King James on the basketball court but also on big screens, with Trainwreck as his most impressive project. The four-time NBA champion also landed the lead role in Space Jam: A New Legacy and appeared in Smallfoot and House Party.

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Ronda Rousey

ronda rousey
Source: MEGA

Ronda Rousey was previously arrested on the WWE SmackDown following a brawl.

Summer Olympics 2008 bronze medalist Ronda Rousey also set a record as the only female fighter to win WWE and UFC championships. Apart from winning people's hearts with her mixed martial arts, judo and wrestling skills, she expanded her empire as an actress and appeared in Furious 7, Charlie's Angels and Mile 22.

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Shaquille O'Neal

shaquille oneal
Source: MEGA

Orlando Magic retired Shaquille O'Neal's jersey No. 32.

Shaquille O'Neal, one of the greatest NBA athletes ever, debuted in the 1994 sports drama Blue Chips. His name appeared in more credits — Hubie Halloween, Steel, Kazaam and Grown Ups 2, to name a few — in the years thereafter.

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Terry Crews

terry crews
Source: MEGA

Terry Crews used to earn $150 a week as an athlete.

In 2000, Terry Crews debuted as an actor after playing in Western Michigan University's football team and being drafted by the LA Rams. His football career also included his journey with teams like the Green Bay Packers, San Diego Chargers, Washington Commanders and Philadelphia Eagles.

After fully committing his life and time to the film and TV industry, Terry started appearing in more flicks like Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Friday After Next and The Expendables.

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