Pop-A-Shot Culture References
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SECAUCUS, N.J., September 6, 2007-- Let's be honest for a second: Being in the NBA affords you some privileges that Joe Citizen off the street doesn't get.

Some of the privileges are basically the same treatment that any athlete, actor, musician or politician is likely to receive. You know, a free dinner here or there, invititations to gala events and awards shows and the staple bonus: "free stuff."

But sometimes the perks come in the form of opportunities. Through the years, athletes have translated their celebrity status on the court, field, diamond and rink into budding careers in TV, movies, music and fashion.

While playing in the NBA is a childhood dream for most of the players that do eventually make it to the league, that doesn't mean it was their only dream. So once they conquer one endeavor, who's to blame them for reaching for that next dream?

With the news of Mavericks owner Mark Cuban following in Clyde Drexler's sashay steps on the next season of ABC's Dancing with the Stars guaranteeing that at least one member of the NBA family will delve into mainstream pop culture in the coming months, I got to thinking.

Don't I see NBA players popping up all over the place outside of the 94x50 confines of the hardwood all the time? I'm not even talking about endorsement commercials (like Shaquille O'Neal and Hakeem Olajuwon riding a bicycle built for two in a Taco Bell commercial) or basketball themed movies where NBA players "act" as basketball players (like Ray Allen in He Got Game, Xavier McDaniel in Singles or Quentin Richardson and Darius Miles in Van Wilder). Those cameos are to be expected. But what about when NBA players step outside of the world of basketball altogether and seek pop culture fame in a completely different realm?

Thanks to Google, YouTube and IMDB -- the online Bible, Qu'ran and Torah for pop culture worshippers - I believe I have compiled the ultimate list of NBA stars and their crossover projects.

And now, these are the 10 things I learned from trying to find every NBA player to hit the mainstream media outside of hoops...

1. His Airness

Michael Jordan couldn't help but reach the mainstream with his commercial endorsements (Hanes, Nike, Gatorade, etc), movies (Space Jam, Michael Jordan to the MAX) and cologne, but Jordan did something truly special in 1991 when he hosted Saturday Night Live. Among the now timeless sketches was MJ joining "Da Bears" crew and having a self-esteem session with Stuart Smalley.
Saturday Night Live - Watch it on YouTube

2. The Magic Touch

It's one thing for an NBA star to make a cameo appearance somewhere, (as Magic Johnson did in Michael Jackson's Remember the Time? music video when he took a break from serving dimes and took on the role of "servant" for the video), but it's another thing entirely to carry a whole show. That was the challenge that Magic took on in 1998 with The Magic Hour on FOX. Unfortunately, Magic was more Chevy Chase than Johnny Carson. Magic's stint as a talkshow host was shortlived (having Sheila E from Prince's band as his musical co-host couldn't quite put him over the top) but his show did serve one purpose at least - when my girlfriend and I started dating we bonded when we realized that we both watched the show as adolescents, not because it was particularly entertaining, but because we thought Magic could use the viewers and we were rooting for him to succeed.
Do You Remember the Time - Watch it on YouTube

3. Strike a Pose

Heat coach Pat Riley and new Miami free-agent signee Smush Parker have more in common than just their zip code. Both have done some modeling in the past. Riley, always impeccably dressed on the sideline with his threads only outdone by his coif, once walked in an Armani runway show and Parker modeled for Nautica when he was in high school. In a recent interview with HEAT.com Parker talked about his modeling career, "I actually want to do a little bit of modeling," Parker said. "You think I got the look? D.Wade can definitely help me with my career in modeling. He's in GQ every other week.

4. The Rappers

I'm sure I'll miss somebody but let's try to go alphabetically: Ron Artest, Kobe Bryant, Troy Hudson, Allen Iverson, Shaquille O'Neal and Tony Parker all have rap albums. Dana Barros, Cedric Ceballos, Jason Kidd, Gary Payton, Brian Shaw and Chris Webber have all dabbled in hip-hop as well. Oh, and Gilbert Arenas had Puff Daddy perform at his 25th birthday party.

5. The Soap Stars

As if the locker room of an NBA team wasn't drama filled enough, two Lakers tried out daytime TV. Luke Walton was on The Young and the Restless and Robert Horry was on Passions and former Knick Allan Houston was on All My Children in 2005.
The Young and the Restless - Watch it on YouTube

6. The Reality TV Crew

Doug Christie spent 15 seasons in the NBA, enjoying his most success with the Raptors and Kings, but also serving stints for the Lakers, Knicks, Magic, Mavericks and Clippers. He gained notoriety for his defense on the court, but also for his sporadic moments of putting his hand up in the air to signal to his wife, Jackie, that he was thinking about her. Apparently television producers found the bond between Doug and Jackie to be so compelling that they just had to document it in reality TV form and Committed: The Christies was born. The show lasted just five episodes before BET J cancelled it. Other dips into reality TV include Mark Cuban's The Benefactor on ABC where 16 contestants sought after $1 million of Cuban's money and Dennis Rodman who won Celebrity Mole Yucatan on ABC and hosted his own show, Geek to Freak on HDNet.

7. The Old Timers

So who is the first NBA player to start the trend of going from the arena to the cinema? Look no further than Chuck Connors who spent half of the 1946-47 season playing center for the Boston Celtics. Connors cut his campaign short to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers - Mark Hendrickson, this guy paved the way for you, you owe him - but found his true success as a television star. Most notably, Connors played the lead on The Rifleman from 1958-63. Connors acted for three decades before getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1985.

Two other pioneers were Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain who both parlayed basketball careers in Tinseltown to acting gigs in front of the camera. Kareem appeared in Game of Death with Bruce Lee in 1978 and an episode of Diff'rent Strokes, but his most memorable spot was in the classic comedy Airplane! in 1980. Chamberlain cut his thespian teeth with Arnold Schwarzenegger in Conan the Destroyer in 1984.
Conan the Destroyer - Watch it on YouTube
Airplane! - Watch it on YouTube

8. John "Spider" Salley

Who would have thought that John Salley, a role player off the bench on Isiah Thomas' championship Pistons teams, Michael Jordan's record-setting 1996 Bulls and Shaq and Kobe's 2000 title-winning Lakers, would go on to rival that success off the court. Salley is currently a co-host on The Best Damn Sports Show Period on FOX Sports Network but has been a multi-media stud as he has also had a morning radio show in L.A., appeared in ABC's reality show Fast Cars and Superstars: The Gillette Young Guns Race and was even on the silver screen playing "Fletcher the hacker" in Bad Boys with Will Smith and Martin Lawrence.

9. The Big Aristotle

Like Magic and Michael (and John Salley too, I guess), Shaquille O'Neal has been larger than life and his fame has only grown outside of the realm of hoops. You need to check out his IMDB page for everything he's done but some highlights include starring in Kazaam and Steel, hosting Shaq's Big Challenge on ABC and guest starring on Curb Your Enthusiasm, Arli$$, The Bernie Mac Show and Punk'd. And that's not even mentioning his rap career either.

10. All of the Rest

To do justice to the copious amount of NBA related pop culture references out there this column would have to be about 7,000 words so I'll let you with a list of links to check out:

Kobe Bryant appeared as Terry Hightower on Moesha
Larry Hughes was in Nelly and Kelly Rowland's music video Dilemma
Rick Fox has a bevy of acting credits, including a role on HBO's Oz
Former Denver Nuggets guard Alex English was on The Amazing Grace & Chuck
Elton Brand was a producer on the summer blockbuster Rescue Dawn
Former Phoenix Suns swingman Cedric Ceballos has a slew of acting credits
Chris Webber played "Nelson" on New York Undercover
Penny Hardaway, Damon Stoudamire, Jerry Stackhouse, Jason Kidd, Gary Payton, Rasheed Wallace, Cuttino Mobley, Shaquille O'Neal, Baron Davis, Kendall Gill, Steve Francis, Zach Randolph, Nick Van Exel, Damon Jones and Carmelo Anthony (twice) all have appeared on MTV's Cribs
Former Phoenix Suns big man Wayman Tisdale is a successful jazz musician
Dennis Rodman starred with Jean-Claude Van Damme in Double Team

And that's not even branching out into the NBA dating scene where names like Tyra Banks, Nia Long, Madonna, Eva Longoria and Brandy have been linked. That's a whole nother column in itself.

Have a question or comment for The McTen or care to share what you learned this week? Send an e-mail.