Professional athletes have short careers, which is no surprise to the highest achievers. The most recognizable stars in athletics, football, soccer, and wrestling understand they’ll be over the hill by the time they’re 40, with many champions showing wear and tear throughout their 30s. Some players, like Serena Williams or Bernard Hopkins, can manage time, training, and recovery better, extending their careers by a few years. But the end is always guaranteed.

Check the winning Super Bowl team from a decade ago and spot how many players are still in the National Football League today. Research recent heavyweight boxing champions and the 2013 rulers now don’t appear on lists at Online Sports Betting. As the old saying goes, time waits for no man or woman, and modern athletes are beginning to realize they must make as much money as quickly as possible before their earning potential in sport dries up.

In the past, many stars of sport lacked the maturity to plan beyond the next game and manage their future. When they realized wages from playing professional sports don’t last forever, it was often too late to take advantage of their fame. More sports players are beginning to get their house in order long before playing that final game, thanks to more education on the importance of thinking ahead and using financial planning.

Limited options

Options are limited for those choosing to remain in the professional sports industry. After retiring from competing, athletes can move into coaching or the media. But there are more roads ahead for those who break the lock and branch out, taking on new challenges like working a 9-5, investing, or pursuing a career in movies, just like the Rock, Vinny Jones, Michael Jordan, and countless others. 

Hollywood is calling for retired sports stars with stars in their eyes and a desire to remain on centre stage. Few walk straight into movies, appearing in blockbusters on the big screen. It does happen, of course, and Arnold Schwarzenegger was a former bodybuilder and Mr. Universe before turning to movies. But most find themselves moving from the top rung of sports to the bottom of the movie industry’s greasy pole, where they must start climbing. They’re back dreaming, scheming, and working hard.

A great introduction to the movie business is working in theatre. For some aspiring actors, theatre provides a leg-up in the industry and a chance to showcase their talents. Some progress to feature in movies while others enjoy the cut and thrust of theatere performing for and before an adoring public, just like they did at the peak of their sporting powers. 

This article details some sports stars who successfully transitioned from the ugly business of professional sports to the glitz and glamour of theatre, winning new fans and followers along the way.

Shaquille O’Neal: Slam Dunk on Broadway

When you think of Shaquille O’Neal, the first thing that comes to mind is his towering presence on the basketball court. However, the man known as “Shaq” also has a theatrical side. 

In 2009, Shaq debuted on Broadway in “Shrek the Musical.” He took on the role of the lovable and goofy character, Donkey, and his larger-than-life personality shone through, much like it does on the court. While he may not have been known for his singing chops, his performance was a slam dunk in entertainment value.

Mike Tyson: Undisputed on Stage

Iron Mike Tyson, the former heavyweight boxing champion, has had a life filled with highs and lows. In 2012, he shared his story with the world through a one-man show titled “Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth.” 

The show, directed by Spike Lee, delved into Tyson’s tumultuous life, covering his rise to fame, prison sentence, and redemption. Tyson’s raw and unfiltered storytelling captivated audiences and showed a side of him that went beyond boxing gloves.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson: From the Ring to the Silver Screen and Beyond

Dwayne Johnson, also known as “The Rock,” is a household name in both the sports and entertainment worlds. Before becoming a Hollywood superstar, he was a professional wrestler with the WWE. But his journey didn’t stop there. In 2000, The Rock made his theatrical debut in “The Mummy Returns” and later appeared in many action-packed films.

However, his theater stint didn’t come until 2000 when he played the lead role of Scorpion King in “The Scorpion King.” The transition from the wrestling ring to the theater stage was seamless for him, and his charisma translated well in front of live audiences.

Magic Johnson: Magic on Broadway

Magic Johnson, the legendary NBA point guard, is known for his dazzling basketball skills and infectious smile. In 2009, he surprised many when he co-produced the Broadway show “Magic/Bird,” a play that chronicled the legendary rivalry between him and Larry Bird. 

While he didn’t take to the stage himself, his involvement in the production showcased his passion for storytelling and his desire to bring sports history to life on Broadway.

Serena Williams: The Court Queen of the Theatre

Serena Williams, one of the greatest tennis players ever, made her acting debut in 2003 on the popular TV series “ER.” She later expanded her acting career with guest appearances on shows like “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” and “Drop Dead Diva.” 

Williams also lent her voice to animated films such as “The Emoji Movie” and “Black Panther.” Her foray into acting has allowed her to display her versatility and talent beyond the tennis court.

Dennis Rodman: The Wild Card on Stage

Dennis Rodman, known for his eccentricity on and off the basketball court, tried his hand at theatre in 1997 when he appeared in the play “The Rodman World Tour.” 

The show’s comedy and performance art blend allowed Rodman to showcase his unique personality. While it may not have been a traditional theatre experience, it was undeniably a glimpse into the enigmatic world of the basketball bad boy.

Brian Urlacher: The Gridiron Gladiator Takes the Stage

Brian Urlacher, a former NFL linebacker and Chicago Bears icon swapped his helmet for a cowboy hat when he joined the “Jersey Boys” cast in 2018. In this musical, he played the role of the tough and charismatic Tommy DeVito. 

Urlacher’s surprising transition from the football field to the Broadway stage demonstrated his versatility as an athlete and performer.

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