For nearly as long as there have been television shows, celebrities and other notable people have been making cameos. A perfect cameo is just noticeable enough to make you say, “Oh, hey! That’s [insert famous person here]—dope!” without being too distracting. Hopefully the person chosen also adds something to their part, either by virtue of their personality or just by their ironic or surprising presence. But there’s one subgenre of celebrity cameos that are pretty much always enjoyable: athlete cameos.
There are very few—if any—athletes that can brag about being as good on camera as they are on the court. That’s why athlete cameos can often feel awkward or stunted: they’re just not as good as the professional actors they’re standing next to. But the wonderful thing is that’s totally okay: it’s so shocking and exciting to see someone like LeBron James or Kevin Garnett in a setting that doesn’t include a basketball, that you’ll pay attention regardless of how insignificant their role is.
Some cameos, though, smash it out of the park. The best ones make perfect sense within the universe of the show so that you don’t even think twice about why the athlete agreed to the appearance (like Yankees players on Seinfeld or Phillies players on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia). Athletes tend to appear in sitcoms, and a good number of the best cameos come from ‘80s and ‘90s sitcoms that did hundreds of episodes a year and could do with a silly plot here and there to accommodate a role for someone like Kevin McHale on Cheers or Reggie Jackson on The Jeffersons. But the best cameos use the athlete’s existing celebrity and effortlessly seam them into the atmosphere of the show, resulting in scenes like Muggsy Bogues’ in Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Here are some of the most memorable athlete cameos in television shows in modern memory.