Famous Athletes Who Starred In Music Videos

The following article includes a brief reference to sexual abuse.

Most athletes are pros at entertaining fans — it's in the job description. Still, beyond being GOATs in their respective sports and winning championships, several have shown off their other skills outside of games. For example, Dwayne Johnson transformed from a wrestling superstar to one of the most successful leading men in Hollywood. Meanwhile, legendary NHL star Wayne Gretzky participated in onscreen projects like the Saturday morning cartoon series "ProStars," per Vice. "The only water I like is the frozen version known as ice," he quips in an episode. The Great One is also credited in several music videos, including the epic 14-minute long "2 Legit 2 Quit" by MC Hammer. The 1991 music video actually features cameos from a wide range of athletes, such as NFL stars Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders, plus baseball players Roger Clemens and José Canseco.

In fact, music and sports have long been intertwined. Take, for example, 2019's "The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience" by Andy Samberg and the rest of The Lonely Island comedy group, which pokes fun at Canseco and his former teammate on the Oakland Athletics, Mark McGwire (via Vulture). Meanwhile, Drake has long made headlines as a huge fan of his hometown NBA team, the Toronto Raptors — and more than just sitting courtside to cheer on his favorite ballers, the rapper became the team's global ambassador in 2013, as reported by ESPN. He also appears to have a dedicated spot in the Raptors' locker room.

Like the other musicians listed below, Drake has also called upon famous athletes to star in his music videos.

Serena Williams showed off her dance moves

When Beyoncé released her 2016 album "Lemonade," fans and the collective music industry went crazy. Among the many searing tracks talking about her relationship with Jay-Z, the song "Sorry" was a standout. As part of the visual album, the tune's music video features the singer in black-and-white scenes — but around the one-minute mark, a figure appears from behind a chandelier and begins walking down a set of stairs. That's tennis superstar Serena Williams, wearing a bodysuit, chunky lace-up boots, and a flowing cover-up dress. Williams then proceeds to strut around and dance in front of a seated Beyoncé. It turns out the musical icon felt the tennis GOAT was the perfect fit for the track. 

"I have known the director since I was like nine years old," Williams told AP News (via ESPN) at the time. "I know Beyoncé pretty well, so they were like, 'We would love for you to be in this particular song. It's about strength and it's about courage and that's what we see you as.'" But even with Williams' experience of winning 23 Grand Slam titles while under intense pressure and in front of a live crowd, she still found parts of filming her cameo difficult. As the tennis star remembered, "[Beyoncé] told me that she just wants me to dance, like just be really free and just dance like nobody's looking and go all out." Williams added, "So that wasn't easy in the beginning, but then it got easier."

Shaquille O'Neal played ball in a music video

NBA Hall of Fame player Shaquille O'Neal was one of the most formidable big men on the court during his prime. The 7-footer raked in Olympic golds and NBA championships, thanks to his huge wingspan and size 22 sneakers. Yet, the late pop star and younger brother of Backstreet Boy Nick Carter, Aaron Carter, once boasted about besting the basketball star. "That's How I Beat Shaq" was the fourth single from his 2000 album "Aaron's Party (Come Get It)," per Genius, and as a 13-year-old Aaron rapped in the chorus, "I swear that I'm telling you the facts / 'Cause that's how I beat Shaq." 

While it might seem like a dream, it turns out the tale was based on a true story. The Backstreet Boys recorded demos for their titular debut album in the music studio at O'Neal's house — and occasionally, Nick would bring along his younger brother, who played O'Neal in a game of H-O-R-S-E (if one person misses five of the same shots the other player made, game over). "We had a H-O-R-S-E game one day and he beat me!" O'Neal admitted on the "HappE! Hour" Instagram series in 2020 (via E! News). As if losing wasn't bad enough, the basketball pro added, "[Aaron] came back and said, 'I want to do a song.' And I said sure. He asked me to be in the video and I said sure."

O'Neal, who'd cameoed in the video for Master P's "Make Em Say Uhh!" a few years earlier, noted, "I've been knowing those guys ever since 1992."

Kevin Durant went head-to-head with a star

While most people know Kevin Durant for his skills on the court as one of the best basketball players of the modern era, he is also a musician. Per The New York Times, he raps as an outlet for creativity and personal feelings — and so, it would seem he has a profound respect for professional rappers like Drake

However, after a 2016 game held in Canada between the Golden State Warriors and Drake's beloved Toronto Raptors — during which the actor-turned-rapper was spotted heckling the small forward — an interviewer spoke with Durant about his thoughts on his team's win. Drake then appeared to bump into Durant, leading the NBA star to glare at the musician as he walked away. When Durant was later asked what he thought about "Drake Night," the theme of the evening, the basketball pro replied, "I don't give a damn about no damn 'Drake Night,'" before walking off the court. 

This seemingly strained history of the duo's longtime friendship made it all the more surprising when Drake released the video for his 2020 song "Laugh Now Cry Later," in which he shows up to Nike's massive world headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon, is seen hanging out with NFL star receiver Odell Beckham Jr., and at one point, makes a grimacing face while playing defense in a one-on-one game against Durant. Later in the video, Durant sings "baby" to the camera, in time with the chorus' lyrics. He then tosses the ball at a dejected looking Drake on the floor of the basketball court.

LeBron James worked with one of his favorite artists

When Cher released her song "Believe" in 1998, it was the first time many music fans heard a peculiar effect. She purposely used a pitch-correction technology known as Auto-Tune. This launched a new era for music, with many musicians — like T-Pain and Kanye West, for example — turning to this effect to create a distinctive sound, as Pitchfork reported. By 2009, rapper Jay-Z was seemingly fed up with its use in mainstream hip-hop and released a song called "D.O.A." (which stands for "Death of Auto-Tune"). In addition to criticizing certain artists — with lyrics like, "You n***** singin' too much / Get back to rap, you T-Pain'n too much" (via Genius) — the music video features Jay-Z at an outdoor basketball court and playing with the NBA legend LeBron James.

The two superstars appeared to already be regular pals when James was just starting out in the league with the Cleveland Cavaliers. For example, when Jay-Z was in C-town while on tour in 2003, James came on board the tour bus for an MTV interview alongside the rapper. While Hova clearly holds adoration for James, the love goes right back, as displayed in clips of James singing the words to many of the musician's songs, per All Urban Central.

Beyond memorizing lyrics, James officially became involved in the rap scene when he became an A&R — that is, artists and repertoire — with the Los Angeles Laker playing an instrumental role in 2 Chainz's 2019 album "Rap or Go to the League," according to Complex.

Russell Westbrook enjoyed the music

In the 2021 video for the Nas track "Brunch on Sundays," the veteran New York City rapper is seen eating and drinking bubblies among a handful of guests — including LeBron James and fellow NBA star Russell Westbrook. The two basketball players can be seen chatting to one another at the table. Westbrook, the NBA all-time leader in triple-doubles, joined the Los Angeles Lakers in 2021, with James as his teammate. As for music, Westbrook is definitely a fellow fan of rap. In an "Ask Me Anything" thread on Reddit, he revealed how he uses his game day playlists to get pumped up. "I mix it up — old school/new school rap/R&B/Pop ... everything," he wrote, while namedropping Taylor Swift as an example. When asked for his top song by the country-turned-pop star, Westbrook revealed, "I like a lot of her songs — I have a lot of favorites of T. Swift."

As for Nas, this wasn't the first time he had NBA stars appear in one of his music videos. For "Nas Is Like," for example, the rapper is seen shaking hands with Ron Artest, who later changed his name to Metta World Peace. This cameo came about because Artest and Nas both hail from Queensbridge, New York, per the New York Daily News, with the single dropping in 1999 — the same year Artest was drafted into the NBA.

Dan Marino's team was called out

An unmissable song of the '90s was "Only Wanna Be with You" by Hootie & the Blowfish. The track was one of several hit songs for the band that propelled their 1994 album "Cracked Rear View" into the stratosphere — as of 2022, it was the 10th best performing album ever in America with 21 million certified units, according to the RIAA. The popular tune also features the peculiar lyric, "And you wonder why / I'm such a baby 'cause the Dolphins make me cry" (via Genius). 

Listening to the song, it would be easy to think lead singer Darius Rucker gets emotional around marine wildlife. In fact, he was referring to the NFL team the Miami Dolphins. Rucker grew up rooting for the team, with star quarterback Dan Marino leading the way. For his part, Marino played for 17 seasons with the Dolphins but never won a championship, making him one the best players to never don a Super Bowl ring, as CBS Sports recapped. And toward the end of the music video for "Only Wanna Be with You," Marino is seen throwing a football to Rucker, who's wearing a Dolphins jersey.

Outside of filming the video, Marino later revealed on "The Dan Patrick Show" that he has been to at least 25 Hootie & the Blowfish concerts. As for Rucker, he actually named his daughter, Dani, after the quarterback, with Marino admitting he learned about the name choice following her birth. "It's cool," Marino said of Rucker. "He's a fan."

Anna Kournikova found love through a music video

Starting from age five, Anna Kournikova began playing tennis and made her way to the pro tour. The Russian also became famous as a model, even though some critics felt this may have affected her performance on the court. For example, Kournikova's disappointing finishes in major tournaments unfortunately became lingo for poker players, with some referring to an Ace-King hand ("AK" for short) as an "Anna Kournikova" because the two cards look good but don't often win, according to Poker News

Fortunately for Kournikova, she arguably won something much more special after appearing in the 2001 music video for Enrique Iglesias' hit song "Escape." In the video, Iglesias is infatuated with Kournikova, and the two even make out in a bathroom and a car.  "I'm a big fan. ... I'm sure a lot of guys want to meet her. I'm one of them," Iglesias admitted of his co-star during a segment on MTV's "Making the Video." "She's beautiful, talented, great tennis player." Noting that combining sex and music was one of his goals with this video, the singer added, "It doesn't take a good actor to try to kiss Anna and make it believable." 

Pretty steamy stuff for only their real-life meet cute. But not only did the two meet and work together, but these stars also began dating after filming and welcomed three children, per People. While appearing on "The Jess Cagle Show" in 2021, Iglesias admitted that their kids finally saw the "Escape" music video and said, "They're putting two and two together. Like, 'Oh, really?'"

Mike Tyson showed off his range

Only the bravest fighters dared go up against boxer "Iron Mike" Tyson, known for his aggressive fighting. Yet, there's much more to Tyson than a mean uppercut — like when he had a one-man Broadway show called "Undisputed Truth" in 2012, per The Guardian. While he didn't sing and dance on the stage, Tyson does make his own music, such as a 2017 diss track aimed toward Soulja Boy. However, the athlete has also been involved in the music industry through a wide variety of artists. In 2015, for example, he was a featured guest alongside Chance the Rapper on Madonna's song "Iconic," and also appeared in the music video. 

"Madonna calls you and tells you to come somewhere, you go," Tyson told Rolling Stone. While they initially met in the late '80s while on a double date with their then-spouses, when Madge asked the boxer to provide the intro to "Iconic," Tyson admitted, "I didn't know what the hell I was going there for." Having improvised his contribution to the song, he explained of his time in the studio, "I just go in there and start talking. I'm talking about my life and things that I have endured. I'm saying some really crazy stuff. It was really intense."

Fortunately, Tyson already had experience working with another pop icon: Whitney Houston. He made a split-second cameo in her 1990 music video for "My Name Is Not Susan." Many years later, Tyson also turned up in Eminem's "Godzilla" music video, in which he punches the rapper to the ground before apologizing.

Rafael Nadal got hot and steamy

In the 2010 music video for "Gitana" by Shakira, which means "gypsy," she gets cozy onscreen with Rafael Nadal. The Spaniard is a championship-winning machine in professional tennis, but this time, he showed off his acting skills. The video features a lot of touching between the two stars, who then share a kiss at the end. 

Of course, the Queen of Latin Music could have probably picked anyone in the world to appear opposite her in the video, but as she explained in a press conference at the time, she wanted someone she could identify with and who shared a similar point of view. While Shakira is Colombian and Nadal Spanish, for example, the two could bond over their shared native language. "I felt this parallel between the two of us could be portrayed in the video, and I think it came out great," she said (as translated by the AFP News Agency). "We're really happy."

When asked what it was like to play the love interest of Shakira, the tennis player joked to Extra, "Not that difficult." When he told his actual girlfriend about the role, Nadal said she was fine with the music video because, as he put it, "That's part of the job." It appears that Nadal has since remained a huge fan of the Colombian singer, as fans later spotted the athlete joyfully dancing in the audience during Shakira's 2018 concert in Toronto.

Magic Johnson cameoed after a big announcement

Los Angeles Lakers icon Magic Johnson's connection to Michael Jackson goes all the way back to the late King of Pop's Jackson 5 days. The NBA alum even got to travel with the group a few times while they were on the road during their heyday.

"Michael Jackson, he was such a perfectionist," Johnson reflected of this time to Variety in 2022, going on to reveal how he once convinced Jackson to attend one of his games. "He sat down; people went crazy," Johnson recalled, noting that Jackson had almost declined for fear that he would instead become the spectacle of the night. "They were running from upstairs, the sides. We had to stop the game to get him out."

The two appeared to be remain close, as evidenced in a later photo of the much taller Johnson with his arm around Jackson. Fast forward to 1991, when Johnson publicly announced that he had been diagnosed with HIV and, as a result, retired from basketball. The following year, Johnson made a cameo in Jackson's music video for "Remember the Time." Viewers can spot the athlete as the assistant to an Egyptian pharaoh played by Eddie Murphy. In a 2009 essay written for Rolling Stone, the video's director John Singleton remembered Jackson saying, "Whatever you want to make this as cool as possible, let's do it. Let's get Eddie Murphy. Let's get Magic Johnson." With Johnson having just revealed his HIV-positive status, Jackson urged Singleton, "We have to put Magic in this video."

Olympian Aly Raisman shared a powerful message

The music video for Maroon 5's 2018 song "Girls Like You" is about as star-studded as any clip could be. While rapper Cardi B is the featured artist on the track, she is only one of many other famous women to make a cameo in the music video, as orchestrated by Hollywood director David Dobkin.

"Honestly, we put out the call and these women all showed up," Dobkin told Entertainment Weekly. "It was almost overwhelming. We [were] so honored each person came." Several U.S. Olympians make an appearance, like snowboarder Chloe Kim, soccer star Alex Morgan, and six-time Olympic medalist Aly Raisman. For her part, the gymnast is standing back-to-back with lead singer Adam Levine and dancing. She's wearing a t-shirt with the words "Always Speak Your Truth," as the camera turns to her holding hands with Levine. The message is a reference to her role in the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, during which Raisman testified against Larry Nassar, a former physician for the U.S. gymnastics team who was convicted of sexual abuse.

Raisman took to Twitter to share a few behind-the-scenes shots. "How can you not be all smiles when you're asked to be a part of @maroon5 video??" she captioned the pics. "@adamlevine lucky to call you a friend. Thank you so much for making that day so fun. I wish we could do it all over again!"

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Baron Davis played a bad boy

In the music video for his 2001 song "Bad Boy 4 Life," Sean Combs — who at that point went by P. Diddy — called in a bunch of favors. Playing in the video's band is Dave Navarro on guitar, formerly of the Red Hot Chili Peppers; on the drums is Travis Barker, the drummer for Blink-182. "You see how the cultures mix and we're all able to get along," P. Diddy told MTV News about the video. "It's not like I just called my friends for cameos; they all play parts," he added.

As far as athletes go, Mike Tyson makes an appearance, as do basketball stars Shaquille O'Neal and Baron Davis. Fittingly, that latter veteran basketball player — who sadly retired after 14 seasons in the NBA following a gruesome knee injury in a 2012 NBA playoff game — was sometimes referred to by the nickname B-Diddy during his career, according to Bleacher Report. Meanwhile, 2001 would also see Davis make another cameo in the "Livin' It Up" music video from rapper Ja Rule.

Grant Hill was surprised by his music video cameo

Although the Canadian rock band Nickelback is at the butt of many jokes and is considered by some to be the most hated band in music, there was a time when the four musicians were total stars. For example, lead singer Chad Kroeger was once married to punk princess Avril Lavigne. She even joined the group on stage years later to sing along to "Rockstar," as Nickelback posted on Twitter

Meanwhile, the 2005 music video for "Rockstar" boasts more celebrities than you can count: Hockey legend Wayne Gretzky is singing along to Nickelback in the clip, as are a few of the late Playboy founder Hugh Hefner's girlfriends at the time, including Holly Madison and Kendra Wilkinson. At one point, NBA star Grant Hill appears onscreen, mouthing the lyrics, "Sign a couple autographs so I can eat [my meals for free]." 

"I had never heard of Nickelback before I was asked to be in it," Hill said in a 2018 interview on "The Full 48" podcast (via Uproxx). Hill's wife, Tamia, happens to be a Canadian recording artist. Musing that she and Nickelback shared the same management, Grant's cameo may seem a little less out of place given the incredible roster of celebs, but it was still surprising for the basketball pro. "Not that it was on my bucket list, but I was in a Nickelback video," he reflected on the experience, admitting, "It really doesn't make sense but hey, it's all good."

Danica Patrick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. raced with a legend

In 2013, rapper Jay-Z expanded his entrepreneurial portfolio by getting involved with professional baseball and signed the New York Yankees' infielder Robinson Cano to his Roc Nation Sports division. "Because of my love of sports, it was a natural progression to form a company where we can help top athletes in various sports the same way we have been helping artists in the music industry for years," Jay-Z said in a statement (via Forbes). At that point, the musician already owned a stake in the Brooklyn Nets. Showing an even wider appreciation for all types of sports, he once worked with two NASCAR stars: Danica Patrick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. 

The two drivers appear in the music video for Jay-Z's track "Show Me What You Got," the lead single on his 2006 album "Kingdom Come." It marked his first musical release after un-retiring from rap, and ever the businessman, Hova also calls out his champagne brand Armand de Brignac (aka Ace of Spade) in the lyrics, per Genius.

Patrick, Earnhardt Jr., and Jay-Z filmed their scene in the tiny country of Monaco, which was fitting for the expensive supercars they're seen driving in the video: Earnhardt Jr. drives a Ferrari F430 Spider with Jay-Z in the passenger seat, while Patrick has a Pagani Zonda all to herself. Per GQ, Jay-Z actually happened to own both cars. "It just felt fun," he told MTV News of making the track.

Michael Jordan and a pop legend starred in this music video

An NBA legend and perhaps the greatest basketball player ever, Michael Jordan has used his celebrity to be the face of many advertisements. Take, for instance, the famous McDonald's commercial he appears in with fellow basketball star Larry Bird. Of course, Jordan also promoted Nike in a few ads, the brand he inked a shoe deal with after passing up Converse and Adidas, per Foot Locker

Yet, when it comes to actual cameos, Jordan seems rather selective — he didn't even make an appearance in the LeBron James led "Space Jam 2," the 2021 sequel to Jordan's 1996 original film, per Screen Rant. So, it was a big deal when he worked on Michael Jackson's 1991 "Jam" music video. At one point in the video, Jordan is playing head-to-head against the pop star. Obviously, it's no match as the taller Jordan is seen flying over Jackson for a slam dunk. At least the two guys appear to be having fun, like when Jackson jumps on Jordan's back as he tries to shoot the basketball. 

"We had to play one-on-one. It was so embarrassing. He never missed," Jackson admitted during a making-of segment. The tables later turn in the "Jam" video, however, when Jackson teaches the NBA star how to dance. "I'm out here trying to follow this man's lead. It was totally ludicrous," Jordan said in another behind-the-scenes video, adding with a laugh, "I felt stupid, but I guess that's the way they want it to look."