A complete history of athletes and their alter-egos
When you see the buzz surrounding professional athletes, it can be easy to forget that it’s not all victory laps and movie cameos. Being a professional athlete is hard. From grueling practices to recurring injuries to schedules that make regular life nearly impossible, there are definitely reasons that professional athletes might dream of being something else. It makes sense, therefore, that athletes have developed a variety of alter-egos, which we have assembled here for your viewing pleasure.
They might not be on the same psychotic level as Sybil or as dramatic as the Emancipation of Mimi, but this complete guide of athletes and their alter egos will show you the memorable, weird, crazy and hilarious characters in dynamic world of professional sports.
30. Dwayne Johnson as The Rock
Almost all professional wrestlers have an alias in the ring, but Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s likeness bled from WWE crowds into mainstream pop culture. After winning a national championship at The U, Johnson transformed his football skills to become a professional wrestler first known as “Flex Kavana”, then “Rocky Maivia”, and finally “The Rock.”
He was a man with two faces: The Rock inside the ring (“The People’s Champion” -- an egotistical, profane and unremorseful wrestler) and Dwayne outside the ring (a shy, humble and courteous gentleman). Johnson’s father, Rocky, taught him to be “The Rock” against opponents where anything goes, but to never forget the real Dwayne. Besides, “Can you smell what Dwayne’s cookin’?” just doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.
29. Greg Hardy as The Kraken
Greg Hardy adopted an alter ego of legendary proportions. The Carolina Panthers defensive end took on the role of The Kraken in his second year of the NFL, at the suggestion of a fan. "The Kraken is a giant monster that just demolishes everything that moves," Hardy told the Charlotte Observer. "On Wednesday or Thursday, I go down in my subconscious. I find him, and I unlock the cage. About Saturday he usually comes out. Then he's always out on Sunday. I don't control him then. What he does when I'm not there, I don't know."
Hardy’s Patrick Bateman alter ego allows him to embody a “whole other swag,” which he can separate from his everyday personality. “I’ve been this guy for my whole life,” he said. “It’s finally able to come out and be it’s own monster.”
It looks like The Kraken is going from the football fields to the internet; Hardy rejoined Twitter last month as @OverlordKraken.
28. Rickie Fowler as Dick Fowler
In the world of golf, there are two types of players: those who follow the rules and those who don’t (eh, and I guess there’s also some grey area). Fortunately, when a golfer steps out of line, one man is there to set them straight – Dick Fowler, P.I., a.k.a. PGA golfer Rickie Fowler’s 70’s detective doppelganger.
Fowler isn’t new to playing different roles - he is one of four members of a golf boy band/rap group called the “Golf Boys" with other PGA golfers Ben Crane, Bubba Watson and Hunter Mahan:
On and off the golf course, Rickie is known for his Zac Efron hair, undeniable swagger and killer wardrobe – in stark contrast to Dick Fowler.
Maybe the next time Tiger throws up during a round, Dick Fowler, P.I. will be there to give him a course foul.
27. Allen Iverson as Jewelz
Someone somewhere needs to dedicate their Throwback Thursday to Allen Iverson’s failed attempt at a music career. The former 76er decided to record his first rap single under the moniker Jewelz during the 2000 offseason. The debut track, “40 Bars,” was littered with NSFW and homophobic lyrics, adding to the controversy that clouded Iverson’s illustrious and problematic career. At the urging of NBA commissioner David Stern, Jewelz toned down the lyrics, and the album was later scrapped from release.
Unfortunately for Iverson, one of the NBA's most prolific scorers, he missed 100% of the music shots he DID take.
26. Nyjer Morgan as Tony Plush
Outfielder Nyjer Morgan has many outrageous alter egos: Antonio Picante, Tony Gumbo and the infamous Tony Plush. Picante was created for the Latin crowd, Gumbo is the “most professional” of the three, and Plush is the outgoing, confident version of Morgan, known for his outlandish in-game antics and obnoxious interviews.
Despite popularity among fans, Morgan had to tame Plush to gain a roster spot with the Indians earlier this year.
25. Julie Foudy and Brandi Chastain as Crime Fighters
Who can forget the moment when Brandi Chastain fell to her knees and ripped off her jersey after winning the 1999 World Cup on a penalty kick? Budweiser sponsored this retro commercial featuring Chastain and teammate Julie Foudy, two stars of the ’99 US Women's National Team, as soccer players by day and crime fighters by night. That summer, the team’s pivotal rally to win in unforgettable fashion, culminating in Chastain’s iconic sports bra moment, changed women’s soccer forever. The U.S. women’s soccer team had the world at its feet (no pun intended).
24. Clinton Portis as Choo-Choo
How much more fun would the Redskins be to watch if Clinton Portis were on the team today? Sure, they’d probably still be near the bottom of the NFC East, but at least one of Portis’ alter egos would make the press conferences a little more interesting.
The two-time Pro-Bowl running back changed his persona quite a bit during his eight-year NFL career, donning characters such as Coach Janky Spanky, Sheriff Gonna Getcha, Southeast Jerome, Dolla Bill, Dr. Do Itch Big, Bro Sweets, Prime Minister Yah Mon, Bud Foxx, Coconut Jones and, of course, Choo-Choo.
Choo-Choo was the dance instructor who came to town to help the Redskins perfect their end zone dances. "It took 196 yards to give me hope that I can teach the boy how to dance. I'm going to teach that boy,” Choo-Choo said of his alter ego Portis. “I hope he gets in the end zone. I'm going to teach him. I'm going to teach him, man, I'm going to teach."
I can’t help but wonder what Choo-Choo thinks of J.J. Watt’s attempt at the Nae Nae.
23. Peyton Manning as Peyton Manning Super fan
Well, it’s clear that legendary quarterback Peyton Manning shouldn’t quit his day job (or… maybe he should). It's hard to decide what's worse here: the acting or the stache.
The delivery could’ve been better executed, and he could’ve at least acted more excited about the flip phone, but he was on-point describing himself… err I mean Peyton Manning as a “6-5, 230-pound quarterback with a laser, rocket arm.”
The five-time league MVP has continuously graced us with his presence on television, including this amazing music video with his brother Eli:
22. Jerry Rice as Jerry Ricecake
Move over Leon Sandcastle, there’s a new guy in town (don’t worry, we’ll get to Leon later.) According to the NFL network, Jerry Ricecake and his flattop haircut was supposedly the next big thing – another clever, albeit brief marketing ploy by the NFL PR machine. They even sold Ricecake jerseys for $100. That’s a pretty penny for a player who doesn't exist.
Jerry Ricecake coincidentally sounds pretty similar to Jerry Rice - arguably the greatest wide receiver in NFL history, who is still the leader in receptions, touchdown receptions and yards.
According to the NFL, Ricecake uses his oven mitts to vacuum in pass reception after pass reception, leaving offensive coordinators in a state of eternal bliss and defenders in a state of shock.
21. Vince Carter as Dr. Funk
In 2002, Nike Basketball transported fans back in time - Interstellar style - through NBA All-Star Vince Carter’s character Dr. Funk. The story began at Rucker Park, Harlem, in 1975, when Dr. Funk first made an appearance emerging from a crowd of innocent bystanders to demolish the on-court competition.
The storyline progressed with Nike’s own version of an All-Star team, called the “Roswell Rayguns,”as a struggling ABA franchise until making a couple of key trades, including Dr. Funk. The campaign used grainy video, vintage clips and a modern day superstar team, and it was a huge success. We’re not sure which is more deserving of an Emmy: Carter as Dr. Funk, or Carter trying to out-flop Steph Curry.
20. Calvin Johnson as Johnson
In a 2013 Nike campaign, Lions’ wide receiver Megatron has two sides - Calvin, who handles football, and his counterpart Johnson (played by Sean Combs’ alter-ego, Diddy), who handles the rest. Calvin can focus on breaking records without getting slowed down by the dealing with “the interviews, the demand, the fame” that comes with being an NFL star. The superhuman wide receiver isn’t known for loving the spotlight, but with every yard gained and touchdown scored, the lights get even brighter.
Diddy apparently dropped the “Johnson’s cool” act and went 0 to 100 real quick on Drake in Miami this month, reportedly putting the Canadian rapper in the hospital. Poor Aubrey.
19. JaVale McGee as Pierre
We recently named 7-foot Nuggets’ center JaVale McGee as the weirdest athlete on social media. He goes by the alias “Pierre” and he’s a tweeting maniac; many of his tweets are retweets of himself, and much of it makes no sense. Pierre was an alter-ego he devised when he first started in the NBA. Apparently, Pierre is the smooth operator, while McGee “is the monster you've grown to know on the court.”
When asked about Pierre’s occupation, McGee responded, “the question is what doesn't he do.” According to his twitter bio, he’s the innovator of the self-RT and of the finger mustache - evidently a trendsetter of all things trendy and chic.
18. Blake Griffin as Griffin Force
While the time-traveler version of dunk master Blake Griffin was funnier, his other alter ego, superhero Griffin Force, is still one to remember. Whether he’s delivering some slam-dunk poetry, discussing the latest Nicholas Sparks book or laughing at Chris Paul accidentally saying a dirty word, anything Mr. Lob City touches seems to become comedic gold.
17. Dwyane Wade as Agent D3
Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade appeared in a series of action-packed 2010 commercials with comedian Kevin Hart. Wade moonlighted as Agent D3 in a quest to “bring the rings back to Miami” in Jordan Brand’s 007 marketing idea titled “Dominate Another Day.”
Hart plays “Specialist H,” who helps D3 carry out his missions. The writers even alluded to Agent D3 attracting LeBron to Miami “How did you get the king to the royal court?” Specialist H asked.
I think I just shed a tear. It kind of makes you miss the 2013 Miami Heat. RIP Big Three.
16. Arian Foster & Marshawn Lynch as Darian Foster and Marshawn Lynch Sr.
Madden was able to trace NFL running backs Arian Foster's and Marshawn Lynch's rivalry all the way back to their fathers, "Darian Foster" and "Marshawn Lynch Sr." When these two friends (played by Foster and Lynch) are playing the first versions of Madden, they decide to spawn offspring that they would be able to use to their advantage in the game in years to come. Fast forward two-and-a-half decades later, and the sons have become the offensive threats of their fathers’ Madden dreams.
It’s honestly so refreshing to see Beastmode stringing together words other than “yeah” and using them in complete sentences. I guess money really does talk!
15. Chris Paul as Cliff Paul
Clippers star Chris Paul’s might have the strongest alter-ego game of all. Cliff Paul is a pop-culture icon and he doesn’t even exist. CP3 may be one of the league's best floor generals but he’s actually a pretty decent actor as well.
Since 2012, Chris has regularly been featured in State Farm Insurance commercials as both himself and as Cliff Paul, a State Farm Insurance Agent who is Chris Paul’s long-lost identical twin brother. To differentiate himself from Chris, Cliff wears nerdy glasses, a Ron Burgundy mustache and a swaggy argyle sweater.
The installments show how assisting others, both on the basketball court and through insurance policies, has been engrained in their DNA throughout generations of Pauls.
Audiences ate up the theme, and Cliff Paul has showed up at Clippers games via fat heads, on the internet with his own Twitter account. He has his own Jordan Brand shoe, and even made an appearance in NBA 2k14.
Now if only all insurance agents were as competent as Cliff.
14. Ron Artest as Metta World Peace
Throughout Ron Artest’s professional basketball career, he was infamous for his eccentric and sometimes violent behavior – instigating the notorious 2004 Palace brawl in Detroit that resulted in the longest suspension for an on-court incident in NBA history. Raging Ron rehabilitated his image to prove to the world he reformed his ways in 2011. He went as far as officially changing his name after his alter ego - Metta World Peace - who is Ron’s kind-hearted, caring counterpart.
Sometimes Metta shows glimpses of old Ron, like when he hit James Harden with a malicious elbow jab in 2012 that resulted in a Harden concussion. Whether it’s Ron Artest, Metta World Peace or the newest ego The Panda’s Friend – he’s killing it in China, averaging 19 points, 6 rebounds, and 2.3 steals in 15 games.
13. Terry Gene Bollea as Hulk Hogan
Like The Rock, Terry Gene Bollea also saw success outside the WWE ring as an actor and television personality, but is best known for his body-slamming alter-ego Hulk Hogan. His wrestling career spanned three decades, hundreds of millions of dollars, and one mustache.
After he was finished in the ring, Bollea lost a significant amount of his money to divorce and lawsuits. Bollea says he’s lived about three different lives in one lifetime, but inside the ring was the only time he felt present and aware. Long live the Big Boot!
12. LeBron James as The LeBrons
It seems LeBron James’ ego is so big that it’s divided itself into four alter egos – kid, athlete, businessman and wise-man. His portrayal of each sheds light on the different types of personas he embodies as the world’s most popular athlete. One of James’ best qualities is that he doesn’t take himself too seriously, which is accurately portrayed through these hysterical Nike ads. The commercials spun off into a YouTube cartoon that is currently in its third season.
Will LeBron’s return to Cleveland birth another ego – ghost of career past?
11. Tom Brady as Gary the Telemarketer
When he’s not dropping the ‘F bomb’ on television or completely owning Facebook, Super Bowl champ Tom Brady can be seen as his alter ego Gary that makes him look more like a frat bro than Gronkowski (I didn’t even know that was possible). Gary the Telemarketer is the supercool office guy who talks about how well his fantasy football team is doing – thanks to the Daily MVP app – every chance he gets.
Gary’s the type of guy who lives vicariously through elite quarterbacks... such as Tom Brady. Maybe Tom Brady can add Gary to his long résumé of accomplishments in between the internship with Merrill Lynch and being a sales rep at the University of Michigan golf course.
10. Charles Barkley as a Civilized Citizen
There’s really no Charles Barkley ad that will top the “That’s Turrible” Taco Bell commercial. But the Hall of Fame baller’s go at playing a civilized version of himself was also pretty iconic. It’s rare to see Barkley stray from his loud-mouthed ways, but in the series of '90s commercials for Right Guard, Barkley’s delivery of the line, “with a plethora of ambrosia aromatics,” would give Hepburn a run for an Oscar.
9. Kevin Love as Wes
Former Timberwolves forward Kevin Love is unrecognizable as he joins current Cleveland teammate Kyrie Irving in a commercial for Pepsi Max. Love dresses up as an old man named Wes to show some kids playing street basketball in Los Angeles what “getting buckets” really means. Wes was rusty at first, but around the fourth minute, he starts taking no prisoners.
Was the 2012 collaboration between the two a bit of foreshadowing?
8. Ray Allen as Jesus Shuttlesworth
The best 3-point shooter in NBA history earned the nickname “Jesus” when Ray Allen, then 22, played the role of Jesus Shuttlesworth in Spike Lee’s 1998 film He Got Game alongside Denzel Washington as a high school basketball phenomenon.
His rare combination of athletic and acting ability made Allen’s high school character linger for years. Former teammate LeBron James, who was 14 when the movie was released, still referred to Allen as Jesus in 2013.
“You waiting on Jesus?” LeBron asked a reporter. Then he joked about not being ready to meet Jesus for a while
7. Kyrie Irving as Uncle Drew, Maya Moore as Betty Lou, Nate Robinson as Lights
The past year was all about Cleveland, thanks in part to Cavs point guard Kyrie Irving, who extended his stay in Ohio and was rumored to influence LeBron’s return to ‘where it all began.’
Irving worked with current teammate Kevin Love for the aforementioned Pepsi Max commercials in which Irving also played Uncle Drew, whose character is renowned on YouTube.
These entertaining clips feature Irving made up as Uncle Drew, an old-timer who schools kids on the court: “What these young bloods have to understand is that this game has always been and will always be about buckets.” The webisodes also feature WNBA player Maya Moore as “Betty Lou” and Nuggets point guard Nate Robinson as “Lights”.
The campaign was a genius twist on old school-versus-new school basketball.
6. Shaq as Shaquita
Is there anything more entertaining than a 7-foot-1, 15-time NBA All-Star channeling his inner Sasha Fierce? In 2010, NBA icon Shaquille O’Neal got in touch with his feminine side, singing and dancing to Beyoncé’s “Sweet Dreams” during Halloween in full-on drag, complete with hoop earrings.
Yo Beyoncé, I’m really happy for you, Imma let you finish but Shaquita had one of the best videos of all time!
5. Anfernee Hardaway as Lil Penny
Using the voice of comedian Chris Rock, former All-Star Penny Hardaway was able to relinquish his lesser-known alter ego Lil Penny. His outspoken sidekick, who was the complete opposite of big Hardaway, helped Nike sell Anfernee’s kicks by using Lil Penny to give Hardaway hysterical doses of real talk and help him reel in the ladies. Everyone remembers the '90’s as the Jordan era, but the Lil Penny campaign was a brilliant tactic to remind audiences of the Nike brand monopoly.
4. Larry Johnson as Grandmama
Former baller and shot-caller Larry Johnson arguably has the most famous alter ego of any athlete; it’s how Johnson got his nickname "Grandmama." Grandmama was an old lady who lived in a shoe, but that didn’t stop her from destroying Johnson anytime they played 1-on-1 in a widely popular series of commercials for Converse.
His alter ego was so well-liked that Grandmama appeared on the sitcom Family Matters as Steve Urkel's teammate in a basketball tournament.
3. Deion Sanders as Leon Sandcastle
Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders felt some type of way when NFL analysts say a recent rookie class is more dominant ‘than ever.’ Prime Time proved them wrong with his afro-wearing alter ego Leon Sandcastle. First appearing in an ad during the 2013 Super Bowl, Sandcastle amazed NFL scouts and became a crowd favorite during the NFL combine through a series of television appearances on the NFL Network. The disguised former cornerback continued to appear in the news with fake endorsement deals from Under Armour and appeared at various NFL events.
Leon and Deion’s 4.2 40-yard dash can’t top Bo Jackson’s record 4.1 40 time. Who will ever catch Bo? Only Bo knows.
2. Lester Speight as Terry Tate
One of the funniest athlete alter egos of all time goes to Lester Speight as Terry Tate the Office Linebacker, who enforces office policy. Everyone can relate to the person who finishes the coffee and leaves it for someone else to make another pot (looking at you, Nicole Conlan).
In comes Terry Tate, who tackles employees every time they step out of line. “You kill the joe, you make some mo’ ” is one of the most famous catchphrases in the series of commercials created by Reebok, which was one of the most successful campaigns in the history of the Super Bowl halftime commercials.
“Cause when it’s game time, it’s pain time! “
1. Michael Jordan as Johnny Kilroy
Johnny Kilroy as Michael Jordan’s alter ego tops the list because his Airness is the GOAT and because it was an ingenious solution to sell Jordans without their namesake actually wearing them. Johnny Kilroy was Michael Jordan’s alternate identity after MJ briefly retired from basketball to play baseball.
Basketball fans fretted over who would fill the void on the king’s court, and sneaker enthusiasts were equally concerned about the new Jordan shoe release. Cue Johnny Kilroy, who appeased both fans and Nike.
An investigator, played by Steve Martin, tried to prove the baller Kilroy was indeed Michael Jordan (maybe some foreshadowing for The Pink Panther?).
I highly doubt if Kobe will ever surpass Kilroy on the all-time career point list.
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