Sports stars deserve Oscars too! AND THE AWARD GOES TO … LeBron James and others have proved that sports stars can act, but they’re always left out at Oscar time. So we’re handing out awards (sorry, no swag bags) for some memorable big-screen performances by athletes. By Jim Caple Illustration by Elias Stein • 02/26/16 The latest batch of Academy Awards will be presented Sunday, but Cavaliers forward LeBron James will not receive an Oscar for his supporting role in “Trainwreck.” That’s too bad, because he is at least as deserving as Sylvester Stallone, who was nominated for portraying Rocky Balboa, a role he’s played seventimes. It’s no surprise, though. Actors are often nominated (and sometimes win) for portraying athletes, including Warren Beatty (“Heaven Can Wait”), Robert De Niro (“Raging Bull”), Cuba Gooding Jr. (“Jerry Maguire”) and Hilary Swank (“Million Dollar Baby”). But Oscar nominations for athletes in movies? Nope. Still, even though the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences never recognizes them, the ESPN Academy of Motion Picture Sports and Popcorn Pseudoscience does for these notable athletic performances on the big screen: BEST PERFORMANCE IN A LEADING ROLE RAY ALLEN, “HE GOT GAME” (1998) Unlike so many athlete movie parts, Allen plays a substantial role by portraying Jesus Shuttlesworth, the country’s top high school basketball recruit and the son of a convict played by Denzel Washington. Allen shows he has more than just game — he’s got acting chops, too. Allen, as film critic Roger Ebert wrote, “is that rarity, an athlete who can act.” In other words, he’s no Brett Favre (more on that later) BEST PERFORMANCE IN A CLEVELAND ROLE LEBRON JAMES, “TRAINWRECK” (2015) He still hasn’t delivered Cleveland the championship for which the city has been waiting decades, but at least he does his best to make the metropolis on the Cuyahoga sound worthy of a visit. BEST PERFORMANCE IN A MUSICAL ROLE MIKE TYSON, “THE HANGOVER” (2009) And if you think his karaoke rendition of Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” isn’t worthy of this award, you’d better take a couple of steps back so you don’t end up cold on the floor like Zach Galifianakis. BEST PERFORMANCE IN A KICK-ASS ROLE GINA CARANO, “HAYWIRE” (2011) The former MMA fighter received a Critics Choice Awards nomination for her starring role in this action thriller, in which she performed her own stunts and pistol-whipped Channing Tatum. Beat that, Ronda Rousey. BEST PERFORMANCE IN THE WORST MOVIE RONDA ROUSEY, “ENTOURAGE” (2015) No, Rousey doesn’t come close to matching Carano in this appearance by playing herself. But if she had somehow also knocked down the director, producer and everyone who had anything to do with releasing this movie, she might have. BEST PERFORMANCE IN A BROADCAST BOOTH BOB UECKER, “MAJOR LEAGUE” (1989) The longtime Brewers broadcaster and former big league catcher’s delivery as Harry Doyle is on par with Clayton Kershaw’s. “Just a reminder, fans, about Die Hard Night coming up here at the stadium. Free admission to anyone who was actually alive the last time the Indians won a pennant.” Compared to Uecker, anyone else’s performance in the booth is “just a bit outside.” BEST PERFORMANCE IN A COCKPIT KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR, “AIRPLANE” (1980) In addition to manning the controls, Kareem memorably chastises a kid for insulting his effort as a basketball player: “Listen, kid. I’ve been hearing that crap ever since I was at UCLA. I’m out there busting my buns every night. Tell your old man to drag Walton and Lanier up and down the court for 48 minutes.” BEST PERFORMANCES AS A PASSENGER BABE RUTH, “SPEEDY” (1928) AND “PRIDE OF THE YANKEES” (1942) Sure, we don’t hear Babe Ruth speak in the Harold Lloyd silent comedy “Speedy,” but we do in this train scene in “Pride of the Yankees.” (Although it’s too bad Babe didn’t also reprimand Gary Cooper for not figuring out how to bat left-handed.) BEST PERFORMANCE IN A POOL ESTHER WILLIAMS, “MILLION DOLLAR MERMAID” (1952) Williams was a competitive swimmer who set national records but didn’t go to the Olympics because the 1940 Games were canceled because of World War II. Instead, she went on to become a huge movie star in films withspectacular water shows. Too bad synchronized swimmers can’t match her today. BEST PERFORMANCE IN A SUPPORTING ROLE CARL WEATHERS, “ROCKY” (1976) After a short NFL career as a linebacker with the Raiders, Weathers went into acting, with his most famous role being Apollo Creed in the Rocky series. And he’s good, even though he didn’t add an Academy Award to his championship belt. Damn that Ivan Drago for killing him in “Rocky IV”! Speaking of which … BEST PERFORMANCE IN A DYING ROLE JIM BROWN, “THE DIRTY DOZEN” (1967) His performance as WWII soldier Robert Jefferson not only included his death at the end of the movie — it also ended his NFL career because he retired during filming. His death scene is so powerful it reduced Tom Hanks to tears (sort of) a quarter-century later in “Sleepless in Seattle.” BEST ACTOR IN A SHOUTING ROLE JOHNNY WEISSMULLER, “TARZAN THE APE MAN” (1932) AND OTHER TARZAN MOVIES Weissmuller set multiple world records and won five Olympic gold medals in swimming (plus a bronze in water polo), but not even Michael Phelps could top his famous yell. BEST PERFORMANCE IN AN LGBT ROLE ALEX KARRAS, “VICTOR, VICTORIA” (1982) The late Detroit Lion played the tough Mongo, who punches out a horse in “Blazing Saddles,” but he is more impressive as the bodyguard who comes out as gay in “Victor, Victoria.” It’s not the sort of role usually played by athletes. Then again, as Karras tells James Garner in the movie, “If you didn’t want the guys to call you queer, you became a rough, tough son-of-a-bitchin’ football player.” BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ATHLETE PLAYING OUT OF POSITION PETE VUCKOVICH, “MAJOR LEAGUE” (1989) After pitching 11 seasons in the majors and winning the 1982 AL Cy Young Award, Vuckovich played Yankees slugger Clu Haywood, who won the Triple Crown by hitting .341 with 48 home runs and 121 RBIs. Yet he strikes out in the decisive game against Charlie Sheen. Maybe Madison Bumgarner would have fared better in that role. BEST PERFORMANCE AS A POLICE OFFICER CHUCK CONNORS, “PAT AND MIKE” (1952) Connors, who went on to make many movies and TV shows, also played for the Brooklyn Dodgers, the Chicago Cubs andthe Boston Celtics. No wonder he was such a great shooter in the TV series “The Rifleman.” BEST PERFORMANCE IN AN ANIMATED FILM MICHAEL JORDAN, “SPACE JAM” (1996) Although many feel his overall performance was not quite on par with co-stars Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, Tweety, Sylvester, Foghorn Leghorn, Yosemite Sam, Marvin the Martian, Tasmanian Devil … And finally, the last award is for … WORST PERFORMANCE IN ANY ROLE BRETT FAVRE, “THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY” (1998) All there is to say about Favre’s cameo in this otherwise great comedy is, let’s just hope he doesn’t come out of retirement for another movie.