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Top 20 Athlete SNL Performances of All Time

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Top 20 Athlete Performances of All Time on Saturday Night Live

Athletes SNL
Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports

One of the greatest parts about the sketch comedy television show Saturday Night Live is that it gives athletes an opportunity to show off other talents away from the field or court. I understand that most fans of the show moan and groan when they find out an athlete will be hosting SNL that week, but the reality is some of them have given hilarious performances.

The first athlete to ever make an appearance on SNL was basketball legend Bill Russell in 1976. Unfortunately, Russell’s performance showed exactly why there were second thoughts in regards to an athlete on air in the first place. He was stiff and certainly didn’t bring his comedic chops in his performance. The following year, quarterback Fran Tarkenton became the first ever athlete host of SNL, which was a monumental event. Tarkenton wasn’t the funniest athlete to ever appear on the show but he certainly had his moments.

Over the years, there have been approximately 35 athletes to either make an appearance or host an episode of SNL. Most of these athletes were football stars. However, there also have been baseball and tennis players, Olympians, boxers, a cyclist, a racecar driver and a hockey player.

Just because an athlete is on the ensuing slideshow doesn’t mean that person was incredibly funny throughout their performance. With that being said, each sports star did have at least one memorable sketch, which is why they have made the cut for the top 20 athlete Saturday Night Live performances of all time.

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20. Kerri Strug

Kerri Strug SNL
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Olympian Kerri Strug looked a bit out of her element when she appeared on Weekend Update in 1996. Thankfully, she had her brother, Kippy Strug (played by Chris Kattan), by her side to make sure the laughs would continue to flow.

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19. O.J. Simpson

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Everyone knows O.J. Simpson as someone who simply can’t stay out of trouble, but there actually was a time when he was somewhat normal. The former Heisman Trophy Award winner appeared on SNL in 1978. For the most part, Simpson skated by during the episode. However, there was a sketch entitled “Football Voodoo” that was a hit with the audience. Simpson watches Walter Payton attempt to break his rushing record, but thankfully, an act of voodoo stopped it from happening.

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18. Wayne Gretzky

Wayne Gretzky SNL
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Hockey legend Wayne Gretzky appeared on the show in the 1980s thanks to his wife. Gretzky was offered the role of host but originally turned it down. He didn’t believe he had the necessary comedic tone to pull it off. He later found out from a newspaper that he would be the host after his wife told the network he would do it. For the most part, his performance was a dud. With that being said, fans did get to see the “Great One” sing.

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17. Jeff Gordon

Jeff Gordon SNL
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Jeff Gordon is the only racecar driver to ever appear on the show. After his uninspiring performance, he will probably be the last. Probably the best part of the episode was when he was in the Brian Fellow’s Safari Planet. Of course, Tracy Morgan did most of the comedic work, which he typically achieved in that sketch from the early 2000s.

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16. Nancy Kerrigan

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Figure skater Nancy Kerrigan appeared on SNL just two months after Tonya Harding’s craziness led to an attack, which was attempted to derail Kerrigan’s Olympic chances. Like Gordon, Kerrigan should have stuck with her day job. Her best sketch, and that’s stretching it, was the “St. Patrick’s Day Parade.”

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15. Fran Tarkenton

Fran Tarkenton
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As I already mentioned, Tarkenton is the first athlete to ever host SNL. The cold opening was funny, while there were several sketches that were on point, especially with the help of legends John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd and Bill Murray.

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14. Bob Uecker

Bob Uecker SNL
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Bob Uecker just might the funniest person alive who is associated with sports. Mr. Baseball has been around for decades doing various jobs on different television networks. Along with that, he has been the radio voice for the Milwaukee Brewers since 1971. In 1984, he gave a shot as the host of SNL, which wasn’t half-bad. There’s no question Uecker has been funnier in other formats, which is probably why fans like to forget he even accepted the gig.

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13. George Foreman

George Foreman SNL
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George Foreman’s performance on SNL was nothing to write home about but it definitely had its moments. The main reason for that was because of the supporting cast. One of the better sketches involved Chris Farley’s motivational speaker, who gave Foreman the will to hit people. There also was a skit in which Tim Meadows turned into The Incredible Hulk, who was played by Foreman. The boxer’s best sketch had to be “Uncle Joe” in which he played an uncle who didn’t want to sing at a wedding reception.

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12. Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan SNL
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Michael Jordan hosted the show in 1991, which came after the Chicago Bulls won their first title with His Airness leading the charge. The “Superfans” sketch was great, as they typically were. However, it was “Daily Affirmation with Stuart Smalley” that was the shining moment.

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11. Walter Payton

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Running back Payton co-hosted with quarterback Joe Montana in 1987. One of the funnier sketches involved Dana Carvey’s “Church Lady.” However, it was “The Michael Jackson Workout Tape” that was the best effort Payton during the program.

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10. Joe Montana

Joe Montana SNL
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Montana and Payton were about equal as far as their performances, but it was Montana’s “Sincere Guy Stu” that stole the show. Dan (played by Phil Hartman) and Leslie (played by Jan Hooks) have a conversation. After every statement the two make, we hear their inner thoughts, which is basically a reference to them wanting to have sex. In the middle of the date, Stu (Montana) comes along and everything he says is repeated exactly the same way in the inner monologue.

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9. Andy Roddick

Andy Roddick SNL
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Tennis star Andy Roddick was on top of the world when he hosted SNL in 2003. By far, the best sketch of the episode was titled “Morning Crew” in which Roddick is constantly berated by a DJ (played by Jimmy Fallon). Another funny sketch was when he took on Billie Jean King in Battle of the Sexes II. Roddick’s performance was not the best ever by an athlete but he definitely gave a decent effort.

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8. Eli Manning

Eli Manning SNL
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Eli Manning probably wouldn’t have gotten as many laughs if he didn’t just win the Super Bowl for the hometown fans. However, he still managed to put forth a genuine effort that provided some quality laughs. The “Motion Capture Suit” sketch was pretty funny because it showed a goofy side of Manning. Personally, I believe the “Little Brothers” was the best. In fact, I think it’s one of the better digital shorts on SNL. Manning torments older brothers who pick on their younger brothers, which clearly hit home for the youngest Manning.

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7. Lance Armstrong

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Cyclist Lance Armstrong may not be as well liked now as he was when he hosted in 2005. With that being said, it doesn’t take away the fact that Armstrong had the SNL live audience in stitches throughout the episode. His two best sketches was “Celebrity Ironman” and a sketch in which he sings a horrendous song for Sheryl Crow, who he dated at the time. The “Celebrity Ironman” was hilarious because Armstrong played a version of himself who didn’t know how to run or swim.

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6. LeBron James

LeBron James SNL
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It was a big deal when LeBron James hosted in 2007. Even though many had their doubts if he could pull it off, James proved the doubters wrong with a solid performance. One of the more enjoyable moments came during the “LeBronologue” in which James parodied his own Nike commercial that featured The LeBrons.

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5. Tom Brady

Tom Brady SNL
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Quarterback Tom Brady’s stellar career on the gridiron will land him in Canton the second he’s eligible. Even though he has done some work as a model, no one knew he could act. That all changed in 2005 when he hosted SNL. Brady knocked it out of the park with several memorable performances. My personal favorite has to be “Sexual Harassment and You” in which Brady appears in a sexual harassment PSA. Fred Armisen constantly gets called out for harassment even though he’s not doing anything to warrant it. Meanwhile, Brady gets fresh with the women in the office, which is just fine by them.

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4. Derek Jeter

Derek Jeter SNL
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Yankee wives, enough said. Derek Jeter showed off his comedic side when he hosted SNL in 2001. It was a smash hit as he constantly came up with laughs. My favorite sketch was when Jeter played the wife of Alfonso Soriano and sat in the stands with the other Yankee wives. The best part was when David Wells and David Cone showed up in drag at the end. Another memorable sketch was “Derek Jeter’s Taco Hole.”

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3. Dwayne Johnson

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Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has proven to be quite the actor. He has personally resurrected several film franchises and is a bona fide action star. For anyone who has ever watched him wrestle, they also know that he definitely has a comedic side to him. Sketches such as “The Rock Obama,” “Nicotrel” and “Game Time with Dave and Greg” were instant classics.

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2. Charles Barkley

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The best part about Charles Barkley as a host on SNL is the fact that he’s a wild card. He isn’t afraid to do anything on air, which has led to some very funny moments. He has no problem making fun of his friends or himself while wearing ridiculous getups. He also doesn’t seem to mind if the sketches are a little more bizarre than usual.

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1. Peyton Manning

Peyton Manning SNL
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By far and away the best athlete performer to appear on SNL is Peyton Manning. The legendary quarterback doesn’t hit on every single one of his sketches, but there’s no doubt that when he does it gets a big laugh. My personal favorite has to be the “United Way” digital short in which Manning is supposed to be a role model for the kids. Instead, he berates them, hits them in the back of the head with a football and shows them how to break into cars.