The Simpsons has dipped into every facet of pop culture imaginable. Professional sports are no exception. Ever since classic episodes like “Homer at the Bat,” the series has incorporated sports-themed narratives. Naturally, these episodes often led to cameos from professional athletes willing to poke fun at themselves. Some of the most notable cameos have been from the world of the NBA. From Shaq to Magic Johnson, some of the greatest players to ever set foot on the court have visited Springfield.
6. Lebron James & Yao Ming
The Season 16 episode “Homer and Ned’s Hail Mary Pass” seemed like an unlikely platform to host professional athletes. The episode parodied early viral internet videos and the controversy surrounding Mel Gibson’s film, The Passion of the Christ. However, “Homer and Ned’s Hail Mary Pass” incorporated several professional athletes, including Lebron James and Yao Ming.
In a scene where Homer tried to recreate the story of Noah’s Ark for a halftime show, things went terribly wrong. Homer employed several professional athletes, including Tom Brady and Michelle Kwan, to help mobilize the makeshift boat. Yao Ming gets a wonderful snipe regarding the difference between labor in China and U.S. during the scene. Lebron also gets a moment to shine in the episode where he ruins a Simpson’s family dinner.
5. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Living legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has never been a stranger to the world of film and television. The 7’ 2” NBA titan has appeared in classic films like Game of Death and Fletch. In the Season 22 episode, “Love Is a Many Strangled Thing.” Abdul-Jabbar made his debut in Springfield, where he made fun of his own large stature.
In the episode, Homer went to anger management to help quell his violent tendencies. Kareem took the position of Homer, while the Simpsons patriarch embodied his son. The result was both hilarious and uncomfortable. The scene had a metanarrative regarding Homer and Bart’s relationship, which has been scrutinized for over 30 years.
4. Dennis Rodman
The Simpsons’ Halloween special “Treehouse of Horror” has been a seasonal hallmark for over 30 years. “Treehouse of Horror XVI” was no different. In the segment “I’ve Grown a Costume on Your Face,” the show parodied The Twilight Zone episode “The Masks.” The story centered around the residents of Springfield being cursed by a witch, who made their Halloween costumes come to life.
In the episode’s final moments, power forward Dennis Rodman appeared as an anthropomorphic baby pacifier. Rodman acclimated to the show’s self-deprecating sense of humor, casually commenting on his controversial life. Plenty of NBA cameos on The Simpsons have been bizarre, but Rodman’s was probably the most surreal.
3. Steph Curry
Some episodes of The Simpsons will dedicate their entire runtime to poking fun at a particular subject. The episode “22 for 30” was one of them. Presented in a documentary format, “22 for 30” follows Bart’s rise and fall as a Springfield Elementary basketball team star player.
The episode hilariously poked fun at sports documentaries with characters arguing for camera time and declaring conflicting anecdotes. Steph Curry makes a hilarious cameo as himself. His gag was throwing a paper ball into Principal Skinner’s coffee through the Lard Lad Donuts’ mascot. It was a brief appearance from the Golden State Warriors point guard, but it felt right at home in the faux documentary.
2. Magic Johnson
One of the earliest NBA cameos on The Simpsons was from one of the greatest ever to play the game. In the Season 3 episode “Homer Defined,” Homer is named Employee of the Month by Mr. Burns. However, the superlative was not earnestly won as he accidentally diverted a nuclear meltdown. Homer realized his win was not well-earned. This caused him to feel guilty once Lisa started to look up to him as a role model. His guilt further deepened when he received a call from Magic Johnson, congratulating Homer on his heroism.
1. Shaquille O’Neal
Shaquille O’Neal had been featured in The Simpsons before his vocal debut in the episode “Gone Boy.” Kevin Michael Richardson voiced the four-time NBA Champion in a previous episode. However, Shaq took the wheel in the recording studio to lend his vocal talents to the Season 29 episode.
The episode is a loose parody of the hit film and novel Gone Girl. The story centers around Bart disappearing and Sideshow Bob trying to manipulate Milhouse for information on his whereabouts. Homer and Grandpa Simpson run into Shaq while tracking Sideshow Bob. However, the NBA All-Star gets creeped out by the father-and-son duo for ridiculous reasons.