By Paulo Canalita
EVER since CEO Vince McMahon took over his father's business, WWE has always featured celebrities to draw more attention or muster credibility for the company's product. Guest appearances, NBA personalities in particular, have long been a part of professional wrestling, and the latest Monday Night Raw was no exception.
Enes Kanter of the Boston Celtics showed up at Madison Square Garden in New York, where he shockingly won the 24/7 Title from R-Truth. And in true Kanter fashion, his immediate title defense was unsuccessful.
The former Knicks center's WWE debut brings to mind the previous instances of his fellow popular basketball figures jumping the fence and actually didn't do too bad in pro wrestling.
This Dallas Mavericks owner is a passionate WWE fan and has appeared on Raw several times, with the first one a 2003 segment involving Eric Bischoff. He returned in 2009 as a special guest referee in a match between Kofi Kingston and Randy Orton. Cuban also shared the ring with John Cena and Sheamus, whom he got physical with.
The Ball family
Their infamous Raw appearance in the summer of 2017 was meant to hype then-projected lottery pick Lonzo Ball. Had basketball not been his passion, there's reason to believe that LaVar Ball could have pursued professional wrestling. The Ball patriarch went on to make a spectacle by ripping his shirt off and going off script to get in The Miz's face.
The family was supposed to stay at ringside and back Dean Ambrose up in the next match, but LaVar, Lonzo, and LaMelo — who thought it was a good idea to use a racial slur on live TV — ended up getting ejected, never to appear on WWE again.
It's not surprising for a man that stood 8'0" to have a background in basketball. Jorge Gonzalez played for the Argentine national team and was drafted by the Atlanta Hawks in 1988. At the time, the Hawks were owned by WCW founder Ted Turner, who offered the behemoth a job after a knee injury ended Gonzalez' career.
Unfortunately, he wasn't exactly built for wrestling and was out of the now-defunct promotion by 1992. McMahon saw potential in a massive Gonzalez-Undertaker feud, but it only produced one of the the latter's worst WrestleMania matches.
The backboard-breaking Chocolate Thunder was booked not to wrestle, referee, commentate, or even stand in somebody's corner, but rather judge the boxing match between "Rowdy" Roddy Piper and Mr. T at WrestleMania 2.
For over a decade, Shaq flirted with pro wrestling. He served as corner man in Hulk Hogan's WCW debut, appeared as a Raw guest host, and traded huge blows with the Big Show.
The Big Fella has been constantly rumored to participate in an actual match, but NBA teams wouldn't allow him to put his body at risk. Finally, he got in the ring at WrestleMania 32 as a surprise entrant in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, where he had another confrontation with The World's Largest Athlete.
Time and time again, Diamond Dallas Page famously told the story of attending a Utah Jazz game and discovering that The Mailman was an avid fan of sports entertainment. DDP made sure to connect with Malone and invite the burly forward to share the ring with him.
This chance encounter would give way to their dream team-up at WCW's Bash at the Beach 1998. The two-time NBA MVP had both a believable powerhouse wrestling physique and the enthusiasm of a legitimate follower to be successful in his wrestling endeavors.
There was a point in the 1990s when Rodman had an even larger-than-life persona. On the court, he was an outstanding basketball player because of his rebounding and defensive gifts. The Worm was also a pop culture icon whose eccentricity made him the center of attention among non-sports fans.
As such, it made sense for Eric Bischoff to make Rodman a part of WCW. A celebrity role fit him nicely, as he was edgy and outlandish, not to mention it gave him platform to behave badly. He joined forces with the New World Order, and was Hollywood Hulk Hogan's tag team partner against the aformentioned duo of DDP and Malone.