Amateur ballers lead the way in Part 7

Photo illustration by Nick Roy / theScore

theScore is counting down the 100 best fictional characters in sports movie history, with a new post every weekday until July 3.

100-91 | 90-81 | 80-71 | 70-61 | 60-51
50-41 | 40-31 | 30-21 | 20-11 | 10-1

40. Neon Boudeaux

"Blue Chips" (1994)

OK, Shaq hardly showcased his dramatic range when he played outrageously talented college recruit Neon Boudeaux in "Blue Chips." Still, his placement on this list is largely a testament to the Hall of Famer's tremendous charisma. Plus, it's just a lot of fun to watch a young, still-svelte Diesel dominate his on-screen opponents with alley-oop lobs and drop-step dunks - alongside then-Orlando Magic teammate Penny Hardaway.

39. Michael 'Squints' Palledorous

"The Sandlot" (1993)

In "The Sandlot," Chauncey Leopardi plays bawdy infielder "Squints," a kid whose horror stories about a junkyard dog living next to the team's field are only matched by his ridiculous crush on lifeguard Wendy Peffercorn. We dare you to not think of the character every time you hear the word "squints."

38. Roy Hobbs

"The Natural" (1984)

After Robert Redford's gifted baseball character in "The Natural" barely survives a run-in with a psychotic stranger, he returns to the game he loves many years later as a mysterious, aging rookie for a struggling ballclub. Using his natural talent and the power of a self-crafted bat that was struck by lightning, Hobbs leads the team to success while trying to keep his identity a secret and avoiding the sabotage of corrupt ownership.

37. Rod Tidwell

"Jerry Maguire" (1996)

Warning: Video contains coarse language

Director Cameron Crowe achieved a perfect symbiosis between script, character, and performer with Cuba Gooding Jr.'s larger-than-life NFL receiver, Tidwell. From the famous "Show me the money" catchphrase to the actor's exuberant acceptance speech at the 1997 Oscars, Gooding perfectly captures the essence of an endlessly confident celebrity.

36. Jimmy Chitwood

"Hoosiers" (1986)

Chitwood (Maris Valainis) exudes a cool stoicism that stands in stark contrast to the "aw, shucks" attitude of most of the townspeople in "Hoosiers." His motivations (and emotional baggage) isn't immediately clear, but much like Coach Dale (Gene Hackman) and Shooter (Dennis Hopper), basketball becomes a healing force in his life.

Ironically, of the eight actors cast to play Hickory High players, Valainis was one of two actors who didn't play high school ball.

35. Billy Hoyle

"White Men Can't Jump" (1992)

Warning: Video contains coarse language

The lasting impact of "White Men Can't Jump" is that every white basketball player with a smidgeon of attitude or flair invariably gets likened to Woody Harrelson's sneakily talented, trash-talking streetballer Hoyle. Strangely enough, the aesthetic trappings - the tie-dye snapback, baggy T-shirt, clunky sneakers - that were ridiculed in the film have come to embody 1990s streetwear culture.

34. Pedro Cerrano

"Major League" (1989), "Major League II" (1994), and "Major League: Back to the Minors" (1998)

Warning: Video contains coarse language

Cuban slugger Cerrano (Dennis Haysbert) had a knack for crushing home runs and striking fear into people as one of the Cleveland Indians' rejects in the "Major League" series. Personal struggles with his ever-changing religious beliefs constantly get in his way until he learns that being yourself is the answer to most problems.

33. Daniel LaRusso

"The Karate Kid" (1984), "The Karate Kid Part II" (1986), and "The Karate Kid Part III (1989)

When LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) moves across the country to unfamiliar surroundings, his life is turned upside down until he meets Mr. Miyagi. The karate instructor becomes a mentor to the fatherless LaRusso, who, despite countless challenges, transforms from a hot-tempered Jersey kid into a responsible, kindhearted man by the end of the trilogy.

32. Willie Mays Hayes

"Major League" (1989) and "Major League II" (1994)

When cocky, self-proclaimed star Hayes (Wesley Snipes) shows up to Indians camp in the first "Major League" film, no one knows who he is. But after impressing during a 40-yard dash while in pajamas, Hayes quickly (pun intended) becomes one of the team's most important players. Snipes, who played the character brilliantly, was replaced in the series' second film by underwhelming substitute Omar Epps.

31. Maggie Fitzgerald

"Million Dollar Baby" (2004)

Hilary Swank trained five hours every day to add 19 pounds of muscle for her role as Fitzgerald. While she sells that physicality well, the character's real substance is revealed in her dialogue with mentors Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) and Scrap (Morgan Freeman).

"Million Dollar Baby" goes to a place far darker than most underdog sports stories, which only heightens the emotional intensity of Swank's Oscar-winning performance.

Amateur ballers lead the way in Part 7
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