THE HISTORY OF athletes in movies is lengthy and checkered at best. Enter, in a cloud of chalk dust, LeBron James, who makes his big-screen debut in Trainwreck, a romantic comedy written by, and starring, Amy Schumer. James plays wingman to Bill Hader's sports surgeon, Aaron Conners, providing love advice as Conners pursues the titular wreck, men's magazine writer Amy Townsend, played by Schumer.
Schumer has said she wrote James's name into the script because he was the only basketball player she knew. That proved to be a slam dunk. In an actual all-star cast—Amar'e Stoudemire, Tony Romo and Chris Evert make cameos as Hader's patients and WWE champion John Cena plays one of Schumer's previous suitors—James shines.
The four-time NBA MVP plays a cheapskate version of himself, making his first appearance in a scene in which he drives 30 minutes to retrieve a pair of sunglasses he left in Conners's office. "Couldn't you just buy another pair?" Hader asks.
"I'm not giving Sunglass Hut another thirty dollars," he replies indignantly.
The trope works, along with "LeBron's" affinity for Downton Abbey, boosterism for the city of Cleveland, bromantic protective instincts (to Schumer: "Do you see his face when you look in the clouds? Do you hear his name in the wind?") and basketball analogies for love (to Hader: "You have to penetrate her defenses").
James's physical comedy is fun to watch, too. When he and Hader play one-on-one, James earns laughs just by showing up—the contrast between his 6'8" frame and Hader's comparatively puny 6'1" is comedy gold. As Hader struggles mightily to drive to the basket, James swats his shot like a pesky mosquito.
"He's proven that he is the master of all crafts—basketball, acting, comedy," said director Judd Apatow. "He does what he does better than us, and he does what we do better than us."
MARY CYBULSKI/UNIVERSAL PICTURES/EVERETT COLLECTION (SHUMER)