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LeBron James’ journey into Hollywood is no surprise to those who have followed his career. From his earliest days, James appeared poised to be more than an athlete in more ways than one. From his work off the court to his dominance of pop culture in general, James has become a celebrity as much as he has an athlete.

In 2013, however, James had plans to try to take on Hollywood in a way that he never had before — as the star of a Kevin Hart comedy that never came to be. 

LeBron James and Kevin Hart taking a picture together at an event
LeBron James and Kevin Hart | Johnny Nunez/WireImage

LeBron James and Hollywood

From the earliest days in the NBA, it was clear that James was unlike anyone had ever seen. He had the talent that nobody had possessed since Michael Jordan and the star power to go with it.

Initially, he used this image the way most 18-year-old NBA players would. He appeared in commercials around the world and put his face out into the world as a pitchman and a basketball player.

Over the years, as James proved to be worth the hype that was prescribed to him, he began to branch out. In 2007, the same year that James led the Cleveland Cavaliers to a loss against the San Antonio Spurs, he stretched his range and took to the stage at Saturday Night Live, where he showed that he could be charming and charismatic away from basketball. 

According to the LA Times, James dove in and out of Hollywood, occasionally making appearances in movies like Trainwreck, in which he played himself. Around that same time, however, James was interested in taking starring roles and turning himself into the biggest athlete-turned-actor since Dwayne Johnson. 

LeBron James and Kevin Hart work on ‘Ballers’

Not to be confused with the Johnson vehicle, Ballers was meant to be James’ big acting break in Hollywood according to CBS Sports. His team, led by Maverick Carter, got the project greenlit and brought on Kevin Hart to appear alongside James.

The movie first got leaked in 2009, as James was on the verge of leaving the Cavaliers in pursuit of a championship. Once he left the team, the project was delayed indefinitely.

In 2011, the movie tried to get going again, but after the Heat lost in the NBA Finals, James decided to focus on basketball instead of filming the movie. Once again, the movie was delayed. In 2014, the movie appeared to be a go again, as an official press release for the film announced that Hart and James were on board with Universal Pictures. 

Ballers will find Hart playing LeBron’s brother, who gets a chance to emerge from James’ towering shadow when he attends a fantasy basketball camp in Miami.

Moving on

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The movie never came to be. Around this same time, however, James was in the middle of a rebrand of his own. One year before his return to the Cavaliers, James was on the verge of rebranding in Hollywood.

He was already attached to Space Jam 2, and his name was attached to several other products. His production company, SpringHill Entertainment, has taken over the entertainment industry. 

Now, Space Jam 2 is due in 2020, and at the likely final chapter of his career, James is involved in the entertainment industry in more than one way. Maybe Ballers can still happen, but if it doesn’t, it appears that fans of James can see their favorite player in the entertainment industry for years to come. 

SpringHill Entertainment currently holds the rights to Friday the 13th, and while not much is known about that franchise’s future, it is clear that James is interested in being a heavy-hitter. As James figures out what life after basketball is going to look like, perhaps Ballers led him to a career in entertainment without ever being produced. 

Whatever the reason, fans are now left asking what kind of movie Ballers would have been and how different everyone’s careers would have been.