In a time where celebrities are both over-exposed and brand conscious, it might not work. But back in the ’90s, the real thrill of MTV’s Rock N’ Jock events was the sight of celebrities and superstar athletes joining forces to play beer-league style softball and pick-up basketball together with no one taking the final score too seriously. The whole thing just felt fun and humanized music and sports Gods in a way that is uncommon.
Inexplicably, it’s been just shy of 25 years since the debut of the Rock N’ Jock B-Ball Jam (which premiered on the heels of the success seen with the softball game that debuted a year prior) and with that in mind, it seemed like a good time to look back at the biggest names from that game and examine what they’ve done since that memorable night at Loyola University in September 1991.
As the star of the then-relatively new Beverly Hills, 90210, Luke Perry and his sideburns were arguably the biggest stars at the first Rock N’ Jock B-Ball Jam, though that isn’t quite the case in the here and now. That’s not to say that Perry didn’t cash in on his furrowed brow sex appeal, though. While it took awhile (leaving 90210 in 1995 for three years didn’t exactly lead to an abundance of meaty roles), Perry established himself as a capable dramatic actor with major roles in Oz, Jeremiah and John from Cincinnati. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of one-off guest spots and middling film fare on his IMDb page, as well, but Perry is set to appear as a regular on the CW’s upcoming teen-soap adaptation of the Archie comics, Riverdale, where he’ll play
Mr. Weatherbee Fred Andrews. So, that’s something to look forward to if you still kiss your Dylan McKay poster before bed every night.
Here’s the full picture of Perry riding a pony beside Will Smith at the game. How is this show not on the air anymore?
As both a player and as the show’s half-time act, Marky Mark distinguished himself as only a recent Calvin Klein model could: he dropped his pants while singing “Good Vibrations.” Apparently, the Rock N’ Jock stunt was his idea, but Marky Mark was so much more than a tighty-whitey spokesrapper. According to Rock N’ Jock producer Rick Austin’s contribution to the highly readable Complex oral history on Rock N’ Jock, “Marky Mark was a short dude, but had amazing game.” So, don’t judge a book by its cover — which, of course, is an adage that applies to Wahlberg’s film career, as well.
It would be years before Wahlberg really started to show audiences what he could do on screen with his chilling performance as every father’s worst nightmare in Fear. A year later, Wahlberg won over all non-believers as Dirk Diggler in Boogie Nights. Three Kings, an Oscar-nominated turn in The Departed, and a lauded performance in The Fighter all followed, but in more recent years, Wahlberg has increasingly turned toward more commercial material like the Ted films and both Transformers: Age of Extinction and the upcoming Transformers: The Last Knight.
Besides his work on-screen, Wahlberg has also amassed a rather respectable resume behind the scenes as a producer with credits on Boardwalk Empire, Ballers, Wahlburgers (a reality show about his family’s burger restaurant) and Entourage, which was partially inspired by Wahlberg’s ’90s debut in Hollywood. It’s worth noting, however, that there is no Rock N’ Jock episode of Entourage, though. So how accurate is any of it, really?
New Kids on the Block was a marketing juggernaut in 1991. The group made $400 million alone from licensed merchandise. And that doesn’t even count what they were raking in on album sales, tour dates, and young girls desperately phoning “the Official NKOTB Hotline” at 1-900-909-5KID (it’s saved in my phone). Donnie Wahlberg was the group’s resident bad boy. A lifelong Celtics fan, he was a natural fit for the Rock N’ Jock game.
When NKOTB disbanded in 1994, Donnie took a few years off before he started getting serious about acting, though it wouldn’t be until 1999’s Sixth Sense, where he was barely recognizable in a small, but pivotal role, that people started to take note. In the time since, Wahlberg appeared in Band of Brothers, Saw II, III, and IV (as a cop), Boomtown (as a cop), and Blue Bloods for the last six seasons (as a cop). In 2016, he took all of that pretend police work and funneled it into an op-ed about Making a Murderer
In 2014, he announced his engagement to former MTV personality Jenny McCarthy — the two were wed later that year and, of course, have their own reality show.
Will Smith had at that point distinguished himself as a moderately famous rapper and as the title character of television show The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. It couldn’t have been imagined that the show would continue for six seasons or that Smith would become one of the most famous men in Hollywood. But, it did and he did.
Though I would argue that it was Bad Boys with Martin Lawrence that established his stardom, most people would probably go with 1996’s Independence Day, at that point the second highest grossing film in history. He followed up with with a lot of strong box office, including the Men in Black films and I Am Legend. But, they haven’t all been hits. Smith turned down the role of Neo in The Matrix to do Wild Wild West, and Bagger Vance is now and will forever be a thing that happened. Soon, Smith will star as Deadshot in Suicide Squad, where his character shares an emotional scene with Batman. Getting advice from Uncle Phil emotional? We won’t find out until August 5.
In 1997, Smith married Jada Pinkett and the pair went on to parent the most interesting celebrity children on Earth: Willow and Jaden Smith.
Bivins had become famous as part of the band New Edition, a boy band that included (at different times) Bobby Brown, Ricky Bell, Ralph Tresvant, Ronnie DeVoe, and at a later point, Johnny Gill. Devoe and Bell would go on to form Bell Biv DeVoe when with Bivins during a New Edition break, and that group would hit it big with their first album, Poison, which helped establish new jack swing.
In 1993, the band released Hootie Mack, and 2001 brought the release of BBD. Neither achieved the success of Poison. BBD was actually released on Biv 10 Records, which Bivins began in 1992 as a joint venture with Motown Records. His entertainment management firm, Biv Entertainment, developed Boys II Men and Another Bad Creation. The label folded in 2002. Now, you can find Bivins flexing his business muscles with Sporty Rich Enterprises, an extension of Biv 10.
Family Matters had been on the air for two years — defining TGIF — when Jaleel White took to the MTV court. At that point, he was, for all intents and purposes, Steve Urkel, despite having been on other television programs since he was three years old. So popular was the Urkel role that White was featured in The Jaleel White Special in 1992. The world loved him and the show continued until 1998, when he was 22. He even earned a story credit on two episodes of the show.
White never was able to achieve the same fame as an adult, something that probably contributed to his participation in season 14 of Dancing with the Stars. Nevertheless, he has turned in some amazing performances in small roles, like when he played himself in Big, Fat Liar and when he guest-starred in two episodes as Gus’ former friend and fellow Blackapella performer on Psych.
MC Lyte is a master of firsts. She was the first woman in a Rock N’ Jock B-Ball jam, for example. But, she was also the first solo female rapper to release a major label album (1988’s Lyte as a Rock), the first to receive a gold album, and to be nominated for a Grammy. She was also the first female African-American president of the LA chapter of the Recording Academy. So influential is she that her diary is in the Smithsonian’s collection.
She kept her career active by recording, DJing, co-hosting a radio show, acting, and doing voice-over work. She also is engaged frequently as a speaker for Fortune 500 companies, non-profits, colleges, and other organizations. As if that isn’t enough, MC Lyte is the founder of the Hip-Hop Sisters Foundation, which offers a $100,000 academic scholarship to the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In 2013, she was presented with the I Am Hip-Hop Award at the BET Hip-Hop Awards. Guess what? She was the first woman to receive the award.
Magic Johnson announced that he was HIV positive shortly after the Rock N’ Jock debut and retired from the NBA, though he returned for the All-Star game and the 1992 Olympics to play on the Dream Team. Johnson couldn’t stay away from the game, though, and came aboard as the Lakers’ interim head coach in 1994 and as a player in 1996. The latter actually went better with a newly bulked up 36-year-old Johnson playing mostly power forward for the Lakers and averaging 14.6 points per game. Since retiring for good, Johnson has been unsuccessful in a brief turn as a late night talk show host in 1998 and a success as a businessman. He is presently a part-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
A personable role player on the Detroit Pistons’ “Bad Boys” era teams and an end of the bench piece for the Bulls and Lakers at the end of his career, John Salley won four rings and then went after a career as an actor and personality. Salley had a key role in Eddie opposite Whoopi Goldberg, appeared in Bad Boys and Bad Boys II, and recently appeared in the Yahoo Screen basketball series, Sin City Saints and on the CW’s Jane the Virgin.
Despite being arrested and charged for joining RHCP drummer Chad Smith in tossing about a female audience member and smacking her bared bottom at a 1990 MTV gig in Florida, the network invited the Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist to play at the first annual B-Ball Jam. And play he did. In the Complex oral history, Rock N’ Jock royal Dan Cortese said: “Flea has got major game. I would have loved to have seen a one-on-one competition between Flea and Prince. I might produce that as a pay-per-view.”
Flea has a few acting credits to his name — Suburbia, Back to the Future II and III, and The Big Lebowski, to name a few. He also provided the voice of Donnie Thornberry in The Wild Thornberrys. This all while, of course, continuing to thrash with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who were inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2012.
Despite his diminutive stature (5-foot-7), Spud Webb’s official vertical leap was listed at 42 inches (and there are those who say it was closer to 50). This allowed him to not only compete in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest in 1986, but to win the event, beating his teammate and the defending champion, Dominique Wilkins.
Webb retired from the NBA in 1997 and is now the President of Basketball Operations for the Texas Legends, an NBA Development League team in Frisco, Texas.
Rock N’ Jock wasn’t the only vaunted super team that “Thunder Dan” would play on in the early ’90s, earning Gold with the FIBA World Championships USA Men’s Team, a.k.a. Dream Team II in 1994 and the Phoenix Suns to the NBA Finals (where they lost to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls) in 1993.
Majerle followed up his basketball career by working as a broadcaster before heading toward the bench, first as an assistant for the Suns and now as the head coach for Grand Canyon University, where Thunder Dan has found great success. He’s also a restaurateur with a small chain of bar & grill establishments in Arizona.
Harper was a star for the Los Angeles Clippers before he went to the Bulls and saw a big drop in minutes and scoring opportunities. He continued to play until 2001, moving over to the Los Angeles Lakers to join his former Bulls coach Phil Jackson and pick up another two World Championship rings, bringing his total to five.
Harper didn’t go the broadcast route after retirement, but he did have a banging cameo on Kenan and Kel in 1997, and he also worked as a Detroit Pistons assistant coach from 2005 to 2007. As someone held back by a stutter for his entire life (Miami University enrolled him in a speech therapy program), Harper donates time to the Stuttering Foundation.
Like Dan Majerle, Miller won a gold medal at the Olympics, but he didn’t do so until five years after Rock N’ Jock. At this point, he was instead drawing attention as a three-point shooting machine for the Indiana Pacers, with whom he would spend his entire career (torturing the New York Knicks and Spike Lee).
In 2005, Miller announced his retirement from the NBA and joined his sister (NCAA basketball legend Cheryl Miller) at TNT.
The personable and bespectacled Rambis deserves a lot of credit for making the most out of his career as a role player on the tremendous Lakers teams of the 1980s. Beside Magic Johnson and James Worthy, Rambis won four championships and collected another two as an assistant under Phil Jackson. That relationship paid fresh dividends this season when Rambis (who has worked as head coach for the Lakers and the Minnesota Timberwolves) became the interim head coach for Jackson with the New York Knicks. Though Rambis won’t be the Knicks head coach next season.
Besides his charmed basketball life, Rambis has also kept the fires burning with a side career as an actor on Seventh Heaven and in brief cameos, often as himself.
Divac was in just his second year in the league with the Lakers, and he was hardly a star when he played in his first Rock N’ Jock. (There were others. He’s also a legend for his alleged funk.) His inclusion and that of Rambis, makes you wonder how much control Magic Johnson had on the roster construction. Though, the absence of Arsenio Hall from the roster kinda undermines any thoughts about a conspiracy.
Divac had a very good 16-year career in the NBA for the Lakers, Charlotte Hornets, and Sacramento Kings, but he’ll probably be best remembered by Lakers fans as the man who the team traded to get Kobe Bryant. Nowadays, Divac is the vice president of basketball operations and general manager of the Kings. He’s also a noted humanitarian, his work providing “more than $9 million in humanitarian assistance and educational programs to children in Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, the United States, Indonesia, Ethiopia, and China.” He and his wife have a non-profit dedicated to helping refugees and displaced people.
Steve Albert, Ken Ober, and Downtown Julie Brown
Every Rock N’ Jock had a team of announcers and interviewers. In 1991, that team was made up of former Remote Control host Ken Ober; brother of Marv Albert and sportscaster in his own right, Steve Albert; and Downtown Julie Brown, not to be confused with MTV’s other Julie Brown.
Sadly, Ober died in his Santa Monica home in 2009; he was only 52 years old. Steve Albert continues sportscasting. And, Brown hosts a ’90s-themed radio show on Sirius.