theScore is counting down the 100 best fictional characters in sports movie history, with a new post every weekday until July 3.
"Rocky I, II, III, V" and "Rocky Balboa" (1976, 1979, 1982, 1990, 2006)
Mickey Goldmill (Burgess Meredith), the short-tempered manager of Rocky Balboa, is a former boxer who finally gets a shot at a world title when Apollo Creed issues a surprising challenge to the "Italian Stallion." Mickey's relationship with Rocky is strained at first but blossoms into a father-son-like connection as the pair undergo countless hours of sweaty training sessions punctuated by lines from the manager such as, "You're gonna eat lightning, you're gonna crap thunder."
"Major League" (1989) and "Major League II" (1994)
James Gammon plays the role of Cleveland Indians manager Brown, a surly skipper who leaves his job as a tire salesman to become the leader of a team meant to go nowhere. Throughout his tenure as Indians bench boss, Brown does a wonderful job of bonding his club through the use of hilarious props - including stripping down a cardboard cutout of mischievous owner Rachel Phelps - to get his team to win games.
"Bend It Like Beckham" (2002)
Mirroring the film industry as a whole, the sports film canon hasn't featured a ton of diversity in the types of stories it's told. However, Jess (Parminder Nagra) is a great reminder that the love of the game can transcend race, gender, and religion. As the protagonist of "Bend It Like Beckham," Jess nimbly navigates both a Sikh community steeped in familial traditions and the world of amateur English football.
Private golf clubs are known to be pristine, well-mannered, and stodgy. Groundskeeper Spackler (Bill Murray), on the other hand ... not so much. Between living in a dilapidated shack on the premises and attempting to eliminate the club's gopher problem with explosives, it's fair to wonder if Carl creates more trouble than he's worth.
Back-to-back roles from Murray hit our rankings, with the latter being his portrayal of womanizing bowling veteran McCracken in "Kingpin." After losing to Roy Munson at the 1979 Odor-Eaters championship, McCracken shows a villainous side by setting his rival up in a game during which he loses his prized bowling hand. While "Big Ern" offers plenty of gut-busting comedy, nothing is funnier than his legendary comb-over.
"Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story" (2004)
There's nothing subtle about Goodman (Ben Stiller). The egomaniacal leader of the Globo Gym Purple Cobras struts around in leather and shoulder pads like "Macho Man" Randy Savage with a Napoleon complex. Goodman's over-the-top nature is made even funnier in comparison to everyman Peter LaFleur (Vince Vaughn).
Teddy KGB (John Malkovich) is an underground poker-playing legend and antagonist to Matt Damon's character in Rounders. It may be hard to read the tells of the Russian mobster throughout his few appearances in the film, but when he's on screen, it's easy to fall in love with his card-playing caginess and undying love for Oreo cookies.
"Major League" (1989), "Major League II" (1994), and "Major League: Back to the Minors" (1998)
Real-life sportscaster and former player Bob Uecker is wise-cracking Indians announcer Doyle in the "Major League" flicks. Uecker's comedy throughout the films is unmatched as he constantly tries to paint a brighter picture of a team and its most embarrassing moments.
"Bring It On" (2000)
Don't be fooled by its bubbly appearance, "Bring It On" offers a nuanced - and evergreen - look at how privileged white performers appropriate and profit off the art and culture of Black creators. Isis (Gabrielle Union) is initially painted as an aggressor when, in reality, it's her predominantly Black and Latinx cheer squad whose routines have been unknowingly pilfered by Torrance's (Kirsten Dunst) suburban San Diego team.
"Any Given Sunday" (1999)
Warning: Video contains coarse language.
It doesn't get much better than a legendary actor chewing the scenery as a head coach who sees football as a microcosm for the world at large. As Coach D'Amato, Al Pacino's "Inches" monologue has stood the test of time as one of the truly great inspirational pep talks in movie history.