John "Spider" Salley was a role player on the back-to-back world champion Bad Boy Pistons, playing in all 82 games in 1990-91 and providing valuable rim production and energy off the bench. The 6-foot-11 center caught on with the Chicago Bulls in 1995-96 and enjoyed a ride to another title, contributing 2.1 points in 11.2 minutes per game. Then, after 10 years in NBA, he took his talents to Greece before retiring. He made a return to the NBA after a three-year hiatus and was a member of the title-winning Los Angeles Lakers in 1999-00.
It was a bizarre, fulfilling career buoyed by good fortune. Salley was a glue guy, an engaging and hilarious personality. The type of player every championship team wants around to provide that certain je ne sais quoi.
But that's not really what this blog is about. This blog is about Spider's second act as an entertainer, and an IMDB page that's every bit as eclectic as his playing ledger.
Salley burst onto the scene in the blockbuster hit Bad Boys in 1995, playing a bookish hacker who earns release from jail by helping out Martin Lawrence and Will Smith. He's really good, horn-rimmed glasses and all.
A year later he was in Eddie, which was a largely forgettable Whoopi Goldberg movie with a VHS cover celebrating the unorthodox coach getting an eyeful of showering men. The mid-90s were a different time, folks.
At this point -- and I am somewhat reticent to do this but unique times call for unique measures -- it may be best to simply let Wikipedia lay out the other twists and turns in Salley's big- and small-screen resume.
In 2003, Salley reprised his role of Fletcher in Bad Boys II and appeared in the Showtime TV film Coast to Coast alongside actress Selma Blair. He also appeared in the movie Confessions of a Shopaholic in 2009 as a member of the shopaholic help group (playing a retired NBA player) and had a bit role as a pimp in the blaxploitation spoof Black Dynamite. Salley appeared in the Disney Channel original movie, The Ultimate Christmas Present, as a tall elf. In 2018, Salley appeared in the Netflix original movie, Nappily Ever After, starring Sanaa Lathan.
In the fall of 1998, Salley hosted the game show I Can't Believe You Said That, which aired on the Fox Family Channel. During that time, he also guest-starred as a panelist on Hollywood Squares. In 2005, he appeared in the television series Noah's Arc as Victor. He was one of the hosts of The Best Damn Sports Show Period on Fox Sports Network. Salley hosted The John Salley Block Party, a radio morning show on Los Angeles station 100.3 The Beat from 2005 - 2006. For a short time, Salley provided analysis for NBC's NBA Showtime. Salley has also hosted VH1's Basketball Wives (2010-2012) & Basketball Wives LA (2011, 2012, 2014, 2015) Reunion Specials.
In 2001, he made an appearance in the Luther Vandross music video, "Take You Out". He also appeared on a celebrity episode of Weakest Link that same year and was voted off in the first round. In 2004, he was part of the panel of celebrity judges in the TBS Superstation show He's a Lady. In 2006, Salley was named the Commissioner of the American Basketball Association. In 2007, Salley appeared in the ABC reality television series Fast Cars and Superstars: The Gillette Young Guns Celebrity Race, featuring a dozen celebrities in a stock car racing competition. In the first round of competition, Salley matched up against professional wrestler John Cena and tennis star Serena Williams. Salley also became the host of the BET show Ballers. Salley joined the cast of the reality competition show I'm a Celebrity…Get Me out of Here!, which premiered on June 1, 2009. He came in third place behind winner Lou Diamond Phillips and runner-up Torrie Wilson. Salley hosted a podcast on Adam Carolla's ACE Broadcasting Network with sportswriter Kevin Hench entitled Spider and the Henchman. The show was canceled on March 18, 2011. In 2012, he appeared as a celebrity judge on RuPaul's Drag Race (season 4, episode 2). On an episode of Bravo's Millionaire Matchmaker ("The NFL Kicker and the Workaholic", aired March 12, 2013), he acted as a consultant to Patti Stanger to help one of her clients (an ex-NFL player) become less of a "playa" and find a woman to settle down with.
You could not script this sequence of events and grab-bag of credits. It's the freaking American Dream distilled down in an open-source internet document.
In all seriousness, though, Salley was and remains a gifted screen presence. I'll go to my grave insisting he was the best part of Best Damn Sports Show. My family should brace itself to find out my last words were so specific.
Salley has reprised the Fletcher persona on L.A.'s Finest, a Spectrum show starring Jessica Alba and Gabrielle Union, which is in its second season. Due to limited supply, Fox has dipped down into the bag and will be showing Season 1 on fall Mondays. What a time!
This will be appointment television. We're going to all gather around our television sets and see if Salley still has the chops. Spoiler alert: he does.
Salley carved out a niche at a time when few athletes had been able to use their considerable personality and remain true to it. He did so without the benefit of being a megawatt star. He couldn't just fall back on name recognition. The content had to be there.
He is a lanky canvas capable of bringing life to plus material. I wish he would be used more often and am openly rooting for the Salley-ssance. Put this man on television more often.