Shooting a John Wick movie is apparently a good enough time that everyone in Hollywood—from Oscar winners Halle Berry and Anjelica Huston to the Chairman from Iron Chef—is down to come down to the set for a few days and throw a couple punches for the camera. The latest installment, though, features the biggest cameo in franchise history, if only in the literal sense: Philadelphia 76ers center Boban Marjanovic. The movie starts shortly before a $14 million bounty on John Wick’s head goes into effect, and Marjanovic, playing a contract killer named Ernest, hopes to cash in by killing Wick in the New York Public Library.
Boban acquits himself well; he seems quite at home in front of the camera for a guy in his first acting role, and fights with more skill and fluidity than other gigantic men who have been cast as ass-kickers just because of their size. (Andre the Giant in The Princess Bride and Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson in Game of Thrones, for example.) He moves well in the confined spaces of a library stack, and even controls the fight for the first few exchanges of blows.
In fact, Boban’s John Wick cameo is a pretty good encapsulation of his NBA game. He dominates because of his size and strength, and a 7-foot-3 man is even more imposing next to an actor than another basketball player. Boban’s Ernest can hold Keanu Reeves’s titular John Wick at bay thanks to his immense advantage in reach and his car-door-sized hands. He punches, he parries, he tosses; Boban the basketball player has the fifth-highest PER in NBA history, between George Mikan and Shaquille O’Neal. Boban the assassin is similarly effective.
But Boban has also averaged just 9.8 minutes per game over his career, because it’s hard to keep a body that big moving that quickly for that long. And in kind, when Ernest fails to kill Wick quickly, the smaller man takes over.
In the Sixers’ second-round loss to Toronto, Philadelphia coach Brett Brown played Boban an average of less than five minutes a game. In Game 4, Boban’s only appearance was to contest a Raptors out-of-bounds play in the last second of the first half, and in Game 7 he didn’t play at all. The reason is that he’s not quick enough to guard smaller players in the pick-and-roll, even when “smaller” means the 6-foot-10 Serge Ibaka or the 6-foot-9 Pascal Siakam. Even Marc Gasol, at 7-foot-1, gave Boban fits by drifting out to the 3-point line to space the floor. Brown simply couldn’t play Boban; in 27 minutes and 35 seconds of action against Toronto, the 30-year-old Serbian was a minus-44.
So if power forwards are quick enough to render Boban unplayable, imagine what a 6-foot-1 John Wick could do to him. Actually, we’ve seen what John Wick could do: break his neck with a book. A rough ending for Ernest, to be sure. Boban the actor, however, put in a solid, enjoyable performance in limited minutes. Just like Boban the basketball player.