Released in 2001, the sports comedy-drama Hardball wasn’t received particularly well by critics. Robert Koehler of Variety wrote that “there’s no cork inside Hardball, but there’s more than enough corn,” while Moira Macdonald of the Seattle Times claimed the Brian Robbins-directed film is “just dreadful.” Keanu Reeves’ starring turn as slob-turned-role-model Conor O’Neill even earned him a Razzie Award nomination for worst actor. The film did resonate fairly well with audiences, however, scoring a decent 70 percent among viewers on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.
Revisiting Hardball years later, it’s possible to make the argument that it’s actually aged quite well, thanks to the film’s cast of smart-mouthed Chicago middle-schoolers contrasted against Keanu’s, well, Keanu-ness. But what happened to those kids, anyway? Aside from Black Panther’s Michael B. Jordan, you probably haven’t seen any of these championship ballers since. Let’s find out what the Kekambas and crew have been up to since taking home the hardware, and take a look at what the cast of Hardball looks like now.
Playing Conor O’Neill, a washed up nobody who smokes too many cigarettes and has a serious gambling addiction, Keanu Reeves is the undisputed star of Hardball. In the span of 106 minutes, we watch Reeves evolve from a broke loser who can’t even find a pair of correctly-sized slacks to a clean-cut hero who permanently alters the lives of ten inner-city children. It’s heartwarming, really.
After taking his kids to the championship (and a Cubbies game), Reeves reprised his more recognizable role as Neo in The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, and notably went on to star in Something’s Gotta Give, Constantine, The Lake House, A Scanner Darkly, John Wick, and John Wick: Chapter 2 — just to name a few
Today, Reeves remains as famously low-key, well-dressed, and stealthily charitable as ever, while fans of the gun-fu genre will be delighted to learn that he’ll star in John Wick: Chapter 3. The third installment in the Chad Stahelski-directed movie series started filming on April 26, 2018.
Before playing the strict and no-nonsense middle-school teacher Elizabeth Wilkes in Hardball, Diane Lane had already established herself as a leading figure in Hollywood, thanks to her roles in George Roy Hill’s 1979 film A Little Romance, The Outsiders, and A Walk on the Moon.
After hooking up O’Neill with both a job and some romance, Lane continued to star and play supporting roles in a slew of films, including The Perfect Storm, Under the Tuscan Sun, Cinema Verite, and Trumbo. Fans of the superhero genre will also recognize Wilkes from her role as Martha Kent in Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Justice League.
It’s obvious that, since Hardball’s release in 2001, Lane hasn’t aged a day. She’ll next be seen starring alongside Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jason Clarke, Djimon Hounsou, and Jeremy Strong in Steven Knight’s American noir thriller Serenity.
Don’t be fooled by his unimpressive supporting role as the sketchy ticket-hawking gambler Ticky Tobin in Hardball — John Hawkes is arguably the film’s most accomplished actor, albeit not its most famous.
Hawkes is easily recognized from his role as the merchant Sol Star in the HBO hit Western series Deadwood, but his most noteworthy performance is arguably that of meth addict Teardrop Dolly in Winter’s Bone, which earned him an Academy Award Nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Hawkes also played Mark O’Brien, a poet paralyzed from polio who hired a sex surrogate to take his virginity, in the 2012 independent film The Sessions. Both performances earned the actor a slew of award nominations, and some wins to boot.
Hawkes also went on to play Kenny Powers’ brother Dustin on HBO’s baseball comedy Eastbound & Down and is slated to star in 2018’s TV series Too Old to Die Young. But let’s be honest — everyone’s just waiting for that Deadwood revival.
After watching Hardball when it hit theatres, it would’ve been easy to assume that child-star Bryan Hearne had a promising acting career ahead of him. Not only did he stand out as the charismatic and stylish Andre Ray Peetes, he was also known to most kids as a regular on the hit Nickelodeon sketch-comedy show All That.
Surprisingly, Hearne’s acting career got caught somewhere in between first and second. Though he did play Little Trucky in Pootie Tang, the child star never landed another starring role or noteworthy gig. Instead, he only made cameo appearances on Taina, Whoopi, Lie to Me, Everybody Hates Chris, and The Unit.
Since his acting career never really went yard, Hearne transitioned into rapping. Going by the name Bryan Christopher, he raps about — among other things — being “the one who gave Amanda Bynes the drugs that made her the way she is now.” Unfortunately, his video for “Hopscotch” only has a handful of likes on YouTube, so it’s safe to assume Hearne’s rap career has also gone down looking.
Played by Julian Griffith, the inhaler-toting Jefferson Albert Tibbs is one of the more lovable and memorable characters on the Kekambas — which makes it all the more surprising that he, like many on the squad, never saw more success on the big screen. Aside from Hardball, Griffith only has one other acting credit to his name, playing a patrolman in a single episode of Chicago P.D.
Griffith did, however, find relative success off the screen as a real-life baseball player. The Kekambas’ first baseman ended up playing professional baseball with the Fort Worth Cats in Ft. Worth, TX, where he played both catcher and outfielder while batting a very respectable .329.
These days, Griffith primarily gives professional baseball lessons. You can keep up with him through his Instagram feed, where he occasionally shares videos of himself tearing the cover off the ball in the batting cage.
Aside from a one-off appearance on The Sopranos and Cosby, Michael B. Jordan — the most famous of the Kekambas — got his start in Hardball, though he didn’t get to actually play much baseball. Rather, the character of Jamal serves as an example of what can happen when children in the inner-city projects aren’t allowed to play. (They turn to gangs.)
Unlike the rest of the team who actually met the league’s age requirements, Jordan really took off after Hardball’s credits rolled. On the small screen, he went on to play Wallace on The Wire, Reggie on All My Children, Nate Warren on The Assistants, Vince Howard on Friday Night Lights, Alex on Parenthood, and made cameo appearances in a whole slew of popular series.
On the big screen, Jordan is most well-known known for his collaborations with director Ryan Coogler in Fruitvale Station, the Rocky sequel film Creed, and in the Marvel Cinematic Universe superhero film Black Panther. Look for Jordan next in 2018’s Fahrenheit 451 and Creed II.
Seen in the not-particularly-memorable role of Clarence, Kris D. Lofton is another actor who got his start in Hardball. Unlike the majority of his teammates, however, he went on to enjoy a certain level of success in his acting career — though nowhere near that of Michael B. Jordan’s.
After winning the ‘ship with the Kekambas, Lofton primarily made a series of one-off appearances on various television shows. He appeared in one or two episodes each of Detroit 1-8-7, Chicago Fire, The Game, Single Ladies, Chicago P.D., Empire, Up North, The Quad, Tim and Eric’s Bedtime Stories, and Get Shorty.
More recently, Lofton has enjoyed an increased role on the small screen, playing the recurring role of Kisan Teague in Ballers — easily his most significant to date. Furthermore, 2018 is set to be a decent year for the actor, who will appear in Three-Sixty (360), The Mission, and Cases, while filming Same Difference.
Playing the angry-at-life but baseball-loving Kofi Evans, Michael Perkins undoubtedly gave one of the most memorable and emotional performances in Hardball. Surprisingly, that was the only memorable performance he’s given to date.
After Hardball, Perkins pursued other opportunities, taking a 15-year hiatus from acting. He showed up once more, however, in the TV movie and subsequent series Curious?, in addition to one episode of #Adulting. Surely, Kofi’s been up to something else in the meantime, right?
Aside from keeping an active Instagram account, Perkins runs a podcast from his couch called, well, Live from the Couch — because “Ain’t nothing off limits once it hits the couch!” Topics include: “Couples that Hit Each Other,” “It’s a White Thing,” “Killmonger for President,” “LeBron All-Star MVP,” “MLK Day” and “You Ain’t Famous.” If you’re interested in checking it out, you can find episodes available to download for free on iTunes.
Hardball would be nothing without “G-Baby,” the obviously-too-young-to-play assistant who breaks it down real quick, eventually lands himself the smallest jersey and takes the Kekambas to the ‘ship with a game-winning rip down the first-base line. He’s also responsible for the shedding of some secret tears from more than a few too-tough-to-cry fathers who took their kids to see the movie in theaters.
After Hardball, actor DeWayne Warren only appeared in La Femme Vampir and its sequel, La Femme Vampir 2. Never heard of ’em? Neither has anyone else — but according to a press release from 2009, the horror film starring Joe Estevez and Veronica Grey is about “Supernatural female entities led by a diva named China [who] rule the Chicago club scene and underworld. Mistaken for vampires, these interdimensional beings leave a trail of death and destruction in their wake in their mission of harvesting certain DNA, namely that belonging to Angelie, a young Chicagoan. The battle wages beyond crop circles, cattle mutilations, ghost children, and blood.” Sounds legit.
Unfortunately, there aren’t really any reviews from which to gauge a critical consensus — so you’ll have to find some copies of the films and see for yourself. In the meantime, you can follow Warren and his family on Instagram.