NOT content with being at the top of their game on the sports field, it seems the TV or cinema screen is a big draw when top athletes call it a day.

This week saw American basketball legend Kobe Bryant add an Oscar to his bulging trophy cabinet – the ex-LA Lakers star picking up the honour for a short animated film he wrote and narrated, entitled Dear Basketball.

And it is not just a flash in the pan for the former USA international and worldwide star – he is in the process of working on a TV project for ESPN which he is writing, producing and presenting.

Sports and films have been known to mix quite well over the years. Some of my favourites growing up were the Rocky films, featuring former American footballer Carl Weathers as Apollo Creed.

Of course the man who played Rocky Balboa, Sylvester Stallone, was also in another of my all-time greats – Escape to Victory – where his footballing skills may not have been the best but were balanced out by some of the cardboard acting from the likes of Russell Osman and John Wark. I guess that great Ipswich team of the early 1980s did not have acting lessons.

Still at least they got to play with Pele.

In those days, though, cameo appearances were about all there was. I remember England football skipper Bryan Robson making a guest appearance on kids TV programme Jossy’s Giants – safe to say he did right to stick to the beautiful game for a career.

Not all sports stars fail to make the transition, however. Ex-Manchester United star Eric Cantona went into acting full-time once he hung up his boots.

Ken Loach’s Looking for Eric, starring the Frenchman, earned praise from critics while one of Cantona’s ex-Leeds team-mates, Vinnie Jones, went on to become a big Hollywood star after his appearance in Guy Ritchie’s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

In days gone by cameos and the odd TV advert were the limit of our sporting stars’ acting abilities and now we have the likes of Bryant winning an Oscar.

The times are changing.

Maybe that career path from one entertainment industry to another will become the norm.

Let’s face it, modern football is not short of its play-acting – the switch is easier than ever for some.

And every time we have a charity football match like this summer’s upcoming Soccer Aid at Old Trafford, the teams are not short of actors swapping scripts for match tactics.

The divide is blurring all the time and shows no sign of changing.

Once ex-footballers went to run a pub when they stopped playing, now they are more likely to be sipping champagne on a red carpet than pulling pints behind a bar.