Mahershala Ali took home the Oscar for best supporting actor for his role in Green Book on Sunday night, following up from his 2017 win for his incredible portrayal of Juan in Moonlight, but the Academy Award-winning actor had a life before the screen you probably didn’t know about.
Ali was always interested in acting, but while attending college he was on a basketball scholarship. He played for St. Mary’s from 1992-96 under his given name, Mahershala Gilmore. It’s safe to say that his time as an actor was a lot more fruitful than being a college basketball player.
Ali initially had a passion for basketball, but things changed when he began playing at St. Mary’s. A profile of the actor from 2011 explains that Ali’s life underwent major upheaval when his father died during his junior year. He began throwing his energy into being an artist, and by the end of his college career he no longer had any passion for basketball.
I went to SMC on a basketball scholarship. But when I graduated, I no longer thought of myself as an athlete. Honestly, I kind of resented basketball by the end of my time there. I’d seen guys on the team get chewed up, spat out and I was personally threatened with being shipped off to the University of Denver. All in the name of wins and productivity.
Now Ali is the first college basketball player in history who also has an Academy Award, let alone two. We’re so glad he made the switch, too, because Moonlight was incredible and he was so friggin’ good as Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes in Luke Cage.
(h/t Hoops Hype)