Flashback of Bill Russell hosting SNL ahead of Season 48 premiere

Flashback of Bill Russell hosting SNL ahead of Season 48 premiere originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

It’s hard to imagine Saturday Night Live without some of the legendary cast members who said their farewells at the end of the 47th season, including the praised Pete Davidson. But one thing that won’t be changing is the fact that this season, like the past 47 seasons, will feature the best of the best when it comes to hosts and musical guests.

The hit late-night sketchy comedy show is, and has always been, one of the most beloved performances on television, and that’s mainly due to the niche and unique aspect of the show that includes a fresh guest and musical performer with each episode. 

From actors like Paul Rudd and Natalie Portman to artists like Billie Eilish and Lizzo, the spectrum of creativity expands beyond comparison. Sometimes even a brave athlete will make his or her way on the star-studded stage to vanguard the 2-hour comedic exposé.

Let’s take a look at which courageous athletes have stood front-and-center to host SNL, as well as what this season is looking like in regards to the cast:

Which athletes have hosted Saturday Night Live?

There have been a total of 32 athletes who have fearlessly recited an SNL monologue and performed in a variety of sketches on the Studio 8H stage, with the most recent being professional football player J.J. Watt in Feb. 2020.

Here is the full list of athletes who have hosted Saturday Night Live: 

1. Fran Tarkenton 

Hosted: Jan. 29, 1977

Occupation: Former football quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings

2. O.J. Simpson 

Hosted: Feb. 25, 1978

Occupation: Former football running back for the San Francisco 49ers

3. Bill Russell

Hosted: Nov. 3, 1979

Occupation: Former basketball center for the Boston Celtics

4. John Madden

Hosted: Jan. 30, 1982

Occupation: Former football player, coach, sports commentator

5. Bob Uecker 

Hosted: Oct. 13, 1984

Occupation: Former baseball player, current Milwaukee Brewers announcer

6. Alex Karras

Hosted: Feb. 2, 1985

Occupation: Former defensive tackle for the Detroit Lions

7. Mr. T and Hulk Hogan (co-hosts) 

Hosted: March 30, 1985

Occupation: Former professional wrestlers

8. Marvelous Marvin Hagler 

Hosted: May 17, 1986 (co-hosted with journalist Jimmy Breslin)

Occupation: Former boxer

9. Billy Martin

Hosted: May 24, 1986 (co-hosted with actress Anjelica Huston)

Occupation: Former New York Yankees manager

10. Joe Montana and Walter Payton (co-hosts) 

Hosted: January 24, 1987

Occupation: Former football players for the San Francisco 49ers and the Chicago Bears respectively

11. Carl Weathers

Hosted: Jan. 30, 1988 

Occupation: Former professional football player, signed with Oakland Raiders

12. Wayne Gretzky

Hosted: May 13, 1989

Occupation: Former professional hockey player for the New York Rangers

13. Chris Evert*

Hosted: Nov. 11, 1989

Occupation: Former professional tennis player

*first female athlete to host SNL

14. Michael Jordan

Hosted: Sept. 28, 1991

Occupation: Former professional basketball player for the Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards

15. Charles Barkley 

Hosted: Sept. 25, 1993 (hosted four times)

Occupation: Former professional basketball player for the Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns and Houston Rockets

16. Nancy Kerrigan

Hosted: March 12, 1994

Occupation: American Olympic figure skater

17. George Foreman

Hosted: Dec. 17, 1994

Occupation: Former professional boxer

18. Deion Sanders

Hosted: Feb. 18, 1995

Occupation: Former professional football player for the Atlanta Falcons, Dallas Cowboys and 49ers

19. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

Hosted: March 18, 2000 (hosted five times)

Occupation: Former professional wrestler

20. Derek Jeter

Hosted: Dec. 1, 2001

Occupation: Former professional baseball player for the New York Yankees

21. Jonny Moseley

Hosted: March 2, 2002

Occupation: Olympic freestyle skier

22. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

Hosted: April 13, 2002

Occupation: Former professional wrestler

23. Jeff Gordon

Hosted: Jan. 11, 2003

Occupation: Former professional NASCAR racer

24. Andy Roddick

Hosted: Nov. 8, 2003

Occupation: Former professional tennis champion

25. Tom Brady

Hosted: April 16, 2005

Occupation: Professional football quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

26. Lance Armstrong

Hosted: Oct. 29, 2005

Occupation: Former professional road racing cyclist

27. Peyton Manning

Hosted: March 24, 2007

Occupation: Former professional quarterback for the Denver Broncos

28. LeBron James

Hosted: Sept. 29, 2007

Occupation: Professional basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers 

29. Michael Phelps

Hosted: Sept. 13, 2008

Occupation: Olympic swimmer

30. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

Hosted: March 7, 2009

Occupation: Former professional wrestler

31. Charles Barkley

Hosted: Jan. 9, 2010

Occupation: Former professional basketball player for the Philadelphia 76ers

32. Charles Barkley

Hosted: Jan. 7, 2012 

Occupation: Former professional basketball player for the Philadelphia 76ers

33. Eli Manning

Hosted: May 5, 2012

Occupation: Former professional football player for the New York Giants

34. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

Hosted: March 28, 2015

Occupation: Former professional wrestler

35. Ronda Rousey

Hosted: Jan. 23, 2016

Occupation: Professional wrestler

36. John Cena

Hosted: Dec. 10, 2016

Occupation: Former professional wrestler

37. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

Hosted: May 20, 2017

Occupation: Former professional wrestler

38. Charles Barkley

Hosted: March 3, 2018

Occupation: Former professional basketball player for the Philadelphia 76ers

39. J.J. Watt

Hosted: Feb. 1, 2020

Occupation: Professional football defensive end for the Arizona Cardinals

When is SNL back?

Saturday Night Live will air live on NBC at 11:29 p.m. ET starting Saturday, Oct. 1 for its 48th season. 

Who will be the first host of SNL’s 48th season?

“Top Gun: Maverick” star Miles Teller will be hosting the first episode of Saturday Night Live’s 48th season. 

This will be the debut of the 35-year-old actor as a host of the show.

Who will be the first musical guest of SNL’s 48th season?

Critically-acclaimed rapper and four-time Grammy winner Kendrick Lamar will be the musical guest of the first episode of SNL’s 48th season.

This will be Lamar’s fifth performance on the late-night sketch show, previously appearing in 2013, twice in 2014 and 2018.

Why did cast members leave after the 47th season?

Saturday Night Live’s creator Lorne Michaels told the New York Times that season 48 will be “a year of reinvention.” 

He claims the exodus of so many cherished cast members is paralleled to the pandemic, which set the tone for a situation “where no one could really leave, because there were no jobs.”

The cast crew over the many months were crippled by the pandemic and it “got to a point where we had a lot of people, and people weren’t getting enough playing time,” said Michaels.

But not to worry, the 77-year-old mind behind SNL assures all fans of the iconic sketch series that he has no plans to retire.

Which cast members left after the 47th season?

The first blow to the SNL posse came at the end of last season when members, including Kate McKinnon and Pete Davidson, announced they will no longer play their roles in the cast.

The full list of cast members who existed include: Kate McKinnon, Pete Davidson, Aidy Bryant and Kyle Mooney.

Early in September, SNL fans learned of three other well-liked cast members who decided they won’t be returning to the long-running sketch show’s stage. These cast members include Alex Moffat, Melissa Villaseñor and Aristotle Athari.

Who are the new cast members joining for this season?

The show announced there will be four new members joining the Saturday Night Live squad this season, including Marcello Hernandez, Molly Kearney, Michael Longfellow and Devon Walker.

Hernandez is a Cuban/Dominican stand up comedian, writer and actor who has made a name for himself by opening up for comedians like Jim Breuer and Gilbert Gottfried. He has been doing stand up since he was 18 years old, beginning in 2016.

Kearney is an American actor and stand up comedian who recently starred in the 2022 Amazon Prime series “A League of Their Own.” They are the first out non-binary cast member of Saturday Night Live, identifying with they/them pronouns.

Longfellow is a stand up comedian from Phoenix, Ariz. who visits comedy festivals and clubs all over the world to perform his shows. He competed on a reality show called “Bring the Funny” and was featured as one of the eight comedians chosen for  the Netflix special “Introducing…” hosted by Mo Amer.

Walker has been on SNL’s radar since 2017 when he was included in the 2017 Comedy Central “Up Next” showcase. Since then, he has been featured in a myriad of comedy festivals like Clusterfest, Moontower Comedy Festival and the Big Sky Comedy Festival.