The actor and martial arts grandmaster, Jim Kelly, who starred alongside Bruce Lee in the iconic 1973 film Enter The Dragon, died last weekend. He was 67. Kelly’s ex-wife confirmed his death in a Facebook post.
He was an international karate champion with his own school in Los Angeles when he was cast in the kung fu classic billed as the first American-produced martial arts spectacular.
His fighting skills and imposing screen presence — a lanky 6-foot-2 topped by a funky Afro — earned Kelly the title role in 1974’s Black Belt Jones.
Kelly became a professional tennis coach after putting an end to his acting career, and he made very few on-screen appearances after he left acting in 1983.
He made his final movie appearance in 2009’s direct-to-video release Afro Ninja and drew huge crowds when he attended San Diego Comic-Con four years ago.
After that, he appeared in numerous action films through the ’70s. Later he became a professional tennis player, joining the USTA Senior Men’s Circuit and starred alongside LeBron James in a 2004 Nike TV ad.
The cause of death was not released.