​Actor Jim Kelly Dies: Kelly, Martial Arts Guru, Actor Dead

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July 1, 2013

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.