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Adam Sandler’s basketball movie ‘Hustle’ is a smash hit

Andrew Buller-Russ

Teased several months ahead of its June 3 release in theaters, Hustle first became available on Netflix on June 8. For those who don’t know, Hustle is the latest blockbuster movie from famed funnyman Adam Sandler which focuses on basketball, introducing several familiar NBA players and personalities to the silver screen.

The movie features several star actors including Sandler himself playing the role of Stanley Sugerman, a scout for the Philadelphia 76ers in the movie. Viewers can also see other stars like Queen Latifah, Robert Duvall, and a host of basketball names, like Kenny Smith, Moe Wagner, Boban Marjanovic and Julius Erving and many others.

But the true star of the show (movie) is actually current Utah Jazz forward Juancho Hernangomez, who plays the featured role as an athlete named Bo Cruz.

Hustle is not a true story.

We won’t give away any spoilers here, so you’re safe to keep reading, but here’s the official description of what Hustle is about.

Stanley Sugerman’s (Adam Sandler) love for basketball is unparalleled, but the travel weary Philadelphia 76ers scout who has higher ambitions of being a coach remains stuck on the road looking for the next unknown talent. His search around the world leads him to Spain, when he discovers Bo Cruz (NBA player Juancho Hernangómez), an incredible streetball player with a troubled past. Stanley and Bo connect on and off the court, with their passion for the game and as loving family men who want to prove they can win, in basketball and in life. With the support of Stanley’s wife, Teresa (Queen Latifah), can the underdogs come out on top?

Official synopsis for Hustle

Is Hustle worth a watch? Would I recommend it to a friend? I’ll provide some input down below.

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Juancho Hernangomez and Anthony Edwards steal the show

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If you’re wondering whether an NBA player like Juancho Hernangomez can pull off starring in a major film, you’ll find your answer contained in Hustle. But in my mind, he pulled it off and sold his role 100%.

Hernangomez (or Cruz in the movie) played a humble, yet talented and troubled basketball athlete who was never expecting to have a shot using his skills to reach greatness. But he persevered and hustled to give himself a chance. He’s a character you can’t help but root for.

Playing an antagonist to Hernangomez in the film was actually a former teammate of his with Anthony Edwards playing the role of the trash-talking player set for stardom. It’s honestly a perfect role for the bold, brash budding superstar who frequently makes outlandish, yet fascinating claims. I could definitely see Ant actually being a big smack-talker on the court.

His role might be real, in a sense. But the notion of him being the projected No. 2 overall pick, as he is in the movie is odd (at least to me). He’s been A1 from Day 1, the top pick. Come on Sandler.

Jokes aside, both Hernangomez and Edwards were awesome. While they may act like rivals in the movie, the two players are actually really close friends off the court, from when Hernangomez played on the Wolves during Ant’s rookie season in 2020-21. We even got this gold quote back then from Edwards stating “Juancho can shoot the piss out the ball“. Clearly, he believes in his bud. This movie likely only made their bond even stronger.

But, the Wolves eventually traded Hernangomez, along with Jarrett Culver to the Memphis Grizzlies for Patrick Beverley during the 2021 offseason. Hernangomez has been traded three times since, and now resides with the Utah Jazz. But after fans see the movie, everyone will wish their team had Hernangomez on their team.

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How did Anthony Edwards get the role of Kermit Wilts in Hustle?

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Anthony Edwards may not have had a featured role in Hustle but it’s hard to argue against his overall impact in each of his scenes. He was the perfect fit, but how did it come to be? There are several actual actors or other basketball stars who likely could have filled the role in a similar capacity. Why was Ant the lucky one?

Some might even recall back in November of 2021 when Adam Sandler could be seen going up to and talking with Edwards during a pre-game shootaround at the Staples Center, but the scenes with Ant had likely already been filmed at that point.

So how did Edwards become the villain in Hustle?

In an interview with Kevin Garnett, who Sandler also acted in a movie with for Uncut Gems, it was Hernangomez who pitched the idea of Edwards for the film. The rest is history.

While Edwards may have had a minor role in his first movie, I wouldn’t put it past him to pop up again in the future, maybe even in a bigger, more prominently featured role. Who knows, but for now, Edwards calls the movie “probably the best thing I ever did while being in the NBA“. I will remind you, he’s just wrapping up his second year in the league.

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For basketball fans, Hustle is a slam dunk

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If you’re on the fence about tuning in to see whether Adam Sandler’s latest work is worth a watch, go ahead and fire up Netflix. Hustle was well-done, I’d even argue it lands in the top-five or top-10 of best basketball movies of all time.

Hustle has a nice mix of humor and reality while pulling on your emotional heartstrings. Featuring well over 20 popular names from the basketball community, anyone who likes the sport will be thrilled with how many recognizable faces show up. Philadelphia 76ers fans in particular get to see several of their players, though not Joel Embiid unfortunately. Doc Rivers pops in though.

I watched Hustle a day after its release, and I’d already consider watching it again. I’m partial to Anthony Edwards if I’m being completely honest, but everyone who played a role helped make Hustle great. I would absolutely recommend Hustle to anyone who likes basketball in any form. Fans of Adam Sandler will certainly enjoy the flick too. It’s a gem.

  • Hustle movie rating: 8/10