When the trailer for Adam Sandler's basketball-centric movie Hustle came out, many fans were skeptical. Sports movies tended to be more hit-and-miss, especially when you get basketball players involved. Oftentimes, it can feel a little cringey, or it's just not enjoyable at all.
After Hustle premiered on Netflix, NBA and non-NBA fans agreed on one thing: it's a pretty damn good movie.
Hustle doesn't have a revolutionary story like some of the great basketball movies of all-time. Instead, the movie takes the “feel-good sports movie” concept and takes it to the highest level. Basketball fans can also appreciate the attention to detail that the movie has to the basketball concepts. It isn't a movie that happens to have basketball in it: it's a basketball movie.
And yet, the most impressive thing about this movie is the cast. Hollywood appearances from pro sports players have a tendency to feel… off. Often, the athletes stand out from an acting perspective to non-sports fans. Their lines feel forced, their movements unnatural. That wasn't the case in the movie Hustle at all. Let's look at the notable NBA appearances in the movie and rate them accordingly.
Rating the performances of Anthony Edwards, NBA players in Adam Sandler's ‘Hustle'
Before we rattle off the big names in “Hustle”, let's talk some of the notable cameos from NBA stars in the movie.
- Luka Doncic may very well take over as the greatest Mavs player of all time. He still has a lot to learn from Dirk Nowitzki, though, based on their brief appearances in the movie.
- It was weird seeing the Inside the NBA crew without Kenny Smith (more on him later). Who's replacing him in that universe?
- AI's “We talking about practice?” rant made it's way into the movie: a fitting cameo for a movie set in Philadelphia.
- Julius Erving had a minor role, but he killed it in his short time on camera.
- Shoutout to Bone Collector, The Professor, and Lethal Shooter, who got their time on camera alongside other notable streetballers.
- The NBA Combine scene is a treat for many NBA nerds. Mark Cuban, Brad Stevens, and many other coaches appeared in that scene.
Out of all of the active players who played a role in Hustle, Boban Marjanovic has the most movie experience. The Mavs center became a smash hit amongst fans for his incredible performance as the guy John Wick killed in the third chapter of that series. Many fans were expecting him to stand out in the movie big-time.
Boban appears in the first few minutes of Hustle as the “Big Serbian”, the allegedly 22-year old prospect with a 10-year old son and whose birth certificate was destroyed in “big fire”. Marjanovic's deadpan delivery and charisma once again shone through in the movie. He even got to wave off Trae Young in one of the basketball scenes, which is hilarious.
Kenny Smith plays Sandler's best friend and player agent Leon Rose in the movie Hustle. Smith's first long scene in the movie is him urging Sandler to look at the ladies by the poolside in Spain. That right there is peak Kenny Smith energy, and nothing can tell me otherwise.
Aside from ribbing Sandler throughout the movie, Smith brings a lot of believability to the movie. Smith has a lot of lines in Hustle where he talks about major NBA moments or what it takes to be an NBA player. From any other actor, it might sound a bit cringe. Coming from a guy who actually played in the NBA, though, those lines add an air of realism to the movie. Overall, fantastic job from Kenny.
You gotta feel for Moritz Wagner in this movie. The former Lakers first-round selection is cast in Hustle as “Haas”, a highly-touted European draft prospect nicknamed “The German MJ”. While the Sixers organization is impressed by him, Sandler has his reservations, citing poor work ethic concerns and lack of defense.
Despite that, the Sixers take him anyway, only to realize that Sandler's concerns were valid. Even worse, the Sixers selected him with the top pick of the draft. For short… he was cast as the stereotypical Euro draft bust of this universe. Feels rough man. He at least played his role quite well, selling the character pretty well.
Even before Hustle premiered a few days ago, many NBA fans were excited to see Anthony Edwards in a movie. The Timberwolves star is easily one of the most likable players in the league today. After all, he's charismatic and extremely comfortable in front of the camera (as Sandler himself noted). Because of this, fans had high expectations for Edwards in this movie.
Edwards took those expectations, and blew them out of the water. The Timberwolves star played the loud-mouthed antagonist of the movie Kermit Wilts in “Hustle”. Edwards was a natural in front of the camera. He was very dislikable in the movie, with his trash talk game being incredible annoying as a viewer. Seeing him get humiliated in the final scene of the movie was incredibly satisfying, which is a sign that Edwards did his job as a villain really well.
Juancho, Juancho, Juancho. When NBA fans learned that Hernangomez would be playing the co-lead role alongside Adam Sandler in the movie “Hustle”, fans were undoubtedly skeptical. There was no reason to believe that the journeyman forward could be an actor, much less a believable one.
And yet, here I am, talking about how great Hernangomez' performance is in “Hustle”. As Bo Cruz, Hernangomez shined as a lovable protagonist in the movie. Acting with Adam Sandler and Queen Latifah is a monumental task for any rookie actor. Surprisingly, Hernangomez held his own and then some. His facial expressions were on-point, his movements felt natural, his delivery was exceptional. It was, by all accounts, a great debut for him.
Juancho Hernangomez made me tear up in a basketball movie. That's a sentence I never thought I'd say, but here we are. He deserves all the props for his work in the movie.
What makes Hustle work so well as a basketball movie, in my opinion, are the stellar performances of the NBA stars. As I mentioned earlier, NBA stars have a bad habit of standing out in the worst way possible when it comes to movies. It doesn't help when the movie seems to shove their appearances into your face.
In Hustle, the NBA players were more “low-key”, so to speak. Whenever an NBA player was on camera, the movie didn't try to make you acknowledge, “Hey look, it's X player!”. Instead, they were background characters, adding a lot of believability to the movie. There were no tongue-in-cheek references to NBA players, they were just, there. Almost as if they've lived in this universe way before the start of the events of this movie.
Of course, the central plot of “Hustle” would've fallen flat if not for the incredible movie debuts of Juancho Hernangomez and Anthony Edwards. The duo looked like naturals out there, to the point that non-NBA watchers did not realize that they were NBA players until the credits rolled around.
Overall, Hustle is a very solid watch for both NBA and non-NBA fans.