“Hustle” dropped on Netflix today. The new Adam Sandler movie focuses mostly on an NBA scout chasing his dreams of becoming a coach by working with an unknown prospect from Spain played by Juancho Hernangomez. Let’s dive into it.
WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS COMING
If you’ve come to this blog looking for a negative review of “Hustle,” you’re looking in the wrong place. This will be a space where I unabashedly gush about this incredible piece of basketball art. You have been warned.
Juancho Hernangomez plays the main character next to Sandler. His name is Bo Cruz, and he’s an uber-talented basketball player from Spain who hasn’t played organized basketball in years. Instead, he hits up the local park and hustles people, taking their money with ease.
Sandler’s character, Stanley Sugerman (incredible name), discovers Cruz after traveling to Spain to do some work for the Sixers. He didn’t go to Spain to see Cruz, rather he was looking for a court to shoot around at, and noticed Cruz dominating everyone at the park.
From there on out, it’s a classic sports movie. There are trials and tribulations. There are training montages that include running up hills, lifting weights, and learning to endure trash talk. There are inspirational speeches. And ultimately, there’s a happy ending (Cruz making it to the NBA). It has everything that’s lovable about sports movies. It doesn’t miss a beat.
What’s extra fun about this movie, though, is that all of the basketball feels incredibly authentic — because it is. The NBA appearances don’t stop with Juancho Hernangomez. The cameos in this movie range far and wide, full of NBA talent.
Anthony Edwards plays fellow draft prospect and Bo’s main rival, Kermit Wilts (another incredible name). His acting is top-level. His character feels so real that it makes me wonder if Edwards will be the go-to for hoopers in movies from here on out. Other notable cameos include Kenny Smith, Seth Curry, Tobias Harris, Trae Young, Aaron Gordon, Doc Rivers, Tyrese Maxey, Khris Middleton, and many more.
Most importantly, there are some Dallas Mavericks cameos that need discussing. Let’s dive into those.
This should surprise no one. Boban has already proven his acting chops. Remember when John Wick killed him in a library? In a movie featuring a ton of NBA players, Boban had to get the call, and he answered it wonderfully.
The movie starts out with Sandler showing up at a tiny gym in Serbia to scout a player. That player is Boban Marjanovic’s character. Boban gets to flash some skill here. He knocks down a jump shot, blocks a couple of shots, and goes coast-to-coast for a jam. It’s great stuff.
Boban’s character then talks to Stanley Sugerman, who just needs to make sure the Serbian big man isn’t older than 22 (so he can enter the draft). It’s quite clear at this point that Boban’s character is much older than 22, but doesn’t have a birth certificate. “It was big fire,” he says.
Then, a large boy walks into the gym. He appears to be about 15 years old. Boban proceeds to say that it’s his 10-year-old son. At this point, it’s clear Boban is too old for the draft, so Sugerman leaves unsuccessfully.
At the end of the movie, we get another Boban scene. He’s playing in a private pickup game with NBA players and prospects. In his biggest moment of the film, Boban waves off Trae Young and dribbles the ball up the court, goofily going between his legs a few times. He then spins into a pull-up three and cashes it.
This leads to one of my favorite quotes in the movie. Mark Jackson asks Kenny Smith’s character, Leon, how old Boban is. Leon responds, “I don’t know, but the Mavericks think he’s 18.”
Mark gets a spot here because technically he was in the movie. In one scene, a bunch of NBA people are at a funeral for the 76ers owner, and Mark is shown. Unless I missed something, that’s his only moment.
Dirk has one of the best cameos in the entire film. After Stanley Sugerman follows Bo Cruz to his home to try and persuade him to work toward playing in the NBA, Cruz (understandably) is having a hard time believing Sugerman. So, “Stan the Man,” as Dirk eventually calls him, gives Dirk a video call on the spot to prove his authenticity. Dirk messes with Sugerman for a little, saying he has no idea who this guy is or how he got his number.
Eventually, Dirk drops the act and vows for Stan the Man. At the end of their video call, they have a cringy exchange:
Suggester: “Thank you so much, Dirk, and say hi to your grandmother for me.”
Dirk: “My grandma died.”
Suggesterman: “That’s right. You told me that. My bad.”
Yup! Luka has a moment. I mean, did you really think they’d make a movie full of NBA stars and not include Luka?
After a slip-up at the combine raises character questions about Bo Cruz, Sugerman has to get creative to get his guy some positive PR. Sugerman gets some help from old friend Julius Erving, by showing up at a park and vouching for Cruz.
Doctor J says, “That’s my friend Bo Cruz over there. They call him The Boa. You know why they call him that? Because he squeezes the life out of his prey.”
Sugerman then issues a challenge to the hoopers at the park, saying that if anyone can get a shot off on him and hit the rim, they get 50 bucks. If anyone can score on him, they get 100 bucks. If anyone can beat him in a game of one-on-one to five, they get 1,000 bucks. Sugerman’s daughter films this, and calls it the #BoaChallenge, which, exactly to plan, goes viral.
The film then shows a montage of people reacting on social media to Bo Cruz. One of those people reacting is Luka Doncic.
Luka’s bright and beaming face shows up big on the screen, and he says, “Holy shit! Bo Cruz! Where did this kid come from?”
It’s brief, but it’s perfect. You can tell Luka is dialing it up for what I believe is his acting debut, and he nails it. It’s everything Mavericks fans would want from a movie like this.
If you haven’t seen this movie yet, I hope you aren’t reading this because I spoiled a lot of it. But everyone who loves hoops needs to go watch this movie ASAP. It’s two hours of pure fun and entertainment.
If you need a final sales pitch for Juancho Hernangomez as the lead basketball player in this film, look no further than how Adam Sandler’s character describes him a little over halfway into the movie: “This guy is as if Scottie Pippen and a wolf had a baby, and Lisa Leslie raised him. And Allen Iverson was the babysitter.”
Perfection. 10/10. No notes.