‘Hustle’ on Netflix is ​​the best basketball movie of all time

Adam Sandler has come a long way. From “Billy Madison” to “Grown Ups,” he’s made some of the most quoted movies in history, and even bad movies make so much money I can’t be sure I hate them.

In my mind, his crown jewels have been his sports films. I quote “Happy Gilmore” literally in every round of golf I play whenever someone gets upset about missing a putt.

“Here comes the throw of the putter! Expect. He held himself back. Maybe it’s a new Happy Gilmore.

To date, not a single person has failed to understand the reference. That’s not to say that all of America knows what a medulla is because “The Waterboy” taught us. No one has done sports comedy quite like him, but those movies build on Sandler’s “SNL” character work.

With “Uncut Gems,” Sandler presented us with a different version of himself that’s captivating without being goofy. If “Uncut Gems” showed us that Sandler has another gear, “Hustle” on Netflix is ​​Sandler riding comfortably in that gear. His character is Stanley Sugarman, a failed Philadelphia hooper turned NBA scout who finds perspective with a troubled past on the streets of Spain. Sandler plays like he’s on the verge of a heart attack the whole time, but for all the praise I just gave him, the best thing about “Hustle” is…wait…basketball.

Juancho Hernangomez, right, plays Bo Cruz in “Hustle.”

Cassy Athena/Netflix

You can’t help but cheer Sugarman on for success, but what sets it apart from other heartwarming movies like “The Sandlot” or “Rudy” is that “Hustle” gets the nuance of real-life sports. My favorite basketball movie of all time remains ‘White Men Can’t Jump’, partly because of its heart, but also because Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes actually play the game. It’s streetball, so it doesn’t have to be NBA level skill-wise, but it’s still so well done that I found myself in awe of the actors’ ability.

What “White Men Can’t Jump” does well, “Hustle” does at a stratospheric level. The basketball in “Hustle” is so good it almost seems unreal. That makes sense considering LeBron James is the executive producer and was able to bring in top NBA talent to make cameo after cameo (Seth Curry, Julius Erving, Dirk Nowitzki, Trae Young, Luka Doncic, Tobias Harris, Kenny Smith and many, many more).

We’re not used to seeing real athletes showing off all their athleticism in a movie like this. For example, Anthony Edwards is perfectly interpreted as the arrogant young stallion. Every time he appears on screen, we know we get two things: intense competition and unreal talk. He’s so talented I almost hate him – his timing and delivery is so authentic it looks like the lines were improvised, because I don’t think it’s possible to recite memorized dialogue and play basketball at this level at the same time.

Juancho Hernangomez, left, as Bo Cruz and Anthony Edwards as Kermit Wilts in

Juancho Hernangomez, left, as Bo Cruz and Anthony Edwards as Kermit Wilts in “Hustle.”

Scott Yamano/Netflix

The action that steals the show, however, comes from the film’s other star, Juancho Hernangomez, who plays sleepy Spanish prospect Bo Cruz. Emotionally his basketball scenes get to me because I remember my first two years after graduating from Cal when I was training for summer leagues and training camps and combines ( scrimmags for unsigned talents). From running up the hill to drills and even pickup games, everything felt very familiar. The movie gave a real sense of how much work it takes to improve even just 1%.


The fact that the film shows us what it takes to succeed in the NBA is also credited to Juancho’s basketball talent. He actually does everything you see in the movie. It blew me away. I remember doing similar drills back in the D-League days, but I never got close to nailing some of the skill drills in the movie. It’s crazy because for the first time people realize how good it takes to sit on the end of an NBA bench.

Do you know how many times people have come up to me and said, “If I was your size, I’d be in the NBA”? Of course not, but it has to be 20,000 times and counting.

Juancho Hernangomez, left, trains at

Juancho Hernangomez, left, trains in “Hustle.”

Scott Yamano/Netflix

I’ve never been able to explain to people how good you have to be to get into the league. The amount of skill and talent required is almost impossible to expound in conversation. I sometimes compare it to the idea of ​​Thor explaining how mortals can’t wield his hammer Mjolnir. It’s not that someone can’t reclaim Mjolnir, it’s that humans can’t imagine the power it holds and will never actually wield it.

In “Hustle,” Hernangomez shows us all the real skill at play here. I usually get impatient during long training montages, but in his (which was obviously very long), I was enthralled as both a former player and a fan. He throws balls through the tires while dribbling with his free hand over and over again. It’s shocking, not just because he’s successful, but because he’s a 5-point-per-game career player.

This begs the question: what is KD capable of? What does Jokic do?

Juancho Hernangomez, left, as Bo Cruz in

Juancho Hernangomez, left, as Bo Cruz in “Hustle.”

Cassy Athena/Netflix

People unfamiliar with the NBA will appreciate “Hustle” because of Sandler’s performance, Bo Cruz’s struggle, and the heart that comes with a good sports movie. But with a deeper understanding, I think it’s a basketball movie for basketball heads. The closer you are to the game, the more likely you are to enjoy it, because the details are right. The speed of the game. The pressure of the tries. Front office nonsense. The trash talks. And above all, training.

Mind you, I’m not going to walk around quoting “Hustle”, because it’s not “The Waterboy”. There are no signature strike lines on the medulla oblongata; it’s just a movie depicting real sports played by real athletes. And although it looks easy to perform, I’ve never seen it done like this.

Juancho Hernangomez, left, as Bo Cruz and Adam Sandler as Stanley Sugarman in

Juancho Hernangomez, left, as Bo Cruz and Adam Sandler as Stanley Sugarman in “Hustle.”

Scott Yamano/Netflix



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