August 12, 2022

“Hustle” dropped on Netflix today. Adam Sandler’s new film focuses primarily on an NBA scout who pursues his dream of becoming a coach by working with an unknown Spanish prospect played by Juancho Hernangomez. Let’s dive in.

WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD

If you came to this blog looking for a negative “Hustle” review, you are looking in the wrong place. This will be a space where I will unabashedly rave about this incredible piece of basketball art. You were warned.

Juancho Hernangomez plays the title character alongside Sandler. His name is Bo Cruz and he’s a very talented Spanish basketball player who hasn’t played organized basketball in years. Instead, he goes to the local park and shoves people around, easily taking their money.

Sandler’s character, Stanley Sugerman (incredible name), discovers Cruz after traveling to Spain to work for the Sixers. He didn’t go to Spain to see Cruz, he was instead looking for a court to shoot at, and noticed that Cruz towered over everyone at the park.

From there, 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 stupid talk. There are inspiring speeches. And finally, there is a happy ending (Cruz arrives in the NBA). He’s got everything that’s adorable about sports movies. Not a beat is missing.

What’s even more fun about this movie 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 film go a long way, full of NBA talent.

Anthony Edwards plays fellow draft prospect and Bo’s main rival, Kermit Wilts (another incredible name). His acting is at the highest level. His character seems so real that I wonder if Edwards will be the go-to for hoops in movies from now on. Other notable cameos include Kenny Smith, Seth Curry, Tobias Harris, Trae Young, Aaron Gordon, Doc Rivers, Tyrese Maxey, Khris Middleton and many more.

More importantly, some Dallas Mavericks cameos need to be discussed. Let’s dive into these.

This should surprise no one. Boban has already proven his acting skills. Remember when John Wick killed him in a library? In a movie starring a ton of NBA players, Boban had to get the call, and he answered it beautifully.

The film begins with Sandler showing up at a small gym in Serbia to scout a player. This player is the character of Boban Marjanovic. Boban gets to show some skills here. He knocks down a jump shot, blocks a few shots and goes coast to coast for a jam. That’s great.

Boban’s character then talks to Stanley Sugerman, who just needs to make sure the Serbian big man isn’t over 22 (so he can enter the draft). It’s abundantly clear at this point that Boban’s character is well over 22, but doesn’t have a birth certificate. “It was a big fire,” he said.

Then, a tall boy walks into the gym. He appears to be about 15 years old. Boban goes on to say that it is his 10 year old son. At this point, it’s clear that Boban is too old for the draft, so Sugerman leaves unsuccessfully.

At the end of the movie, we get another scene from Boban. He plays in a private pickup game with NBA players and prospects. In his biggest movie moment, Boban waves Trae Young and dribbles the ball down the field, clumsily going between his legs a few times. He then spins into a pull-up three and cashes it in.

This leads to one of my favorite quotes in the movie. Mark Jackson asks Kenny Smith’s character Leon how old Boban is. Leon replies, “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 group of NBA people attend a funeral for the 76ers owner, and Mark is shown. Unless I missed something, this is his only moment.

Dirk has one of the best cameos in the whole movie. After Stanley Sugerman follows Bo Cruz home to try to persuade him to work to play in the NBA, Cruz (understandably) has a hard time believing Sugerman. So “Stan the Man”, as Dirk eventually calls him, gives Dirk an on-the-spot video call to prove his authenticity. Dirk plays with Sugerman a bit, saying he has no idea who this guy is or how he got his number.

Eventually, Dirk drops the act and vouches for Stan the Man. At the end of their video call, they have a scathing exchange:

Sugerman: “Thank you very much, Dirk, and say hello to your grandmother for me.”

Dirk: “My grandmother is dead.”

Suggester: “It’s true. You told me that. My fault.”

Yeah! Luka has a moment. I mean, did you really think they would make a movie full of NBA stars without including Luka?

After a mistake at the combine raises questions about Bo Cruz’s character, Sugerman must get creative to get his man some positive PR. Sugerman enlists the help of his 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 it the Boa. Do you know why they call it that? Because it takes the life out of its prey.

Sugerman then challenges the hoops in the park, saying if anyone can shoot him and hit the rim, he gets $50. If someone can score on him, he wins $100. If anyone can beat him in a one-on-five match, they win $1,000. Sugerman’s daughter films this and calls it the #BoaChallenge, which, exactly as expected, 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, beaming face appears big on the screen, and he says, “Holy shit! Bo Cruz! Where is this kid from?

It’s brief, but it’s perfect. You can tell Luka is composing it for what I believe to be 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 don’t read it because I spoiled a lot of it. But anyone who loves hoops needs to go see this movie ASAP. It’s two hours of pure fun and entertainment.

If you need a final sales pitch for Juancho Hernangomez as the main basketball player in this film, look no further than how Adam Sandler’s character portrays him a bit more halfway through the film. “This guy is like Scottie Pippen and a wolf had a baby, and Lisa Leslie raised him. And Allen Iverson was the babysitter.

Perfection. 10/10. No notes.