‘Hustle’ on Netflix is ​​the greatest 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 the bad movies make so much money that I’m not sure I really hate them.

In my mind, his crown jewels were his sports movies. I quote “Happy Gilmore” on literally every round of golf I play when someone gets mad for missing a putt.

“Here comes the putter throw! Guard. He has held back. Maybe this is another Happy Gilmore.”

To date, no person has misunderstood the reference. That’s not to say all of America knows what a medulla oblongata is because “The Waterboy” taught us to. No one has done sports comedy as well as he has, but those movies are based on Sandler’s “SNL”-esque character work.

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

Juancho Hernangomez, right, plays Bo Cruz in ‘Hustle’.

Cassy Athens/Netflix

You can’t help but try to make Sugarman succeed, but what sets this apart from other heartwarming movies like “The Sandlot” or “Rudy” is that “Hustle” takes on the nuance of the real sport. My all-time favorite basketball movie is still “White Men Can’t Jump,” partly because of the 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 in terms of skill, but it’s still so well done that I was impressed with the actors’ ability.

What “White Men Can’t Jump” does well, “Hustle” does on a stratospheric level. The basketball in “Hustle” is so good it almost feels unreal. It makes sense given that LeBron James is the executive producer and was able to attract high level 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 their full athleticism in a movie like these real athletes. Anthony Edwards, for example, is perfectly cast as the arrogant young stud. Every time he pops up on screen, we know we’re getting two things: intense competition and unreal bullshit. He’s so good at it I almost hate him – his timing and delivery are so authentic it’s like the lines are improvised because I don’t think it’s possible to recite a memorized dialogue and at the same time to play basketball at that level.

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

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 Spanish sleeper Bo Cruz. Emotionally, his basketball scenes connect with me because I remember the first few years after graduating from Cal, when I was training for summer leagues and training camps and combinations (scrimmages for unsigned talent). From the run up the hill to the drills and even the fetch games, it all felt very familiar. The movie gave a good idea of ​​how much work it takes to improve even just 1%.


The fact that the film shows us what it takes to make it in the NBA is also a tribute to Juancho’s basketball prowess. He basically does everything you see in the movie. It blew me away. I remember doing similar drills in my D-League days, but I never got close to some of the skill drills in the movie. It’s wild because for the first time people get a sense of how good you have to be 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 were your size, I’d be in the NBA”? Of course not, but it must be 20,000 times.

Juancho Hernangomez, left, trains in "Rush."

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 competition. The amount of skill and talent required is nearly impossible to gauge in a conversation. I sometimes liken it to the idea of ​​Thor explaining how mortals cannot wield his hammer Mjolnir. It’s not that someone can’t pick up Mjolnir, it’s that people can’t fathom the power it possesses and will never really use it.

In “Hustle”, Hernangomez shows us all the true skill at play here. I usually get impatient during long training montages, but in his (which was very long in every way), I was enthralled as both a former player and a fan. He tosses balls through tires while dribbling over and over with his off hand. It’s shocking not only because he pulls it off, but also because he’s a career player who earns 5 points per game.

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

Juancho Hernangomez, left, as Bo Cruz in "Rush."

Juancho Hernangomez, left, as Bo Cruz in ‘Hustle’.

Cassy Athens/Netflix

People unfamiliar with the NBA will enjoy “Hustle” for Sandler’s performance, Bo Cruz’s struggles, and the heart that comes with a good sports movie. But with a deeper understanding, I think this is a basketball movie for basketball heads. The closer you are to the game, the more likely you will enjoy it because it just gets the details right. The speed of the game. The pressure of the tryouts. The front office bullshit. The trash can that talks. And especially the training.

Mind you, I’m not going to go around quoting ‘Hustle’ because it’s not ‘The Waterboy’. There are no iconic punch lines to the medulla oblongata; it’s just a movie portraying real sports played by real athletes. And while that seems easy to do, I’ve never seen it done like this.

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

Juancho Hernangomez, left, as Bo Cruz and Adam Sandler as Stanley Sugarman in ‘Hustle’.

Scott Yamano/Netflix



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