Hustle Cast and Crew Sing Adam Sandler’s Praises

Hustle Cast and Crew Praise Adam Sandler

The actor, producer, and basketball fan enters the basketball movie hall of fame. 

8 February 20238 min read

Hustle is the kind of movie a basketball fan longs for. Standing alongside lauded documentaries like The Last Dance and Hoop Dreams and beloved inspirational sports films like Coach Carter and Rocky, Adam Sandler’s latest project blends realistic in-game footage with courtside drama, managing to capture both the excitement and pressure of life in the NBA. 

The film follows Philadelphia 76ers scout — and coaching hopeful — Stanley Sugerman, played by Sandler, as he puts his career on the line for Bo Cruz (played by the Toronto Raptors’ Juancho Hernangómez), a Spanish street baller who Stanley is convinced is the Sixers’ “missing piece.” Stanley is a family man, an underdog to root for, and a real mensch, not unlike the actor himself, who has received his first nomination from the Screen Actors’ Guild for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role.

It should come as no surprise that Sandler, who also produced Hustle alongside NBA great LeBron James, is a longtime basketball aficionado, and the pair were determined to make their film feel true to life. To that end, Sandler enlisted Philadelphia-born documentary filmmaker Jeremiah Zagar (We the Animals) and stacked the cast with a veritable who’s who of real-life NBA players and commentators including Julius “Dr. J” Erving, Kenny Smith, and Boban Marjanović, setting the action to a dynamic soundtrack with music from Philly rapper Meek Mill. The result is a cinematic love letter to basketball that moves seamlessly between Stanley and Bo’s training sessions and heartfelt man-to-man guidance: in other words, a sports film for the records.   

Here Queue gathers quotes from Sandler’s on- and offscreen colleagues, including nearly half of the NBA, singing the praises of their key playmaker.

Stanley Sugerman (Adam Sandler) and Bo Cruz (Juancho Hernangómez)

Playing NBA Scout and Coaching Hopeful Stanley Sugerman

“I think he had a deep connection to the character and it was beautiful just to watch someone who is so seasoned and such a legend do his thing. For me, you just have to cast the movie right and let it do its work. That’s what we’re talking about with seasoned actors like Adam. He’s as good an actor [as] exists in America. I don’t think he gets enough credit for what an amazing dramatic actor he is.” 
— Jeremiah Zagar, Hustle director

“Thank you [Adam] for bringing your father into [the role]. Thank you for bringing this character and this story and this insight and this humanity into this world. And it is a brilliantly entertaining film, as well as being so meaningful and such a beautiful performance. This one’s got it all. It’s just the best movie and you’re the best in it.”
— Drew Barrymore, from an interview with Sandler at the Director’s Guild of America New York Theater

The Consummate Teammate

“We are like family. I love him. I really do. He’s like my father figure in my acting life. We just laugh together so much, and I feel that’s the key of how good we are together in the movie.

“We’ve been talking every single day. We hung out after shooting and we talked about basketball and we talked about life. It’s just good vibes. I’m so glad he chose me for this movie. Adam’s a great human being. He’s funny. He takes care of everything. Even if we are shooting for 12, 14, 15 hours, he always smiles and he puts on good music. I’m learning every single day. He had a lot of patience with me. I’m going to remember this for the rest of my life.”
— Juancho Hernangómez, Bo Cruz in Hustle

“I mean, I don’t think since you [Adam] came into the world that life was ever the same for any of us. You have continued over four decades to do extraordinary things. I think that you deserve all the recognition in the world and everybody wants to give it to you. You have earned it. You deserve it. Thank you. It’s a film like this that puts it over the top with the entire body of your work that it sits on top of; it’s accumulative.” 
— Drew Barrymore, from an interview with Sandler at the Director’s Guild of America New York Theater

Stanley Sugerman (Adam Sandler), Teresa Sugerman (Queen Latifah), and Alex Sugerman (Jordan Hull)

The Playmaker and Producer

“He’s the best. You hear about what a good guy he is, how he plays music on set, keeping the mood light, how he creates a sense of family amongst the crew, which is all true. But I don’t think he gets enough credit for his relentless drive and work ethic. It’s infectious. And not just as an actor. He’s a force as a producer — no detail [is] too small. I’m very grateful for the experience of making this movie alongside Adam.”
—Zack Roth, Hustle producer 

“Adam is a genius. He’s funny as hell. You can see his gears working. This is just something I never thought I’d be a part of and I’m just super grateful and happy to continue to develop a relationship with Adam.”
—Aaron Gordon, Denver Nuggets player who makes a cameo in Hustle

Bringing the Authenticity

“I’ve been playing ball with Adam for years. He’s a great ball player — can shoot, dribble, pass, and really knows the game, always finds me cutting, and likes to see others score. He brought such a realness to the role that you forget it’s Adam. He just comes off like a scout that’s been in the league for 30 years. Sometimes when rehearsing with Adam, I don’t know if he’s talking or reading lines because of how real and natural he can make the dialogue sound.”
—Joseph Vecsey, Hustle co-producer

“Adam wanted to work with real basketball players because it made it authentic. The basketball players wanted to work with real actors because it made their acting better. I think they go together in a beautiful way.”
–Jeremiah Zagar, Hustle director

“It’s been a lot of fun because Adam is such a basketball person. He understands the nuances of the fabric of the game. I’ve been around him a lot and the jokes never stop. It’s like being on TV with Shaq and Charles Barkley. We got to talk basketball and laugh.”
— Kenny Smith, sports analyst, Leon Rich in Hustle

“Seeing Adam’s love of basketball on the set of this movie was extremely special. He was truly a kid in a candy store. And as much as this guy loves movies, he might love basketball a little bit more. Every day that he was playing basketball in this movie and bringing the character of Stanley to life, or working with Juancho, Anthony, and the other players, you could tell that his excitement was coming from such a genuine place of joy. It really shows how much this game means to Adam. Watching him in that atmosphere every single day, feeling that, was really special.”
—Spencer Beighley, Hustle executive producer

Stanley Sugerman (Adam Sandler) and Bo Cruz (Juancho Hernangómez)

A Real Baller

“Playing with Adam Sandler, it’s amazing. He’s a great basketball player, and he knows basketball more than some people that do it for a living.”
—Boban Marjanović, Houston Rockets player, “Big Serbian” in Hustle

“Adam can definitely play. He knows the game. He can shoot. He can pass. I’ve seen clips of him on social media playing and seen him shoot around. You can tell he knows what he is doing and he’s played for a long time, so he’s a real basketball guy.”
—Seth Curry, Brooklyn Nets player who appears in Hustle

“Adam is dope. He’s super chill and down the earth. He’s probably going to go down as one of the greatest actors of all time in my book. So seeing him in his own element, it’s been pretty dope.”
—Jordan Clarkson, Utah Jazz player who appears in Hustle