The cast of Adam Sandler’s latest Netflix film, Hustle, streaming now, is a real who’s who of NBA stars. In the drama, big-time basketball fan Sandler plays Stanley Sugerman, a down on his luck Philadelphia 76ers talent scout, who finds himself fighting to save his career with help from an exciting foreign-born draft prospect. The problem is, Stanley seems to be the only one in Philly who believes the young athlete has the goods to make it in the NBA. On his journey, he runs into basketball icons, members of the current 76ers roster, and Anthony Edwards. No, not the actor who plays Goose in Top Gun, but the young star of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Not all of the current and former NBA stars in the film play themselves, which gives these guys a chance to really show off their acting skills. Though many actual 76ers players fill the cast, the team’s brightest star Joel Embiid is unfortunately nowhere to be found. Another notable hooper that is missing? The film’s producer, LeBron James. Don’t worry, the King’s absence just gives other NBA icons and soon-to-be legends a chance to prove that their talents spread far beyond the basketball court. Below, see the notable NBA stars that appear in Hustle.
Hernangómez makes his film debut as Bo Cruz, a standout rookie prospect who gets Stanley’s attention when he sees him dominating a streetball game in Spain wearing khaki cargo shorts and a pair of Timberland work boots. Stanley soon makes it his mission to help the kid, who he describes as “Scottie Pippen and a wolf, if they had a baby,” into the NBA draft through intense Rocky-like training montages. The 26-year-old Hernangómez entered the league in 2016 and has moved around a bit, playing for the Denver Nuggets, Minnesota Timberwolves, and Boston Celtics. He now plays for the Utah Jazz.
The Minnesota Timberwolves star plays Kermit Wilts, a cocky top draft prospect who gets under Bo’s skin with a bit of trash talk. Like his character, the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft is known for talking a little trash both on and off the court, but he’s also quickly gotten himself a reputation for being one of the funniest players in the NBA for his post-game interviews. Who knows, maybe Sandler can put him in one of his next comedies.
The former Toronto Raptors star who helped Drake’s favorite NBA team win its first championship in 2019, shows up in the film to watch Bo hoop and throw a little shade. Lowry, a proud Philly native, joined the Miami Heat in 2021 after spending nearly a decade with the Raptors.
The retired NBA player plays Leon, Stanley’s closest friend and confidante who is now a successful sports agent on the level of Klutch Sports founder Rich Paul. Smith, nicknamed “The Jet,” played from 1987 to 1997, winning back-to-back championships with the Houston Rockets in 1994 and 1995. He’s now best known as one of the commentators on TNT’s Inside The NBA, where he’s worked alongside longtime host Ernie Johnson since 1998.
The former NBA player and coach pops up at the Bronx game to weigh in on Bo’s on-court skills. Jackson is now a game analyst for ESPN, often calling games with his former New York Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy and legendary announcer Mike Breen.
Julius “Dr. J” Erving
Viewers first see the Philadelphia 76ers legend slam dunking at the age of 63 in a viral video Stanley shows his teenage daughter. The NBA icon, who is considered one of the greatest players of all time and one of the greatest dunkers of all time, returns later in the film to help Bo go viral at Harlem’s legendary Rucker Park, where Dr. J got his start. He also gives Bo the nickname “The Boa,” which is way cooler than Stanley’s nickname for him: “The Cruz Missile.”
Dr. J got his start in the American Basketball Association (ABA) in 1971 before joining the NBA two years later when the leagues merged. Over his 16-year career, he won three championships, four MVPs, and three scoring titles. He was recently chosen for the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team. His dunking abilities also led to the creation of the popular slang term to “posterize,” which is when a player dunks over a defender and the move is so good, it needs to be recreated on a poster.
The “Big Serbian” is the first player Stanley meets in the opening scene of Hustle. He claims he’s 22 years old, the maximum age a player can be to enter the draft, and that a “big fire” destroyed his birth certificate. But the Big Serbian’s son, who looks to be in his mid-teens, gives Stanley pause. The 33-year-old Marjanović, who was born in Serbia, currently plays for the Dallas Mavericks, but might look familiar to fans of John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum where he fights Keanu Reeves’ titular character in the New York Public Library.
Wagner plays Haas, a 19-year-old German player nicknamed the “German MJ” that the 76ers want to draft. However, Stanley isn’t so sure the kid is the real deal. Wagner was drafted in 2018 by the Los Angeles Lakers, but now plays for the Orlando Magic alongside his younger brother Franz Wagner.
The former Laker and commentator on Inside the NBA is one of Bo’s famous fans. Shaq is one of the greatest players of all time in the NBA—a four-time champion, three-time Finals MVP, and the 2000 MVP—but he’s also no stranger to Hollywood. After making his film debut in 1994’s Blue Chips, he starred in Kazaam, Steel, and Uncle Drew. He’s also a frequent feature of the Sandlerverse, appearing in four of Sandler’s movies including Grown-Ups 2, Blended, and Hubie Halloween.
Shaq’s fellow Inside the NBA analyst and former Philadelphia 76er is also riding the Bo Cruz wave. Known as the “Round Mound of Rebound,” the former Phoenix Suns player was an 11-time All Star and was named the League’s MVP in 1993. He played himself in 1996’s Space Jam, Suits, and Modern Family. He has also hosted Saturday Night Live four times.
The Philadelphia 76er makes a cameo in the film, taking on Bo at Rucker Park. After being drafted in 2011 by the Milwaukee Bucks, the 29-year-old has done stints with the Orlando Magic, Detroit Pistons, and Los Angeles Clippers. He’s played for the 76ers since 2019.
The former Philadelphia 76er is once again talking about practice, taking to his Instagram to declare that Bo “don’t need no practice.” The NBA icon known as “the Answer” didn’t either. In his 14 seasons, Iverson became one of the most prolific players in the League despite being only 6 foot. When he was named the 2001 MVP, he became the shortest player to ever win the award.
Another Philadelphia 76er star who pops up throughout the film to check out Bo’s progress and get a front row seat to Stanley nearly torpedoing his career. Thybulle has played for the 76ers since entering the League in 2019 and has become known for his defensive prowess. The 25-year-old also became a bit of an internet sensation during the NBA’s 2020 Bubble Season held in Orlando, Florida during the early months of COVID-19 thanks to his YouTube videos, which took a behind-the-scenes look at what it was like living in Disney World.
Stanley FaceTimes the Dallas Mavericks legend in hopes the retired power forward, who is the highest scoring foreign born player in NBA history, can convince Bo that he’s for real. Turns out, Nowitzki, who won the Mavericks only championship in 2011, doesn’t only have game. He also has great comic timing.
The Milwaukee Bucks small forward shows up as himself in the film to support Bo’s adversary, Kermit. In 2021, Middleton and his team, which included Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday, won the championship. It was Milwaukee’s first in 50 years.
Since Gordon is known for his impressive slam dunk skills, it’s only right that he gets to dunk in Hustle. After spending his first seven years in the NBA with the Orlando Magic, he’s now a member of the Denver Nuggets.
The former coach of the Boston Celtics, who is currently the team’s president of basketball operations, is seen scouting Bo. He might have a real knack for this kind of thing. In Stevens’ first year as president, the Celtics managed to make it to the 2022 NBA Finals.
The Atlanta Hawks star shows up at a secret game in the Bronx and is not interested in passing to Bo. To be fair, Young, better known as “Ice Trae,” is known for his knock-out 3-point shooting so passing isn’t really his thing.
The 29-year-old Utah Jazz star is also one of the players who shows up to the Bronx game. In 2021, Clarkson won the Sixth Man of the Year Award.
Blink and you’ll miss the WNBA star’s cameo in the final moments of the film in which the TNT analyst and commentator shows up on TV to talk about that night’s game between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Boston Celtics. Parker played her first 12 seasons in the WNBA for the Los Angeles Sparks, winning a championship in 2016. The two-time MVP and Rookie of the Year joined the Chicago Sky in 2021. She won her second championship that same year.
Drafted by the 76ers in 2020, the 21-year-old Maxey makes a cameo in the film to give a bit of advice to his struggling new teammate Haas on how to become a better defender: Play “like Jrue Holiday, bro,” a reference to the Milwaukee Bucks star who is considered by many of his fellow NBA players as the best defender in the League.
The former Philadelphia 76er, who now plays for the Brooklyn Nets, shows up to watch Tobias Harris take on the man known as The Boa. While he might not be as famous as his older brother, Steph Curry, Seth currently ranks third in NBA history in career three-point shooting percentage.
The Dallas Mavericks star shows up in the film to shout out to Bo on his Instagram and let his fans know the unknown athlete is the real deal on his Instagram. Since joining the NBA in 2018, Dončić has racked up accolades including Rookie of the Year. Some have even compared the 23-year-old to LeBron James, predicting he will become the face of the League for his ability to dominate the game.
The eccentric Goldstein, known for his unique fashion sense, has never played basketball, but he’s a NBA legend in his own right. The businessman frequently shows up courtside for Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers games wearing big floppy hats and bedazzled jackets. He’s gotten a reputation as the NBA’s biggest superfan, but his home is nearly as famous, popping up in a few films including The Big Lebowski.
The current head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers shows up to tease his new assistant coach, Stanley, about his suit. The former NBA player began his coaching career in 1999 with the Orlando Magic and won Coach of the Year during his first season with the team. He went on to coach the Boston Celtics from 2004 to 2013, winning the championship in 2008.
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