Adam Sandler’s Hustle Filmed A Key Scene At A Real NBA Game, Here’s How They Pulled It Off

Adam Sandler in Hustle
(Image credit: Netflix)

Adam Sandler has a long history with the streaming giant Netflix, though his output for the company is pretty hit and miss. As you can tell  by our ranking of every Adam Sandler Netflix movie, for every Murder Mystery (with the charming Jennifer Aniston), there is a Hubie Halloween waiting to bring down the grading curve. Sandler, however, has a supposed smash hit on his hands with the NBA-themed Hustle, a movie that’s winning big with critics and fans and earning a large following thanks to the appearance of several NBA superstars. And for those who have watched the movie, there’s even some footage that was captured during an official NBA game, and Hustle director Jeremiah Zagar told CinemaBlend’s ReelBlend podcast how that came about.

The rest of this story is going to contain mild spoilers for Hustle. Stop reading now if you made it this far and don’t want to know anything at all about the movie. 

In Hustle, Adam Sandler plays a talent scout for the Philadelphia 76ers named Stanley Sugarman, who discovers an enormously gifted basketball player (Juancho Hernangomez) then trains him for the NBA Combine and Draft. By the end of the film, Stanley has earned a spot as an assistant coach for the Sixers, but his client, Bo, gets drafted to the Boston Celtics. During the movie’s end credits, Stanley watches from the bench as Bo faces the Sixers, and Jeremiah Zagar told the ReelBlend podcast that this footage was captured during an actual NBA contest that Hernangomez happened to be a part of. 

As the director explains it:

That's a real game. So what we did for the credit sequence is, we wanted to do – because Juancho was traded to the Celtics (in real life) at the end, the end of the season. And so… all the producers, we all got together. And I was like, ‘We need to shoot a game.’ And (my cinematographer) was like, ‘Okay, okay. We'll figure it out.’ … What we did was, we got Adam and Doc (Rivers) and the coaches, the real coaches, all together to film that final sequence. And we shot Adam's side and Doc’s side and the coach's side one day. And then we came in during an actual game, and shot Juancho and the entire rest of the team. And then we just VFX’d Juancho’s new number onto his jersey. So that's a real game you're watching. And those are real moments you're actually watching in the game.

Like most of the action in Hustle, those scenes boast an authenticity that comes with using actual NBA players who have been through the trials of making it as a pro. Hustle co-star Anthony Edwards says that the trash talking in the movie isn’t that intense in the actual league, and the sport sequences draw more inspiration from boxing movies than they do basketball movies. But showcasing real NBA players taking part in a game helps to elevate Hustle to another level. In fact, Jeremiah Zagar said he captured moments with real Philadelphia Sixers players that he couldn’t have faked. He went on to tell ReelBlend:

In fact, Matisse (Thybulle) took – I don't know if you remember this, the credit sequence was one of my favorite parts of the entire movie. But when Matisse falls, he gets knocked out of the air, the entire stadium went quiet. Like, everybody was terrified that he’d gotten really hurt. And then he got up and like, they kind of get into it, him and the other player. That's a real moment that happened in real time during that game, as are all the moments in that game. But that was like, sort of a moment (where) I was like, ‘Wow, it's crazy that we're capturing this.’

You can watch our complete interview with Hustle director Jeremiah Zagar below:

The director wants to continue making films with one of Adam Sandler’s co-stars, even though it might have nothing to do with basketball. And why not? Reviews for Hustle have been solid, making it one of the best Netflix movies available on the streaming service heading into this weekend. Catch up with Hustle soon, if you haven’t yet seen it. It’s great!

Sean O'Connell
Managing Editor

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. Sean created ReelBlend, which he proudly cohosts with Jake Hamilton and Kevin McCarthy. And he's the author of RELEASE THE SNYDER CUT, the Spider-Man history book WITH GREAT POWER, and an upcoming book about Bruce Willis.