Adam Sandler is set to star in Hustle, a basketball-themed Netflix movie involving the NBA that hails from producer LeBron James, Collider has learned.
Jeremiah Zagar, who helmed the acclaimed indie drama We the Animals, will direct from a script by Taylor Materne and Will Fetters that Netflix acquired out of turnaround from Legendary. James and Maverick Carter are set to produce under their Springhill Entertainment banner along with Joe Roth, Jeff Kirschenbaum and Zack Roth of Roth/Kirschenbaum Films, as well as Sandler and his Happy Madison banner. Jamal Henderson and Spencer Beighley of Springhill will serve as executive producers.
The story follows an American basketball scout (Sandler) who is unjustly fired after discovering a once-in-a-lifetime player abroad. The scout decides to bring the player to America to prove that they both have what it takes to make it in the NBA.
What’s interesting about this logline is that it makes reference to the player being discovered “abroad,” but it neglects to identify the country. I don’t know where the player will eventually be from, but Materne’s original script was about a Chinese streetball phenom who travels from China to Los Angeles to train for the NBA Draft, thrusting him into the hype machine of pro basketball prospects. That could still be the plan, but I have a feeling it’s not anymore. Allow me to explain.
I’ve been tracking Sandler starring in Hustle since October 2019. I’ve mentioned it on Twitter, and on my podcast, The Sneider Cut. The idea of Sandler teaming with LeBron was always interesting on its own, but it was especially interesting last October due to the (still ongoing) drama between the NBA and China, which refused to air NBA games following controversial (from China’s POV) comments from Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey that set off an international incident — one that James found himself mixed up in before the season when asked to weigh in on the situation. It’s unclear whether James had planned to film parts of Hustle in China, as the story called for at the time, but I always felt that James was protecting his business interests in China when he spoke out against Morey’s tweet, calling him “either misinformed or not really educated on the situation.”
Regardless of where the young basketball phenom winds up being from, Sandler is a natural fit for this role, as he’s a huge basketball fan who maintains his own basketball court — Happy Madison Square Garden — on the Sony lot in Culver City, where Happy Madison produces the ABC sitcom The Goldbergs. Sandler may root against LeBron in real life, since he’s a big Knicks fan, but now they are teammates on this project. If there’s a mutual connection between the two, it’s Judd Apatow, Sandler’s college roommate who directed LeBron in Trainwreck.
Sandler is red-hot right now, as not only was he nominated for a pair of Emmys this past year for his Netflix special 100% Fresh and hosting Saturday Night Live, but he earned the best reviews of his career for his bravura turn in the Safdie brothers‘ crime drama Uncut Gems. He’s represented by WME and Brillstein Entertainment Partners.
Zagar co-wrote and directed the 2018 movie We the Animals, which boasts a 93 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and he also served as an executive producer on the Netflix documentary Voyeur, about journalist Gay Talese and motel owner Gerald Foos. He’s represented by WME and Untitled Entertainment.