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Adam Sandler: The Cinematic Hoop King

Last Updated: September 26, 2022
The actor joins Rich Kleiman to talk about his new Netflix film “Hustle” and how LeBron James helped him convince some of the NBA’s biggest stars to take their talents to the big screen.

Click here to listen to the full episode.

For Adam Sandler, ball has always been life.

“I love the game. I love what it did for me growing up. Not just playing, but watching,” Sandler told Rich Kleiman on this week’s episode of the “Out of Office.”

As a kid, Sandler found himself on the court as much as possible, playing on what he describes as “every team who would take me.” With the more minutes he logged, his confidence soared. Unfortunately, so too did the quality of his competition.

“Before you had to be strong, I was pretty good because I could hit my shots. Then when the guys started getting stronger and banging and stuff, then I started being like, ‘ooh, maybe I’m not meant for this.'”

Although his hoop dreams were dashed, he still gets to live them out in his newest Netflix film, Hustle. To make the film, he tapped in the biggest name in the sport to help him create something truly special. In this week’s episode of the podcast, Sandler discusses the evolution of his career, what it’s like to work with LeBron James, and how hiring NBA stars lightens up your production time.

Coming up in the industry, Sandler became famous for his comedic roles. From Billy Madison to Happy Gilmore, he’s responsible for the quotable characters of a generation. But in recent years, he has shed his funny-guy stamp and adopted more dramatic roles.

Hustle allows Sandler to blend his two loves: acting and hoops. But he wasn’t satisfied to make just any film.

“I see movies, I see a baseball movie, a guy playing a baseball player. I see him throw the ball and I go, oh my God, he doesn’t play baseball and he’s playing a superstar,” Sandler said.

He was intentional about avoiding that. And when he got LeBron and his production company to sign on, he opened the doors to make something “raw and real.” He told Kleiman that he aimed to make things “like what you see on a playground and what you see when the superstars actually play together. [We wanted to create] the feeling of that.”

With an all-star cast that includes Juancho Hernangomez and Anthony Edwards, they were able to do just that. “We tried to be as smooth as we can. The guys in it all did it legit.”

Plus, with their finely tuned skills, most shots took just one take.

Sandler himself got to play a familiar role with a similar level of art imitating life. As Stanley, he channeled one of his greatest role models of all time.

“My dad is Stanley,” he said. “He was Stanley Sandler and everybody loved my dad and he coached all my teams.”

“And I thought of him a lot when I was doing Stanley. He always gave himself to whoever he was coaching … He just was like, ‘how do I make this one particular guy think straight, push him the hardest I can push him, and know that he’s got someone who loves him backing him up.’ That was kind of like my dad.”

And his coaching in the film also translated to coaching these pros on the ins and outs of acting. However, he’s quick to note it wasn’t a difficult task.

“They made it,” he said. “Because they take it serious, it made our jobs easier.”

When he’s not on set, Sandler can still be found with a ball in his hands. Kleiman recalls passing him on Madison Ave while Sandler was practicing his handles on the sidewalk.

“I got a good life, man. I lucked out,” Sandler said. “I get to think of something. I get to write it. I get to do it.”

At 55, Adam Sandler is on top of his game.

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About The Author
Bernadette Doykos
Bernadette Doykos
Bernadette Doykos is the Senior Director of Editorial Strategy at Boardroom. Before joining the team, her work appeared in ELLE. She previously served as the head of evaluation for a nonprofit where she became obsessed with systems and strategy and served as the curator of vibes and extinguisher of fires for the design thinking firm Stoked. She is constantly plotting a perfect tunnel ‘fit and a playlist for all occasions.