How Hustle Picked The Perfect NBA Star To Play The Movie's 'Anti-Hero' Villain

For those of us who watch the NBA, Anthony Edwards has already become must-watch television after being in the league for only two years. Not only is he just a dynamite player who can absolutely suck the souls out of opponents by dunking on them, he is also must-watch for his press conferences and interviews, as he is a genuinely funny guy with a lot of personality. Even his dog (of course named Anthony Edwards Jr.) has a wonderful social media presence. So, when I heard he was in the new Adam Sandler movie "Hustle," I knew I had to check out the film just to see how he would play on screen. Turns out the dude is a star, which should not have been a surprise.

Edwards is a showman, willing and ready to perform when called upon. Whether you need him to drop 25 points in a playoff game (which he averaged on his first trip to the post-season this past year on an average Minnesota Timberwolves team that lost in the first round) or deliver the best on-court s***-talking, he is up for the gig. Frankly, it seems obvious that Sandler and director Jeremiah Zagar would choose Edwards to play the part of Kermit Wilts, chief rival draft prospect to Juancho Hernangómez's Bo Cruz — but he was actually quite a late addition to the production.

Two stories with the same outcome

Adam Sandler is a massive basketball fan, and it's somewhat shocking he hadn't made a basketball movie before "Hustle." He's even cast former players like Shaquille O'Neal in a number of his movies. It shouldn't be surprising that he has his pulse on the league, and in a conversation with Insider, Jeremiah Zagar said that Sandler was the one who brought up the idea of casting Edwards when it came time to shoot all the basketball footage after being enamored by his press conferences:

"We didn't cast Kermit until the second half of filming ... There were a couple of other NBA stars' names thrown around, but when Adam suggest Anthony it just seemed perfect."

However, Sandler has a different story on how Edwards entered the picture. On an episode of The Bill Simmons Podcast, he asserts the suggestion came from the film's other star, Juancho Hernangómez, who had been teammates Edwards' rookie season. Sandler recalled:

"Him and Juancho are very tight, and so Juancho knew we needed a bad guy in the movie that was messing with Juancho's character. And then Juancho just texted us one day ... 'I'm friends with Anthony [Edwards]. We're teammates, and we always go at it when we're practicing and stuff.' And we said, 'Does he want to do it?' 'Yeah, he seems like he wants to do it.'"

My guess is that Sandler wanted Edwards in the movie, but didn't know how to get him, and then fate intervened when Hernangómez brought up the notion. Where both Zagar and Sandler's stories do align is that Edwards worked with acting coach Noelle Gentile to prepare for the film — and to depict a character that wasn't purely evil.

"If Kermit is just a villain he's uninteresting," Zagar told Insider, "but if he's an anti-hero, which is how I see him, if he's more like Michael Jordan than some kind of two-dimensional character, he's more exciting. That's what Anthony brought. [...] That realism and swagger."

Whatever the circumstances surrounding Edwards' casting, we're just grateful he was called upon and delivered in such entertaining fashion.