For Fara Leff and Jamal Henderson, bringing together Adam Sandler’s 2022 Netflix basketball drama “Hustle” was not an easy task. Leff, chief operating officer at sports agency Klutch Sports Group, was charged with ensuring that the film’s numerous basketball players repped by her agency made it to set. Anthony Edwards, a Klutch client on the Minnesota Timberwolves who portrays a villainous player in the film, found that the experience was a bit different than expected.

“I will say how hilarious it was to tell Anthony Edwards that they wanted to audition [him], but there’s actors doing auditions too,” Leff said in a panel conversation with Henderson and Todd Burach of City National Bank during the Variety Sports and Entertainment Breakfast presented by City National Bank. “And then getting on the Zoom with every person, and he just froze! He didn’t know what to say.” 

At Klutch, Leff oversees some of the biggest names in sports, including LeBron James, Trae Young, Myles Garrett and A’ja Wilson. Together with Henderson and the production team at the SpringHill Company, the executives ensured that the basketball in “Hustle” was complete with accuracy and a stunning amount of NBA player cameos.

“One of the harder things to do when working with athletes is making that ‘yes’ decision because you’re making it with unknowns,” Leff explained. “‘Hustle’ today is amazing, but we didn’t know when we first had those conversations years and years ago.”

SpringHill has been behind numerous sports-related stories, including 2021’s “Space Jam: A New Legacy.” The company is also currently involved in next year’s “Shooting Stars,” a biopic about LeBron James starring high school basketball phenom Marquis Cook alongside “Stranger Things” star Caleb McLaughlin.

“[Athletes] do a lot of commercial shoots, it’s not the same,” Henderson, chief content officer at the SpringHill Company, said. “We’ve been lucky. A lot of our films have featured athletes, whether it be ‘Space Jam’ or ‘Hustle.’ We just shot a movie for Universal called ‘Shooting Stars,’ which actually features probably the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft.”

While Henderson did not confirm the player who will appear in “Shooting Stars” in an unknown role, NBA analysts and fans alike agree that French player Victor Wembanyama is a once-in-a-lifetime prospect and highly likely to top next year’s draft board. Nevertheless, both executives aim to bring the authentic sports experience to the big screen.

“I think it’s something we’re excited about is bringing that authenticity back into the filmmaking process,” Henderson said.
“Gone are the days when you are gonna see these horrible sports sequences and set pieces. I think we’re gonna push people to up their games. And I think that’s what we can do as a company, is just try to provide that expertise.”

Watch the full conversation in the video above.