It’s been a busy week for LeBron James, who has proven he can hustle both on and off the basketball court. On Tuesday, James signed on to produce a House Party reboot for New Line, and just 24 hours later, he was involved in the hot spec sale of HUSTLE to Legendary Entertainment.
Taylor Materne wrote the script, and Grammy winner Dave Meyers is set to direct, fresh off working with Kendrick Lamar on the music videos “Humble” and “All the Stars,” the latter of which appears on the Black Panther soundtrack.
The story recalls the 1994 Kevin Bacon comedy The Air Up There. In Hustle, a washed-up basketball scout discovers a Chinese streetball phenom and talks him into coming to Los Angeles to train for the NBA draft. The young phenom is overwhelmed by the transition and struggles with being away from his family, while the scout deals with his own family problems.
In The Air Up There, a college basketball assistant coach who’s gunning for a promotion travels to Africa to recruit a raw prospect and is forced to adjust to a different culture. Clearly, there are some parallels in play, but Hustle also seems to be its own thing, since it’s largely set in America and deals with the pro game.
James and Maverick Carter will produce for Springhill along with Joe Roth, Jeff Kirschenbaum and Zack Roth of Roth/Kirschenbaum Films, which brought the project to James’ reps at WME. Jamal Henderson and Spencer Beighley of Springhill will serve as executive producers. Legendary’s Jay Ashenfelter brought Hustle to the studio, which beat out several other buyers for the project.
Materne has parlayed his time as a successful YA novelist into a thriving screenwriting career, with his Black List script Times Square in development at Focus with Justin Lin attached to direct. He also co-wrote the spy thriller Marseilles, which is based on an original idea by Damien Chazelle.
Springhill is involved as an executive producer on Octavia Spencer’s limited Netflix series On Her Own Ground, about Madam C.J. Walker, while Roth/Kirschenbaum is currently in production on Universal’s The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle, which stars Robert Downey Jr.
No word yet on whether LeBron plans to make a cameo, but I wouldn’t put it outside the rim, er, realm of possibility.
Jeff Sneider | Boston Celtics Fan