He may have played the villain in the smash hit Netflix movie Hustle, but Team USA guard Anthony Edwards is now a hero to basketball fans in Abu Dhabi.
At age 22, Edwards is already one of the NBA’s brightest young players.
But after sending crowds at the Etihad Arena into a frenzy with a masterful 34-point performance as the US team beat Germany on Sunday, Edwards has proven he is “the guy” on a star-studded Team USA roster, according to his coach.
And the best thing for fans in the city? Edwards is coming back.
His NBA team, the Minnesota Timberwolves, take on the Dallas Mavericks at the same Yas Island venue in the two-game NBA Abu Dhabi Games on October 5 and 7.
Edwards’ 12 fourth-quarter points sealed a 99-91 comeback win against a tough German side also stacked with NBA talent, capping off a fantastic Team USA Showcase series in the capital.
“It has been an incredible week. I think everybody has thoroughly enjoyed Abu Dhabi,” said Team USA head coach Steve Kerr after his team overcame a 16-point deficit.
“Anthony Edwards took over tonight – he was incredible. He's unquestionably the guy. He knows it, but now the team knows it, and I think the fans see it. But we see it in practice every day.
“He genuinely believes he's the best player in the gym every single night. And he's such a dynamic young player. I think he's taking a leap.
“If you think about USA basketball over the years, a lot of young players have taken a leap in these World Cup and Olympic competitions and it feels to me like Anthony is taking that leap.”
Team USA will again be favourite for gold when the Fiba Basketball World Cup tips off in the Philippines, Japan and Indonesia on August 25.
But it will be the NBA season when eyes will be on Edwards, the No 1 pick in the 2020 draft, with many expecting him to compete for All-NBA or even MVP honours by the end of the season.
For now, Edwards was happy to deflect praise to his USA teammates, including Indiana Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton, who hit three huge three-pointers in the third quarter to make the score 74-71 to Germany and ignite the eventual Team USA comeback.
When asked about his starring role in Abu Dhabi, Edwards said: “I've never played for USA before [this summer], so it's super exciting to put it on [the Team USA jersey].
“That was the most fun I have had in a [while]. We were down about 15 at half-time so this was adversity, fight. This was big-time. We fought to the end. And you know, we came out with the win.
“I told [Haliburton] at half-time, we are all starters [with our NBA teams]. We are kind of the best players on our team or you know, in my case, I got (Timberwolves star) Karl-Anthony Towns, but he is the best player on his team.
“So I told him ‘you have got to go out there and be you. I know you pass the ball but you shoot also’. So he came out in the third quarter and got kind of aggressive and put us back in the game.”
But it was Edwards who had the ball in his hands, and his coach’s trust, with the game on the line in the fourth quarter.
When he returns to the UAE in October, Edwards could well have become not only the Timberwolves’ most important player, but one of the league’s best.
Edwards’ new fans in Abu Dhabi will be hoping so.