Kevin Garnett Almost Wasn't The Major NBA Star In Uncut Gems

Adam Sandler in Uncut Gems

Adam Sandler is getting a ton of attention lately for his work in Bennie and Josh Safdie’s Uncut Gems. And rightfully so. The comedian gives an Oscar worthy performance in the tense gambling thriller, and has even threatened to make a painfully terrible movie on purpose if the Academy overlooks his efforts. But alongside Sandler is a stellar performance by NBA legend Kevin Garnett… only, the former Boston Celtic almost didn’t get the chance.

In Uncut Gems, Adam Sandler plays a swindler operating on New York City’s Diamond District, constantly trading in gems from his shop so he can earn money to gamble on NBA games. His worlds collide one day when Kevin Garnett arrives in Sandler’s store. On a recent episode of The Ringer, the brothers admit that they entertained other player options, explaining:

Originally the movie was [Knicks star] Amar’e [Stoudemire]. We went down a little road – it was 10 years that we spent working on this thing. Then we rewrote it, briefly, to maybe do a Kobe thing. But the game has to center around Northeast games. They’d have to come into the city. And then our agents were like, ‘Oh, Kobe wants to act.’ And then, after like a week and a half of slaving over the script, they came back and said, ‘He wants to direct. Never mind.’ I thought, ‘I just rewrote the whole movie to try to fit Kobe’s persona!’

If Kobe Bryant was in Uncut Gems, that would have made the movie my Number One film of the entire decade. Kobe’s the GOAT. KG is fine, but Kobe belongs on a Mount Rushmore of NBA egotism, and he would have been an outstanding foil for Adam Sandler’s misguided gambler.

Alas, with KG, Uncut Gems only ends up being one of the best movie of this year. That’s going to have to be good enough. (This is dripping with sarcasm, by the way.) Here are the brothers, explaining their casting:

The reason why it’s unusual for the Safdies to use Kevin Garnett is because they are die-hard New York Knicks fans, as is the movie’s leading man Adam Sandler. And KG killed the Knicks during his run with the Celtics, so it had to be painful to have to rely on him as a central point in the movie. But he’s so good, especially playing off of Sandler and Lakeith Stanfield.

Now it’s up to the Academy to recognize the movie’s brilliance. And not just Sandler’s performance, but the Picture nomination, and maybe even one for the Safdies in the Best Director category. Would I bet on it? Howard Ratner tells me to double down.

Sean O'Connell
Managing Editor

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. Sean created ReelBlend, which he proudly cohosts with Jake Hamilton and Kevin McCarthy. And he's the author of RELEASE THE SNYDER CUT, the Spider-Man history book WITH GREAT POWER, and an upcoming book about Bruce Willis.