Safdie Brothers Sit Down With Kevin Garnett to Discuss Uncut Gems, Celtics Prejudice


Kevin Garnett is set to star as himself alongside Adam Sandler in the upcoming Safdie flick Uncut Gems.


Yes, you read that right. Former Celtics power forward and 15x NBA All-Star Kevin Garnett has made his first official post-retirement foray – into acting. The film, which offers a fictionalized account of the events leading up to the Celtics’ victory over the 76ers during the 2012 playoff series, centers on Garnett borrowing a mysterious black opal from a dishonest jeweler (Sandler) whose gambling debts driving him into increasingly desperate acts of fraud. New York natives and longtime Knicks fans Josh and Benny Safdie sat down with ESPN to talk about their initial reluctance to cast a Celtics player in the film and how they grew to reconcile KG with their love of their childhood in Manhattan.

“It started with Amar’e Stoudemire, who was a Knicks player in 2010. That’s when we started the project. He’s famously a Black Jewish person, so the themes of the movie presented themselves in that way…Amar’e is a very spiritual person,” Josh Safdie told Indiewire.

But Stoudemire was unavailable for the role and negotiations about his replacement soon put a drag on production. Kobe Bryant was approached to star but never formally attached. Joel Embiid was interested but too busy with practice. After burning through at least half a dozen other players, the Safdie brothers agreed to meet with Kevin Garnett and were immediately convinced they had their man.


“I realized after meeting him that I didn’t know his real voice. I had to learn that voice. He’s eloquent. He’s a great storyteller,” Josh Safdie said of meeting him for the first time. “I wrote for that voice. And he worked really hard.”

Uncut Gems pays loving tribute to the highs and lows (and lows) of being a Knicks fan and the powerful American fascination with sports and superstition. Both Safdies admitted they had reservations about casting KG because they didn’t want a Celtics player on the project – their loyalty to the Knicks was just that strong – but they were happy to be proven wrong.

Garnett and his Celtics family were just as happy with the outcome of the film. Celtics’ Wyc Grousbeck even approached the Safdies after a private screening to thank them: “There is some supernatural power inside KG, the idea it would come from a gem is perfect and believable.” Watching Kevin Garnett knock down 17 shots out of 22 attempts against the Timberwolves, or score the game-winning points in the final seconds against the Pistons, it’s not hard to imagine he had a magic black opal granting him otherworldly strength and speed. It’s almost harder to imagine he didn’t.

Uncut Gems is in theaters everywhere December 25th.

*All images courtesy of Instagram.

Tess Pollok
Tess Pollok is a sports writers and social media manager reporting on the latest trends in bodybuilding, fitness, and strength sports. She also focuses on community engagement with our ever-growing social media network.