Tuesday marks the eight-year anniversary of the Celtics game that Howard went all-in on.

By Derek Lawrence
May 26, 2020 at 03:33 PM EDT
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Warning: This article contains spoilers for Uncut Gems.

This is how he won — and what it cost him.

Tuesday marks the eighth anniversary of Kevin Garnett helping lead the Boston Celtics to the NBA Eastern Conference Finals courtesy of an 85-75 win over the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 7 of their second round series. And this seemingly random milestone happens to come one day after indie darling Uncut Gems arrived on Netflix. Coincidentally, the two will forever be linked, as the series plays a pivotal role in the Adam Sandler-led film from Josh and Benny Safdie, culminating in an adrenaline-filled final 30 minutes that focuses on gambling addict Howard Ratner (Sandler) putting his money — and life — on the line with a bet on Garnett and the Celtics.

We've all made a bet or two in our lives, whether it's an annual Oscars pool or placing $20 on your favorite team to win the Super Bowl during your vacation to Las Vegas. But none of us will ever make a bet like Howard did. After finally offloading his precious opal to Garnett for $165,ooo in cash, Howard decides that instead of paying back the many people he's in debt to, including some very dangerous ones, he's going to put it all on his new friend KG, who believes the opal to be his good luck charm. "This is how I win," declares Howard. "This is going to be one of the best nights of our f---ing lives." With his brother-in-law bookie and henchmen waiting for him, he sends his girlfriend, Julia (Julia Fox), on a $10,000 helicopter ride to the Mohegan Sun to put the rest of the money on the Celtics to win that night's opening tip, Garnett to have at least a combined 26 points and rebounds, and the Celtics to win. For gambling newbies, this was a parlay, so he needs all three to hit to win. In the end, like Garnett famously said after winning the title in 2008, anything is possible — and it would prove to be an incredible bet, paying out at over $1.2 million. It's too bad that Howard would never see a dime as he was shot in the head right after the game concluded.

Despite that killer ending, how truly insane was that gamble? The latest EW investigation breaks down whether Howard was a crazy genius or just crazy.

Celtics win the opening tip

This is insane. Honestly, I don't want to get ahead of ourselves, but I feel like we can almost just make a ruling right now. If I had to pick one moment in Uncut Gems that perfectly demonstrated how bad of a gambling problem Howard has, I would point to this. This is essentially like betting on flipping a coin. And if we're going off of the Uncut Gems timeline of events, then Garnett was in New York City just hours before Game 7 tipped off in Boston. So instead of resting up and getting properly prepared to play, he was driving to another state to buy an opal from a degenerate gambler. Can you imagine what a field day ESPN and the sports talk shows would have had with that? And that information would probably make me more likely to bet against him, at least when it came to the opening tip. Let the man get warmed up and his legs underneath him!

Verdict: Ridiculously insane.

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Garnett has a combined 26 points and rebounds

We already got into the lack of proper warmup routine for Garnett ahead of the game, but let's look at this one in a more statistical sense. Howard decided to combine Garnett's points and rebounds here, with the forward needing 26 in total. For the season, Garnett averaged 16 points and eight rebounds, putting him only at 24, but he picked it up in the playoffs, and particularly in this series. Looking at the first six games, he was over 26 in five of the six, including 31 in Game 6. Plus, not to get too basketball nerdy, but the 76ers' big men were Elton Brand and Spencer Hawes, not guys that who were going to be able to fully keep a player like Garnett off the boards and out of the paint (this very slightly helps Howard's opening tip call).

Verdict: Really smart bet.

Celtics win

In Uncut Gems, Howard says that the 76ers are supposed to win the game, but that might have just been the result of some last-minute heavy action in Vegas, because the Celtics absolutely should have been favored here. As Howard also says, the 76ers had no business even still being alive. In round one, they became only the third No. 8 seed to ever beat the No. 1 seed, but essentially only because Chicago Bulls star and 2011 MVP Derrick Rose tore his ACL in Game 1, resulting him in missing the rest of the series. And while the 76ers were a spunky young team who surprised many with this run, the Celtics were a group of veteran NBA champions, with the core of Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Rajon Rondo having won the title in 2008. Lastly, the game was in Boston and the home teams have won approximately 80 percent of Game 7s in NBA history.

Verdict: Smart bet.

How insane?

F---ing insane. Yes, two of the three elements of the parlay were smart, but, as previously discussed, the tip bet is just reckless. And don't even get me started on the fact that he was making the bets to begin with. Just pay off your debts and live to bet another day!

Related content:

Uncut Gems

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  • Ben Safdie
  • Joshua Safdie

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