What if Howard Bet On the Atlanta Hawks in Uncut Gems?

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 11: Adam Sandler arrives at the premiere of A24's "Uncut Gems" at The Dome at Arclight Hollywood on December 11, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 11: Adam Sandler arrives at the premiere of A24's "Uncut Gems" at The Dome at Arclight Hollywood on December 11, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images) /

Imagining a world in which Howard Ratner from ‘Uncut Gems’ bets on the Atlanta Hawks.

If you haven’t seen the 2019 Adam Sandler movie Uncut Gems, you’re doing yourself a disservice. It’s an exhilarating look into New York’s diamond district and the ever-treacherous world of sports gambling. If you’re wondering how the movie in any way relates the Atlanta Hawks, hang with me.

Major Spoilers for Uncut Gems below.

A major plotline of the film has main character Howard Ratner betting on the Celtics — Kevin Garnett in particular — during the 2012 NBA playoffs. The Celtics are playing the 76ers in the second round, and KG comes to Howard’s jewelry store between games.

Howard scraps a bet he originally placed on other games after KG has a spiritual connection with a black opal. Howard, seeing the obvious impact it had on him, then bets exclusively on Boston and Garnett. He later bets on Boston to win game 7 of the series, noting Philly “isn’t supposed to be here.”

He’s exactly right — they weren’t supposed to be there. The 76ers were the eighth seed in the playoffs, and likely only advanced to the second round in the first place thanks to Derrick Rose‘s ACL tear in the round one.

Just below them on the bracket are the 4th seed Boston Celtics facing off with the Atlanta Hawks in the first round, eventually beating them in six games. But here’s how everything could change.

If the Hawks were able to pull the slight upset and advance to the second round, it would have been them facing off with the Sixers who weren’t “supposed to be here.” It’s not that unthinkable either, with the Hawks taking game one of the series. They lost the next three games, but were right there in games two and three, which were both close.

They won game five to stay alive, and lost game six by just three points. A potential game seven would have taken place in Atlanta, and the Hawks had a 23-10 record at Phillips in the lockout-shortened regular season. If they managed to defeat the aging C’s in game seven, they would be heading to Philly for at least two games — a quick drive away from Howard’s New York diamond shop. A drive that KG and Howard himself both make multiple times in the movie.

Now the Hawks didn’t have anyone as high-profile or flamboyant as Garnett, but they did have noted jewelry lover Joe Johnson, their leading scorer that season. Later in 2012, Johnson was sued by Aydin & Company for allegedly taking jewelry worth more than $250,000 but not paying for it. In the movie, KG takes the opal without paying for it (but giving his championship ring as collateral), which was reappraised for just under $250,000.

In this timeline, after the Hawks upset the Celtics in round one, it’s Joe Johnson who becomes intrigued by the opal, and now Howard is betting on the 7-time All-Star also known as Iso Joe. From there, he rest plays out basically the same as the movie, just with a different player/team.

In the finale, Howard finally sells the opal to KG, but instead of using the money to pay off his many debts, attempts to multiply it by placing a huge parlay on game 7 while giving the now-famous “this is how I win” speech.

He could set that same bet on Joe Johnson and the Hawks, but there would be one major difference: location.

The game would be played in Atlanta, not Boston. Atlanta is not across the country or anything, but it’s much further away than Boston. KG likely caught a quick flight up to New England that took an hour, maybe less.

For Johnson, it would be at least four and a half hours of round trip air time, possibly more. Not ideal for a player on the day of game seven.

Johnson gets Howard his money for the stone, through a wire transfer or a third party, but he’s not there personally. The “this is how i win” speech (sadly) does not happen, and with nobody in his office, Arno and his henchmen don’t wait in the lobby for Howard.

They get the money. Howard lives.

There is no mega-parlay placed on the Hawks, Howard doesn’t lock his eventual killers in the airlock and because it’s the Atlanta Hawks, the 76ers are probably going to the Eastern Conference Finals as the 8th seed.

There’s a case to be made that Howard was always going to die, even if he had the money. When he texts Julia to stick her neck out the next door window, the henchmen are talking about the nice looking (and very expensive) watches and jewelry they end up stealing after the final murder.

Whether they hatched the idea to rob the place before coming up, right then, or in the airlock later, there’s a scenario in which Howard never lives, even if he pays Arno.

But for thematic purposes here, I’m choosing to believe that if the Atlanta Hawks beat the Boston Celtics in round one of the 2012 playoffs, everything would be different. Joe Johnson is the one who falls in a hypnotic love with the opal, and without a realistic way to be in New York and in Atlanta on the night of game seven, gets the money to Howard indirectly.

That saves Howard from placing the spur-of-the-moment gigantic parlay and saves his life in the process.

As for the basketball side of all of this, whoever wins game seven between the Hawks and Sixers lose to LeBron James and the Heat in the next round, and King James still rolls to his first ring.

Howard lives and is free from his biggest debt, but knowing his character, gets back into trouble sooner rather than later. At the very least, he bought himself some time to figure his life out.

Mock Draft 2.0 After NCAA Season suddenly ends. dark. Next

All this leads me to one last question: what would Howard be betting on in 2020 with no sports going on thanks to the Coronavirus?