Louis Gossett Jr. Almost Played for the Knicks Years Before His History-Making Oscar Win

The Academy Award-winning actor Louis Gossett Jr. had an amazing journey to Hollywood before passing away at the age of 87. Before becoming well-known for his work in theater and film, Gossett aspired to be a basketball player for the New York Knicks of the NBA.

Gossett started his acting career on Broadway in the early 1950s after growing up in New York City. After graduating from high school, he pursued his love of basketball and was awarded a scholarship to attend NYU. Following his graduation in 1958, Gossett earned a professional contract with the Knicks.

But Gossett’s destiny held more in store for him. Renowned author Lorraine Hansberry called him while he was at the Knicks’ rookie training.

She extended an offer to cast him with Sidney Poitier in the original 1959 Broadway version of “A Raisin in the Sun.” Gossett realized it was time to make a change of direction when he discovered the part came with a sizable payout.

At the time, most professional athletes had less money in their bank accounts than the $700 per diem. Gossett had to make the tough choice to give up basketball in favor of an acting career.

Gossett’s journey into the entertainment industry didn’t stop there. In addition, he was a gifted guitarist who had been playing in Greenwich Village coffee shops in New York. However, he made the decision to leave the music industry behind after landing his first acting role.

Gossett moved to Los Angeles in the 1960s, when he started a lucrative career in movies and television. He won an Emmy and received critical acclaim for his performance in the ground-breaking 1977 TV miniseries “Roots.” His greatest accomplishment, though, was becoming the first Black actor to win the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1983. For his exceptional work as a Marine drill instructor in “An Officer and a Gentleman,” he was awarded this esteemed title.

Throughout his career, Gossett has chosen roles with meaning, such as the stubborn father in “The Color Purple.” He had never planned to retire. Throughout his life, Gossett never wavered in his enthusiasm for his work and his conviction that there was always more for him to achieve.

Louis Gossett Jr. has a long-lasting impact on the entertainment industry. His two adult sons, Satie and Sharron, survive him.

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