- In 2010, LeBron James was the most wanted free agent in NBA history.
- The New York Knicks had an unusual ploy to try and tempt James to the Big Apple.
- Team officials hired James Gandolfini to reprise his role as Tony Soprano in a short film for James.
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In the summer of 2010, LeBron James was possibly the most-sought after free agent in NBA history. His contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers was up, and pretty much every NBA team wanted a piece of him.
Teams tried everything to get his signature, but no plan was as unusual as what the New York Knicks tried.
According to Shattered: Hope, Heartbreak and the New York Knicks, a recent podcast from The Athletic, the franchise hired James Gandolfini to reprise his role as Tony Soprano in a special video to try and lure James to New York.
The never-seen film also featured Edie Falco, who reprised her role as Carmela Soprano for the video, and was shot in Gandolfini’s New York apartment.
“We got those requests all the time back then and [James] Gandolfini, he did nothing,” said Falco on the podcast. “And somehow, he agreed to this thing, which I was shocked by. I thought it was a prank when someone said he’s going to do it.”
The Sopranos, one of the most popular TV shows of all-time, ended ambiguously in 2007, leaving viewers wondering about the fate of Gandolfini’s character when a tense moment in a diner faded to black.
The premise of the 10-minute short aimed at bringing LeBron to New York was that Tony Soprano had not died in the diner as hinted by the show’s ending, and was instead in a witness protection program.
“There he was, dressed as Tony,” Falco said. “He must have been a bigger basketball fan than I realized.”
Falco added that she was surprised the video didn’t work, with LeBron eventually choosing to sign for the Miami Heat, a choice announced in the now-infamous ESPN show The Decision. He went on to win two NBA Championships and two league MVPs with the Heat, before moving back to Ohio in 2014.
“I couldn’t believe that it didn’t work,” she said. “Not so much because of The Sopranos. I just thought, it’s New York. How does anyone say no to New York, for God’s sake? But he did!”
During the podcast, host Chuck D said that staffers from The Athletic tried to track the video down, however it appears to have been lost forever. Or is it in a witness protection program?
*Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey plays*