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Saturday, May 18, 2024

Mythical Knicks Pitch to LeBron James With ‘Sopranos,’ Trump, Weinstein Leaks 14 Years Later

  • The video’s details have been known for years, but was never leaked to the public. 
  • James ultimately spurned the Knicks for the Miami Heat, where he won two championships.
Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Unlike Tony Soprano, LeBron James surely had the makings of a varsity athlete.

The fictional character and very real basketball legend crossed paths in 2010, when “Tony Soprano”—alive and in New York City—recruited James to the Knicks. Video of the ultimately unsuccessful recruiting pitch was aired by the Pablo Torre Finds Out podcast on Tuesday. It was the last time James Gandolfini played Tony Soprano, The Athletic had previously reported in 2021.

The 2010 video, which also features Edie Falco reprising her role as Carmela Soprano, has a parade of A-list celebrity cameos that have aged poorly, including appearances by former president Donald Trump, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, and convicted rapist Harvey Weinstein.

The 10-minute “City of Winners” video includes celebrities like Robert de Niro and Knicks legends such as Walt Frazier, Bill Bradley and Earl Monroe. Most of the names associated with the video have been known for years, but it never seemed like it would see the light of day. 

James famously signed with the Miami Heat that summer and would lead the team to two championships, which briefly made him a villain in Cleveland, but was said to have enjoyed the pitch, according to the 2021 Athletic story. The video depicts Falco and Gandolfini, both Knicks fans, reprising the roles of their iconic characters one last time together as they look at real estate listings for James, should he move to New York. Gandolfini had a bigger beard at the time than Tony ever did, and worked that into a storyline where he had entered the witness protection program, which somehow sent him just across the Hudson River instead of a more remote location.

Gandolfini passed away three years later due to a heart attack, but the show has increased in popularity partially thanks to streaming despite being off the air for nearly two decades. The video was such a secret that both its director and producer had no idea of its whereabouts when speaking to The Athletic three years ago. 

“Once it was mastered and delivered, it was in this secret briefcase,” director Jonathan Hock said. “Like the guys in the diamond district who have the briefcase handcuffed to their wrist.”

So where did it come from now?  Did the organization send it out willingly? Did someone find an old copy somewhere?

It doesn’t hurt that it was leaked days before the start of the NBA playoffs, where the Knicks are the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference and have made the playoffs three of the past four seasons. Perhaps the optics were better to leak it now than it would have been at any point in the past decade, when the Knicks had mixed results and a plethora of bad headlines

Ironically, one of the biggest reasons for the Knicks turnaround happens to be team president Leon Rose, who was hired to run the front office in 2020. 

Rose’s job in 2010 when the pitch ran? James’ agent. 

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