Before his tragic death in 2013, Gandolfini — who is best known for playing Tony Soprano on HBO’s The Sopranos — tried bringing James to the Knicks during the summer of 2010. Although James signed with the Miami Heat, it’s worth seeing how far Gandolfini committed to the idea of James in New York.
The Knicks used Gandolfini during their LeBron James pitch in 2010
The New York Knicks had James Gandolfini make LeBron James an offer that he seemingly couldn’t refuse.
James loved The Sopranos, HBO’s hit show about organized crime in New Jersey. When the Knicks tried recruiting James in the summer of 2010, they brought in Gandolfini — a devout New York and New Jersey sports fan — and Edie Falco, who played his on-screen wife, Carmela.
According to NJ.com, Falco and Gandolfini performed a pre-recorded skit that took place after the show’s final season. Gandolfini reportedly wore a fake beard because the Soprano family was in witness protection.
Tony Soprano told his wife that they needed to find a place in New York City for his friend, LeBron James. Carmela used her computer and found the perfect location: Madison Square Garden.
If anything, LeBron at least learned that Tony survived after the show ended in June 2007. Unfortunately for Gandolfini and the Knicks, James didn’t meet with the team again before he signed with the Miami Heat later that month.
James Gandolfini made his own pitch to LeBron James that year
James Gandolfini wanted to see LeBron James suit up for the New York Knicks by any means necessary.
There would be no extortion or beatings in this situation, though. Instead, Gandolfini tried using the age-old strategy of “hearts and minds” to get his way.
According to the New York Daily News, Gandolfini was a presenter at Spike TV’s Guys Choice Awards in June 2010. James was seated in the audience, and Gandolfini made his pitch when he took the podium.
“First things first: LeBron, I would like you to come to New York, if you could. If you miss Cleveland, you just have to drive across the bridge to New Jersey. It’s pretty much the same thing.”
Nets fans, at least the ones who were around when the team played in New Jersey, and Cavaliers fans should recoil in shared pain at that jab.
There have been far worse pitches to athletes
Well, there have been far worse pitches than the ones James Gandolfini made in trying to woo LeBron James.
When Grant Hill met with the Knicks in the summer of 2000, actor Leon Robinson tried selling him on New York because of the women there. Hill’s wife, Tamia, was far from pleased with those comments.
Hill joined the Orlando Magic that summer in a sign-and-trade with the Detroit Pistons.
According to Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Lakers used a voiceover that essentially doubled as a poem to recruit Paul George in the summer of 2018. George stayed with Russell Westbrook and the Thunder.
Perhaps teams should stick to the basics, like money and what players will also be on the team, in their pitches going forward.