The late James Gandolfini tried his best to lure LeBron James to the Knicks, doing so by reprising the role of Tony Soprano in a recruiting video when James was deciding on a team way back in 2010. With the benefit of forward time travel, we all know how that turned out. LeBron signed with the
Knicks and helped them snap a four-decade title drought Heat, won two titles, then the Cavs, won a title, then the Lakers, and won another title.
Oh well, it’s still best to put yourself out there and risk failing than to never try at all.
We actually wrote about this back in June 2013, the day after Gandolfini passed away. But it’s getting play again because it’s mentioned (with more detail) in a recent docuseries podcast called Shattered: Hope, Heartbreak and the New York Knicks.
As the tale goes, Gandolfini and co-star Edie Falco (Carmela Soprano) were called upon to try and help nudge James to the Big Apple. The reason is that LeBron was reported to be a big fan of the show. Deadline writes that producer Rocco Caruso was also called upon to make the team’s video.
“They thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if we could somehow start the piece with The Sopranos?’ because it had just more or less ended,” Caruso recently said. “And I said, ‘I know Edie…I could send her an email,’ and she said ‘Great. I’ll do it.’”
Falco also reflected on the experience. She added that it was definitely a big deal because Gandolfini agreed to participate in it.
“I do remember doing it, and what is absolutely amazing to me is I didn’t know who LeBron James was,” the actress recalled. “We got those requests all the time back then and Jim Gandolfini, he did nothing. And somehow he agreed to this thing, which I was shocked by. I thought it was a prank when someone said Jim’s going to do it.”
The scene was filmed in Gandolfini’s New York apartment.
“And there we were, dressed as our characters. And I was thinking, ‘This can’t possibly be happening,’” Falco added.
As for the scenario, according to Caruso the idea was that the Sopranos were James’ friends, and that they were going to hook him up with a place to live (that place being Madison Square Garden).
Counter to how he looked during the series, Gandolfini had a thick beard at the time. That was explained as Tony being in the witness protection program (note it’s not canon, you can still have your personal theories regarding the series finale).
“So we rewrote the script around that [premise],” Caruso continued.
In keeping with the theme above, Falco also remembered Gandolfini being very behind the idea, saying, “There he was, dressed as Tony. … He must have been a bigger basketball fan than I realized.”