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James Gandolfini isn’t going to wait to find out if Tony Soprano has done to his career what Superman did to George Reeves. No, we don’t mean that Ben Affleck will one day play him in a middling movie, but that he’s about to find out if he can ever play a role without bringing the mobster to mind.
And he’s not making it any easier by returning to HBO to play a real-life figure whose name at least sounds like it’s straight out of Sopranosland.
He’ll star as tough guy sports marketer Sonny Vaccaro, the man who signed Michael Jordan to the first million-dollar shoe deal at Nike, in the movie ABCD Camp. Gandolfini will executive produce through his Attaboy Films company, along with a few others including Baron Davis, the star guard for the Golden State Warriors.
So what’s so dramatic about Sonny boy?Vaccaro launched the careers of dozens of NBA stars, including LeBron James and Tracy McGrady, and made millions brokering deals with college coaches to outfit teams in brand-name shoes, and then signing multimillion-dollar shoe-endorsement deals with Jordan, Kobe Bryant and others.
He’s also been compared to Tony Soprano and accused of destroying the game basketball. Working for Nike, then Adidas and Reebok, Vaccaro was the target of the NCAA, as the governing body of college athletics tried to restrict the compensation of amateur athletes.
David Aaron Cohen, who wrote the Friday Night Lights movie, pitched and will write the drama about Vaccaro’s last youth basketball camp. So there might not be any whackings, but there’s bound to be some drama.