ESPN Spotlights Sonny Vaccaro in New 30 for 30 Film, ‘Sole Man’

Foot Locker x Air Jordan ad
Foot Locker's ad for the Air Jordan Russell Westbrook.
Courtesy photo

ESPN is set to release its next installment of the critically acclaimed “30 for 30” documentary series with “Sole Man,” a look into the life of former sports-marketing executive Sonny Vaccaro. The documentary will air April 16 at 9 p.m.

Until the TV premiere, clips of the episode will be released online daily via Grantland.com, from April 6-10.

The film showcases Vacarro’s influence on the sneaker industry and basketball, including his role in Nike’s “Air Jordan” campaign; paying college coaches to have their teams wear Nike shoes; and promoting youth basketball via his ABCD camp, a showcase of high school ballers for pro scouts.

The now 75-year-old Vaccaro has worked for Nike, Reebok and Adidas and has brokered shoe deals for current and former NBA stars, including Kobe Bryant and Tracy McGrady.

Vaccaro was also a central figure in former NBA and UCLA star basketball player Ed O’Bannon’s lawsuit against the NCAA for its use of former student-athlete images for commercial purposes. The result of the lawsuit was a ruling that the NCAA’s limits on what football and men’s basketball players are allowed to receive for playing sports is an unreasonable restraint of trade and a violation of antitrust laws.

The NCAA began its appeal of the ruling in March.

“Considering that Sonny Vaccaro’s much-debated influence on basketball has spanned five decades, played [a role] in so many defining stories within his larger narrative and touched so many huge names, like Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Phil Knight, we thought this “’30 for 30′ [documentary] warranted an unprecedented rollout,” said John Dahl, executive producer and VP of ESPN Films, in a statement.