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30 for 30: ‘Sole Man,’ Chapter 5 — The LeBron Affair

The fifth chapter of the latest 30 for 30, ‘Sole Man,’ flashes back to Sonny Vaccaro’s first glimpse of LeBron James, whom Vaccaro declared to be the greatest high school player he’d ever seen — after only 10 minutes in a pickup game. With Adidas losing out to Nike for LeBron’s signature, Sonny indulges in what could have been.

Once upon a time, LeBron James wore Adidas Kobes. That was back in high school, when Sonny made sure that LeBron’s St. Vincent–St. Mary’s team was outfitted in Adidas jerseys, sweatbands, and shoes. The two first met when James was a sophomore, and after seeing him in a private audition, Sonny declared him to be the best high school player he had ever seen — which revved up the hype machine for King James. He might still have three stripes on his shoes today instead of a swoosh if Nike hadn’t outbid Sonny with a seven-year deal worth a staggering $93 million. 

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Chapter 1: “How Sonny Became Sonny”
Chapter 2: “The Jordan Effect”
Chapter 3: “Kobe and the Gunslinger”
Chapter 4: “There Are Victims Here”

Click here for the sixth and final chapter of Sole ManThe film will make its prime-time television debut on Thursday, April 16, at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN.