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James Gandolfini made Tony Soprano video in 2010 to try to lure LeBron to Knicks

The Sopranos Final Episode Filming In New Jersey

BLOOMFIELD, NJ - MARCH 22: (ITALY OUT; NEWSDAY, NY DAILY NEWS OUT) Actor James Gandolfini (R) and actress Edie Falco pose on site for the filming of the final episode of “The Sopranos” March 22, 2007 in Bloomfield, New Jersey. (Photo by Arnaldo Magnani/Getty Images)

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No, Tony Soprano was not killed in the legendary everything-goes-black ending of The Sopranos.

We have proof of that thanks to the Knicks’ attempt to recruit LeBron James to New York.

In 2010, before The Decision, LeBron met with several teams, who made their pilgrimage and laid out their pitch for him to leave Cleveland for their city. The Knicks got their foot in the door — one of their last chances to pull a superstar to the city (a trend that may be changing under the new regime) — and recruited James Gandolfini and Edie Falco to reprise their roles as Tony and Carmela Soprano for a video as part of the recruitment. The story came to light through the podcast series “Shattered: Hope, Heartbreak and the New York Knicks” put together by The Athletic. They also sent writer Mike Vorkunov to track down the video (he could not, it appears to be lost to time).
Gandolfini, a big Knicks fan, agreed to do a separate scene at his Manhattan apartment. Then [Producer Rocco] Caruso got an idea. He had gone to college with Falco, and the two knew each other. Perhaps she would be interested.

She was, and The Hollywood Reporter talked to her about the video.

“I do remember doing it and what is absolutely amazing to me is I didn’t know who LeBron James was,” the actress said, laughing. “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 premise of the scene was the Sopranos were friends of James and they were going to find him a place to live, which was ultimately Madison Square Garden, Caruso recalled.

Gandolfini at the time had a thick, full beard which the actor said could be explained by saying Tony entered the witness protection program. “So we rewrote the script around that,” Caruso said.

Unfortunately, nobody outside LeBron and the people in that room have seen the video. It didn’t work, the Knicks’ meeting with LeBron was a legendary disaster, and in the end LeBron took his talents to South Beach and won a couple of rings with the Heat.

Obviously, without Sopranos showrunner David Chase involved, we can’t call this an official extension of the groundbreaking show. However, as a big Sopranos fan (I just finished re-watching the entire series during lockdown), I have never bought the popular theory that the sudden ending was a sign of Tony getting whacked. I think it was a vignette of his life showing how he had to view everything as a threat, even a fun dinner with his family. The life of Tony as a mob boss was in part the threat he could be killed anywhere at any time, and he had to see the world that way, and the ending was a glimpse into that. Chase wants to leave the ending open to interpretation, and I choose to interpret it as Tony Soprano lived on.

And now, the Knicks have proved that... kind of.