Man who helped Michael Jordan become billionaire SCAMMED NBA teams into dismissing Kobe Bryant

The enigmatic Sonny Vaccaro: From Michael Jordan's billion-dollar success to alleged NBA team scamming to discourage them from actively pursuing Kobe Bryant.

Man who helped Michael Jordan become billionaire SCAMMED NBA teams into dismissing Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan (L- Getty and R- USA Today)

In the world of sports, the role of behind-the-scenes figures often goes unnoticed. However, Sonny Vaccaro, a renowned executive in the sneaker industry, played a significant role in shaping the careers of basketball legends. From helping Michael Jordan secure a groundbreaking shoe deal to orchestrating Kobe Bryant’s journey to the Los Angeles Lakers, Vaccaro’s strategic moves left an indelible mark on NBA history.


Now, he sets his sights on NBA rookie Victor Wembanyama, predicting an unprecedented shoe deal for the highly anticipated prospect. In 1996, Sonny Vaccaro, then an Adidas executive, recognized the marketability and potential of a 17-year-old high school prodigy named Kobe Bryant.

Vaccaro facilitated Kobe’s workout with then Lakers GM Jerry West, leaving a lasting impression on the former Lakers legend. Vaccaro understood the importance of Kobe being drafted by the Lakers to maximize his marketability. To ensure that Kobe landed with the Lakers, Vaccaro conspired with Jerry West, keeping other teams at bay.

He spread a rumor among NBA executives that Kobe intended to play basketball in Italy after high school, dissuading potential suitors. Eventually, Jerry West successfully acquired Kobe for the Lakers, setting the stage for five championships, including a remarkable three-peat.


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Sonny Vaccaro’s strategic move Secured Kobe Bryant for Lakers, setting stage for a legendary career

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Kobe Bryant (Credits – Getty Images)

In the 1996 NBA Draft, it was uncommon for NBA teams to select high school prospects as top picks. However, the Charlotte Bobcats (now Hornets) made a significant decision by selecting Kobe Bryant as the 13th overall pick. Interestingly, behind the scenes, there was already a carefully planned deal in place that would ultimately bring Kobe to the Los Angeles Lakers, with Vlade Divac being traded as the center in return.

To prevent other teams, particularly the New Jersey Nets, from acquiring Kobe, Vaccaro spread a rumor among NBA executives that Kobe planned to play in Italy after high school. This strategy successfully deterred other teams from pursuing him, ultimately leading to his acquisition by the Lakers.

In a strategic move to prevent other teams, specifically the New Jersey Nets, from acquiring Kobe Bryant, there was an interesting development orchestrated by Sonny Vaccaro. Vaccaro cleverly spread a rumor among NBA executives, suggesting that Kobe had intentions to play basketball in Italy following high school. This deliberate tactic aimed to discourage other teams from actively pursuing Kobe, ultimately clearing the path for his eventual acquisition by the Lakers.


To delve deeper into the narrative surrounding Sonny Vaccaro’s involvement in the athletic shoe industry and his connection to the basketball icon Kobe Bryant, one may watch the ESPN 30 for 30 episode titled “Sole Man.”

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