Day 6

Sonny Vaccaro: Confessions of a sneaker pimp

Former Nike promoter Sonny Vaccaro launched the "Air Jordan" era when he persuaded NCAA coaches and teams to wear Nike products. But now, he's one of the NCAA's most vocal critics. With March Madness about to begin, Brent speaks with Sonny Vaccaro, a man once known as the "sneaker pimp."
Sonny Vaccaro at National Institute for Fitness and Sport. (Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)

Brent speaks with Sonny Vaccaro, also known as the godfather of basketball sneaker culture, about his "brilliant idea" — his words — to persuade NCAA coaches and teams to wear brand name products like Nike, Adidas and Reebok.

LeBron James #23 of Team West stands alongside Roundball Chairman Sonny Vaccaro during the EA Sports Roundball Classic game against Team East at United Center. (NBAE/Getty Images)

In 2007, Sonny Vaccaro severed ties with shoe companies, criticizing a system he helped create for its extortion of athletes and its detrimental effect on young players' growth.

He was a driving force behind the incredibly lucrative relationship between Nike and Michael Jordan, and an instrumental element in the commercialisation of college sports.

He was also the subject of the ESPN 30-for-30 documentary Sole Man.