The Grassroots Godfather



He has been very vocal about the hypocrisy that exists in the NCAA.
One of the things Vaccaro has been criticized for is the fact that he is so tightly connected to both sneaker companies and young, impressionable athletes. But since he shut down his ABCD Camp—and even while he was running the camp— Vaccaro has been one of the NCAA’s harshest critics. He’s spoken out against the by-laws and policies that they have in place concerning student-athletes and what they can and cannot do. He’s always spoken up for the young, impressionable athletes that he’s been connected to and has given more credibility to the fact that the NCAA does have a certain level of questionable policies.

He also used the NCAA system to build up the Nike brand.
While he’s been critical of the NCAA, he used the schools that play under the NCAA umbrella in order to help build Nike into a powerhouse back in the 1980s and 1990s. He paid coaches and their teams to wear Nike clothing and sneakers and, of course, they agreed to the arrangement. There was nothing illegal or immoral about the arrangement—it was just the first of its kind—and it helped Nike get more publicity than they possibly could have in any other way. All those logos you see on your favorite college teams now? You can thank Sonny for them.

He put the power back in the player’s hands.
For better or worse, Vaccaro has stuck it to the NCAA by giving players the power to control their own destiny. Rather than sit around and wait for colleges to discover them, Vaccaro’s camps have fueled top player lists on the Internet, which means that at this very moment, you can go discover the best fifth grade players in the country. He has also helped countless players get the exposure that they’ve needed to make it back to the next level. So for every parent who’s complained about Vaccaro’s tactics, there’s been another one right next to them giving Vaccaro props for helping their son get ahead.

He encouraged players to get around the NBA’s age-limit requirement by playing in Europe.
In recent years, Vaccaro has stepped away from the world of summer camps and become more influential on big-ticket items involving players and their futures. Most notably, he’s been vocal about encouraging kids to get around the NBA’s age-limit requirement by going to play in Europe for a year or two in order to make some extra cash and advance their skills. He actually went as far as helping current Milwaukee Bucks guard Brandon Jennings get a sneaker deal and a contract offer in Italy when he expressed his desire to skip college to play overseas. It hasn’t worked out for all players that have done it (see: Jeremy Tyler, who struggled mightily while playing in Israel last year) but Vaccaro has made sure that it’s at least an option for players who don’t want to attend college.

He has remained involved in many NBA-related stories.
From the age-limit requirement to LeBron James’ free agency period, Vaccaro has stayed active in the basketball community by offering up his opinion on just about everything related to youth basketball and the players who have come up under him. And while he may be 71, don’t expect him to give it up anytime soon, either. Basketball is in this guy’s blood—and changing the game is just a part of carrying the Vaccaro name.