Tennis Identity

Flashback footnotes: When a tennis shoe isn’t a tennis shoe

When is a tennis shoe not a tennis shoe? When it's a cross trainer.

John McEnroe shook up the tennis world in more ways than one. His outrageous behavior is well documented, of course. (My favorite tantrum is here, Stockholm 1984.) When he started with Nike, he wore the only real competition shoe they had at the time (if you can believe that,) the Wimbledon. (There was a canvas version, the All Court." Plain white leather, royal blue trim. Eventually, he discovered something…a little different.

As the story goes, he was on a visit to the Nike HQ, when he spotted a prototype cross trainer. He grabbed it, tossed it in his bag, and the rest is history. Andre Agassi would also wear this shoe upon joining the tour. They were at one time reissued, with a small McEnroe logo. A few years back, a new retro Mac Nike line appeared–but it seemed to disappear just as fast.

It's interesting to note that Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are the first two mens tennis players to have their own monogrammed signature Nike line. McEnroe wore the initial Nike "Checkerboard" line, but it never had his name or initials. Same for Agassi with the Challenge Court line, and Courier with his baseball themed Supreme Court line. No personalized name or logo. Even Sampras went without a personal logo line of clothing. The Air Oscillate is widely considered to be "his" shoe, and there's an interesting story on how that came to be.

PS: I do recall writing Nike in the summer of '79. (Imagine- sending a company an actual letter.) I wanted to locate a pair of logo socks like Vitas Gerulaitis was wearing at the USO. They sent me back three pair of socks in Nike bags, plain white; white with two green stripes; and white with two blue stripes, but no swoosh. The note said "they had no plans to market these or expand into clothing at that time."

Someone in Beaverton apparently changed their mind. – Brinke Guthrie

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