Icon: Andre Agassi
Andre Agassi has never been afraid of a little pressure.
When he was 9 years old, his father pit him against NFL legend Jim Brown in a $10,000 tennis match at a Las Vegas country club. Brown initially thought the challenge was a joke, though it’s safe to say the pro shop got a lot less funny when Andre’s father, Emmanuel B. Aghassian, a retired Iranian boxer, put up the family home as collateral, literally betting the house that his pre-tween son could take two out of three from the greatest athlete of all time.
Andre won in straight sets—6-3, 6-3, 6-2—the third of which paid double.
Eleven years later, Agassi, now an unmitigated international sensation, sauntered onto center court at Roland Garros to compete in the first Grand Slam final of his career. This time, though, the pressure was of a different, and far more gruesome, sort: Agassi’s iconic, tri-tone lion’s mane mullet was in fact a wig.
And that wig was falling apart in front of the world…
“The evening before the match,” Agassi revealed in a 2009 autobiography, “I stood under the shower and felt my wig suddenly fall apart. It took 20 clips.” Needless to say, he didn’t play his best tennis the next morning.
“With each leap,” he recalls, “I imagined it falling into the sand. I imagined millions of spectators move closer to their TV sets, their eyes widening and, in dozens of dialects and languages, ask how Andre Agassi’s hair has fallen from his head.”
He lost in four, but it wasn’t even that close. By the end of the week, Agassi had retired the wig for good, referring to it later as “an iron ball” and chain with “ridiculously long strands in three colors.”
That said, Andre Agassi simply would have never been “Andre Agassi” had it not been for those amber waves of awesome, which made way for the lava shoes and the cutoff jean shorts and the summertime sweater vest… all natural fibers.
Image is everything, indeed.
- — C. Brian Smith