Robotic, Yes But Dapper

When Pete Sampras took the court at Wimbledon to defend his title on June 20, he wore voluminous shorts bearing the Nike "swoosh"--part of his new megabuck endorsement deal. But the superstar almost didn't get the $18 million, five-year deal. According to a just-issued book on Nike, Donald Katz's Just Do It, senior execs last year decided to pass on Sampras: They figured his "bland" and "robotic" style weren't big selling points with the public. Nike already had aboard the equally colorless Jim Courier--mainly to offset its other big tennis name, Andre Agassi, whose flamboyance disturbed older consumers. So Nike talent scouts saw Sampras as a needless expense.

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