Tennis Prose



Jim Brown’s Favorite Tennis Players

I was lucky to do a Biofile with the NFL great running back Jim Brown in 1999 and was surprised, not only to learn he likes tennis, but who some of his favorite tennis players are.

Brown was an NFL Hall of Fame running back for Cleveland Browns from 1957-1965 and also a successful Hollywood actor for five decades. One of his most famous roles was in the 1967 smash hit ‘The Dirty Dozen.’

If you are not familiar with Jim Brown, he is a big strong fierce looking six-foot-two, 230 pound black man, in fact he is the most intimidating presence I ever faced to do a Biofile interview. Before approaching Jim at a Wheaties cereal press conference in 1999, I contemplated chickening out, in fear that he might object to my offbeat questions like favorite ice cream flavor or funny football memory. And verbally chastise me for wasting his time with such ridiculous questions.

But I mumbled to myself, What the heck, and carefully stepped up to the hulking figure who was standing alone at the moment. He casually agreed to my proposal to do a quick interview on the spot and actually turned out to be a very friendly, smiling, engaging subject, enjoying the oddness of the questions to much he elaborated in great detail on some, including favorite athletes he likes to watch.

Favorite Athletes To Watch?  

Jim Brown: “I always like to watch Mike Tyson fight. Vinny Testaverde – I know his family. To see him play so well is a great joy for me. Venus and Serena Williams. Pete Sampras. Always liked John McEnroe. David Duval, Tiger Woods and Mark O’Meara. To look at a man like Mark who loves Tiger and has been such a balancing friend to him – to see him become PGA Player of the Year last year (1998)…it’s so beautiful to me. Earl Campbell… could go and do 80 yard drives, run over people, run around people, straight-arm them, knock ’em out! I loved him. But for three years I loved John Riggins. I felt when John was with ‘The Hogs’ he was as great as anybody that ever played the game. And Gale Sayers.”

Brown, I would later learn, was once an avid tennis player and had a very memorable experience in the 80s in Las Vegas playing a kid named Andre Agassi in a money match, which Andre dedicated several pages to in his book “Open” recalling the encounter with “the greatest football player of all time.”

Jim Brown lived in Vegas back then and played a lot of money matches at the Cambridge Club. One day an opponent chickened out and Brown was annoyed and ready and eager to set up another money match. Mike Agassi happened to be there and offered for Brown to play his nine-year-old son Andre.

Brown was offended at the challenge: “I ain’t playing no eight-year-old boy!”

“I don’t play for fun, I play for money.”

At first Mike Agassi wanted to bet $10,000 on Andre but the club owner warned Brown not to play the tiny prodigy. The terms were changed to play two sets for fun and then the parties would decide on a wager amount for a third set.

Andre won the two sets 63 63.

Mike Agassi then asked Jim if he wanted to do the $10,000 bet for the third set? Jim Brown talked it down to $500.

In Andre’s book “Open”, Andre described Brown’s game in the third set: …”Mr. Brown is thinking more, playing a less relaxed game. He’s suddenly junking, dtop-shotting, lofting lobs, angling the ball at the corners, trying backspin and sidespin and all sorts of trickery. He’s also trying to run me, back and forth, wear me out. But I’m so relieved not to be playing for the entire contents of my father’s safe that I can’t be worn out and I can’t miss. I beat Mr. Brown 6-2.”

Brown then asked Andre what his goals and dreams are? Mike answered for Andre, “He’s going to be no. 1 in the world.” To which Brown responded, “I wouldn’t bet against him.”

Jim Brown’s Career Accomplishments: NCAA All-American in football and lacrosse (midfielder) at Syracuse; Won NFL Championship with Cleveland Browns in 1964; 9-time Pro Bowler; 8-time NFL rushing leader; 5-time NFL touchdown leader; Retired as NFL MVP and all-time rushing leader at age 29 after 1965 season.

You can read the full Jim Brown Biofile at

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1 comment

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 21, 2021 at 5:28 pm

    Just imagine losing $500 to a nine year old kid on a tennis court. No wonder Jim Brown became a Sampras fan )



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