Stan Smith at the 2017 International Tennis Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

Stan Smith turns 75 today. To millions around the globe, that might simply be a fashion statement. Various reports state that anywhere from 20 million to 70 million pairs of the shoes that bear Smith’s name have been sold—a product popular not just among tennis players.

A 2014 re-release of the adidas Stan Smith shoes generated publicity from such pop culture figures as Pharrell and Ellen DeGeneres. Models, actors, singers and many more have worn these shoes, a tale told in depth by Smith and others in his 2019 book, Some People Think I’m A Shoe!

Smith first met adidas CEO Horst Dassler during the 1972 French Open, an 11:00 p.m. chat in a Paris nightclub arranged by Smith’s agent and former Davis Cup captain, Donald Dell. By the time their meeting was over, Smith was in business with adidas.

The timing was propitious. A month later, Smith enjoyed one of his finest moments, winning the Wimbledon singles title. The pinnacle of the fortnight came in the finals, Smith beating Ilie Nastase, 7-5 in the fifth set. Having also won the 1971 US Open, at this point in the pre-computer rankings era, Smith was clearly the No. 1 player in the world.


Later in 1972, Smith was the hero of one of the finest Davis Cup efforts in history. The American team was in Bucharest, taking on Romania in the finals. This was in October, weeks after the terrorist attacks of the Munich Olympics that had led to the killing of 11 Israeli athletes and coaches. With two Jewish players on the American team (Harold Solomon and Brian Gottfried), there were strong rumors of terrorism in Bucharest. Heeding that, Team USA was placed in lockdown, its movements limited to the hotel and practice courts.

Meanwhile, inside the lines of the clay courts, Smith and his teammates knew Romania was going to push gamesmanship beyond the limits. On day one, Smith handily beat Nastase. But in the second match, Romania’s Ion Tiriac indeed pulled just about every stunt possible—including successful appeals on many a line call—to rally from two sets to love down to beat Tom Gorman. The next day, though, Smith partnered with Erik van Dillen to easily win the doubles.

On the final day, Smith wrestled with the devious Tiriac. It went to a fifth set. Smith’s challenge was mighty: hit big shots, but keep the ball well inside the lines so as not to risk a bad call. He did this magnificently, hitting 18 winners to beat Tiriac 6-0 in that last set and clinch the Davis Cup for the U.S.


Stan Smith (right) and Rod Laver show off their eponymous adidas shoes.

Stan Smith (right) and Rod Laver show off their eponymous adidas shoes.

That victory marked the fifth straight year Smith had scored the decisive win for the victorious American Davis Cup team. For good measure, Smith notched a sixth clincher in 1979. Four of those victories came in doubles, Smith alongside his long-standing partner, Bob Lutz. He and Lutz are one of the finest teams of the Open Era. Besides their Davis Cup heroics, Smith and Lutz won four US Open doubles titles in three different decades (1968, 1974, 1978, 1980).

Born on December 14, 1946 in Pasadena, California, Smith grew up in tennis-rich Southern California. Though he greatly enjoyed other sports such as basketball, once Smith zeroed in on tennis, he worked with many of the game’s great minds. These included strategic genius Pancho Segura and, most frequently, George Toley, the head pro at the iconic Los Angeles Tennis Club who also did double-duty as the coach at the University of Southern California. Smith was a hard worker, putting in hour after hour to refine his serve-and-volley game. It was a foregone conclusion that he would attend USC. He excelled there, winning the NCAA singles title in 1968 and twice taking the doubles with Lutz.

Smith was an imposing figure, standing 6’4” and repeatedly crushing opponents with sharp serves and crisp volleys. Added to this was first-rate composure and sportsmanship, Smith perpetually unflappable.

Inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame (ITHF) in 1987, Smith also has just completed a decade as the president of the ITHF.