Michael Jordan’s Nike Agent Donald Dell Is Still a Tennis Dealmaker
He also negotiated Stan Smith's first deal with Adidas
After captaining the Davis Cup team for the United States in 1968 and 1969, tennis player Donald Dell started a law firm that evolved into a sports agency called ProServ.
Though he went on to represent stars like James Worthy, Pete Sampras and Michael Jordan, two of Dell’s earliest clients were Stan Smith and Arthur Ashe.
Dell helped broker the contract Smith signed with Adidas after winning Wimbledon in 1972 and also helped negotiate the deal the two parties reached in 2019 after the apparel brand requested a pact “without an ending.”
“That surprised me but made me very happy,” Dell told Forbes in a new interview. “They have been with Stan for a long time and knew him very well.”
Dell’s relationship with Smith has been lucrative, as has the one he cultivated with Jordan after being introduced to the Hall of Famer by North Carolina coach Dean Smith.
Though he didn’t come up with it, Dell was in the room hammering out Jordan’s first deal with Nike when the term “Air Jordan” was coined. “It was perfect,” he said. “It was an endorsement, but it was so new and different, and it just caught on.”
Still negotiating deals while teaching law at the University of Virginia, Dell has learned that succeeding in life is about relationships and building trust. “If you can do those two things well, you are going to be successful in anything you do,” he said. “The most enjoyable thing for me is the quality and character of the people we represented.”
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