Still, when it comes to his charity work, irresistibility is everything. This guy is not just cutting some checks and donning a tux once a year. He’s living this stuff. Life after tennis, he says, is a “canvas to impact people in a much more profound way for a much longer period of time than just two hours on the tennis court.” And there’s already plenty of paint on that canvas. Agassi can see it everywhere he goes in Las Vegas. Take a couple of years ago, when he was having Easter brunch at a restaurant there with his family, his whole family, including Graf, the kids — Jaden (five years old) and Jaz (three years old) — and various others, for a total of 16 people. In the middle of that crowd, a restaurant worker managed to approach Agassi. “He had been in gangs,” Agassi says. “But one day, he went to the Boys & Girls Clubs, which we support here, and he said the opportunities there got him off the streets, changed his life. He’s now been working for several years and has a family on the way. He said he would be dead if it weren’t for the Boys & Girls Clubs.
“There are many stories of lives that are affected, and many you don’t even know. That’s the fun part, the ripple effect. It’s not even a ripple effect — it’s like a tsunami. It starts small, and it ends huge. You change a child’s life now, and how they affect the world, well, that’s undiscovered. So you just wait with anticipation.”
If you’re Andre Agassi, while you’re waiting, you and your pals Lance Armstrong and Mia Hamm, along with some other very successful names in sports, found Athletes for Hope (www.athletesforhope.org), an organization aimed at helping the rich and famous and strong and fast connect with the best charities. “I started my foundation because I got tired of giving my time and money only to see that the money never made it to where it was intended to go,” Agassi says. “What we want to do is to help other athletes avoid those problems. They’ve got only a limited amount of time in a career as it is. They need to be focused.”
Are you seeing it yet? His school may go. His foundation may help create other foundations. It’ll create a tsunami of change. And one day, as Agassi envisions it, kids won’t be looking up to athletes because they’re rich or because they wear neon shirts and cool sneakers. No, he sees it like this: “Just imagine a child one day dreaming not of being in a commercial but of changing a life. That would be something.”