Joey Yates Collection

Who is Joey Yates?

Born 1965 in Detroit, Michigan, JOSEPH ‘LOVE’ YATES dropped out of high school his sophomore and headed to Los Angeles at the height of the southern Californian freestyle sports movement. Joey’s contemporaries made a name for themselves in skateboarding, surfing, martial arts… Joey Yates chose tennis.

He took tennis from the country clubs to the concrete public courts of LA’s inner city with an unorthodox, free-form style that shook the foundation of American tennis culture and gave voice to a working class generation previously shut out of the sport. Sneaking into athletic clubs, playing for money, Joey Yates became the first great tennis “hustler”.

In the early 1980′s Yates built his street legend beating the best players in San Fernando Valley, slamming backhand shots across the net from film producers, making big money and sharing his winnings with his community.

In 1982, he met up with renowned tennis coach BOBBY “DUTCH” GRISBI (died 2002). Grisbi, known for reforming troubled youth through athletics, became a father figure for Yates, setting him on the path to the 1984 Olympics.

Under Dutch, the world started to learn about Joey Yates. What started in southern California spread to New York City, then to London, infecting the 1980′s tennis culture with Joey’s raw talent and personality. Even as an amateur, Joey gained “rock star” status, building a reputation for parties and drinking that rivaled his work on the court.

Dutch tried to pull Yates away from the edge, but the same raw energy that fueled Joey’s play style also fueled his private life.

In January of 1983 Joey checked himself into rehab, but left after just two days, returning to the sport. Despite his personal struggles, Yates continued to win under Dutch’s coaching. By the spring of 1983 Joey Yates was the the most exciting amateur player in the world of Tennis.

That spring, Joey Yates became the first athlete to be signed to K-Swiss and his unique style inspired the brand to develop a line of original apparel that represented Joey’s renegade spirit.

Joey took the deal on one condition: he wouldn’t approve the final K-Swiss designs until he had Olympic gold.

Tennis took center stage at the 1983 Olympic qualifiers. The 1984 Olympics would be the first time that tennis was featured in the Olympic games since the 1960′s, and if the sport succeeded then it would officially be a medal sport in the 1988 games. The high stakes drew talent from across the world to what became a competition for the modern soul of the sport. Joey Yates was different than his elite peers. He was dangerous, reckless, irresponsible, but those who knew him believed he was one of the best players in the world.

The morning of his first qualifier match, Yates never showed up to the court. Without reason, Joey Yates went into self-imposed exile, splitting from Dutch Grisbi and walking away from the sport.

The Joey Yates K-Swiss collection remained unfinished, vaulted, still awaiting Joey’s approval.

What Happened to Joey Yates?

Eventually, the sports world moved on from the question, but aficionados of tennis and southern Californian culture kept Joey’s legend alive. In the early 1990′s, archived video footage of Joey’s matches was chopped into skateboarding and streetball VHS tapes, bootlegged back into the spotlight.

Now people understand that Joey Yates brought personality to professional tennis…but no one knows where Joey Yates is. There are rumors that he’s hiding out in Europe, that he found God and he’s recovering from drinking. Some people even think he’s dead.

He’s not dead. K-Swiss found him.

In 2011, K-Swiss reconnected with Joey Yates bringing him out of exile to finish what they started in the 1980′s: the Joey Yates tennis collection of apparel and sneakers, a vintage collection, 30 years in the making, infused with the spirit of the 1980′s and the pure authenticity of Joey Yates.