Phil Knight, the pioneering business executive who recently announced he’d step down as Nike chairman in June, said that after earning his Master’s degree from Stanford at 24 years old, he felt “like the same shy, pale, rail-thin kid I’d always been” and had never “done the unexpected,” according to his new memoir.
Knight, who published on Tuesday “Shoe Dog: A Memoir By The Creator of Nike,” writes about his “crazy idea” to build a sneaker company and his drive to “just keep going. Don’t stop.”
While his journey led him to build one of the world’s largest athletic companies, Footwear News highlights some of the most powerful points.
On first partnering with his mentor and former coach Bill Bowerman:
Over lunch, “I told Bowerman about my trip around the world. Kobe, Jordan, the Temple of Nike. Bowerman was especially interested in my time in Italy, which, despite his brushes with death, he remembered fondly. At last he came to the point. ‘Those Japanese shoes,’ she said. ‘They’re pretty good. How about letting me in on the deal?’”
On the riff and eventual resolution with his first employee Jeff Johnson:
“I phoned Bowerman and told him that Full-time Employee Number One was staging a mutiny. Bowerman listened quietly, considered all the angles, weighed pros and cons, then rendered his verdict. ‘Fuck him.’ I said I wasn’t sure ‘fucking him’ was the best strategy. Maybe there was some middle way of mollifying Johnson, of giving him a stake in the company.”
On the birth of the Cortez:
To name its first futuristic looking shoe, “Bowerman liked ‘Aztec,’ in homage to the 1968 Olympics, which were being held in Mexico City. I liked that, too. Fine, Onitsuka said. The Aztec was born. And then Adidas threated to sue. Adidas already had a new shoe named the ‘Azteca Gold.’” Knight continued: Bowerman “took off his ball cap, put it on again, rubbed his face. ‘Who was that guy who kicked the shit out of the Aztecs?’ he asked. ‘Cortez,’ I said. He grunted. ‘Okay. Let’s call it the Cortez.’”
On paying $35 for the iconic logo, which he first called “fat lightning bolts” and “chubby check marks.”
When Knight saw the revised logo, “I frowned, scratched my cheek. ‘You guys like it more than I do,’ I said. ‘But we’re out of time. It’ll have to do.’ … Now we just needed a name to go with this logo I didn’t love. Over the next few days we kicked around dozens of ideas, until two leading candidates emerged. Falcon. And Dimension Six.”
On the night before taking the company public:
“I turned out the light and went and sat in front of the TV with Penny. Neither of us was really watching. She was reading a book and I was doing calculations in my head. By this time next week Bowerman would be worth $9 million. Cale — $6.6 million. … Fantasy numbers. Numbers that meant nothing. I never knew that numbers could mean so much, and so little, at the same time.” He continued that when he woke the next day, “The world was the same as it had been the day before, as it had always been. Nothing had changed, least of all me. And yet I was worth $178 million.”