Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of NIKE by Phil Knight

Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of NIKE

In this candid and riveting memoir, for the first time ever, Nike founder and CEO Phil Knight shares the inside story of the company’s early days as an intrepid start-up and its evolution into one of the world’s most iconic, game-changing, and profitable brands.In 1962, fresh out of business school, Phil Knight borrowed $50 from his father and created a company with a simp...

Title:Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of NIKE
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Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of NIKE Reviews

  • Michael

    JUST DO IT. Those words are the life story of Phil Knight. To every athlete, entrepreneur, mother, father, and dreamer his greatest legacy will be a life well played. More valuable than his pledge of giving back to society $100,000,000 a year, Phil 'Found His Greatness' in life by inspiring us all to play harder, dig deeper and never quit. Thank you, Phil.

    This book is well worth every hard-won word, shared and earned over 50+ years of grueling competition. More than once the story looked like im

    JUST DO IT. Those words are the life story of Phil Knight. To every athlete, entrepreneur, mother, father, and dreamer his greatest legacy will be a life well played. More valuable than his pledge of giving back to society $100,000,000 a year, Phil 'Found His Greatness' in life by inspiring us all to play harder, dig deeper and never quit. Thank you, Phil.

    This book is well worth every hard-won word, shared and earned over 50+ years of grueling competition. More than once the story looked like impending failure. Most would have given up. Perhaps Phil's greatest advice, and example, are the words he shared on his book tour in Portland where he told us all, "The only time you must not fail is the last time you try."

    Pick your heroes with the greatest of care. Phil Knight, your name shall stand beyond your lifetime in our generation's Pantheon of Heroes for never failing to try.

  • Wendy S.

    This book made me cry. Twice! I did not know a book about what I had previously viewed as the definition of a big corporation could have that sort of power. I was wrong.

    Phil Knight had been an unfamiliar name to me before I picked up this memoir. That, in itself, seems strange. I mean, I had no idea he's from Portland, Oregon, or that, by trade, he's an accountant, or that he identifies as an introvert. I didn't know he had met his wife while teaching at Portland State (after leaving PWC to buy

    This book made me cry. Twice! I did not know a book about what I had previously viewed as the definition of a big corporation could have that sort of power. I was wrong.

    Phil Knight had been an unfamiliar name to me before I picked up this memoir. That, in itself, seems strange. I mean, I had no idea he's from Portland, Oregon, or that, by trade, he's an accountant, or that he identifies as an introvert. I didn't know he had met his wife while teaching at Portland State (after leaving PWC to buy himself more time to work on building his entrepreneurial endeavor). Or that Nike literally means the Greek Goddess of Victory.

    Oh, and his logo? The famous swoosh? That had been designed for $35 by a previously unknown graphic design student he commissioned. Unlike Steve Jobs, Phil Knight did not really have too much faith in advertising. He felt a good product would sell itself.

    I also did not know he had lost his oldest son.

    I don't think any of that is really a spoiler because it can also be found by doing a simple google search. I just never did.

    More importantly, I didn't realize this man had the courage, the drive & dare I say, the chutzpah, to do what so very few can -- offset his own imperfections with an obsessively driven, mostly loyal & phenomenally quirky team. And, objectively embrace, encourage & build upon their skill-sets while facing lawsuit after lawsuit on a shoestring budget with a wife, young children & a very real fear of both imprisonment & bankruptcy persistently looming overhead.

    Who knows? Perhaps his 6 mile jogs helped him remain on-track while building what is now an empire & retaining at least somewhat of a soul.

    The soul? Well, when I think of Nike, Michael Jordan immediately comes to mind. And maybe Tiger Woods a few years back. But definitely not Steve Prefontaine! In fact, I had never heard of the latter. What can I say? He died before I was born, I'm a very casual runner, and I guess my American Studies courses never really covered this particular icon. And now? Well, I'm embarrassed. And, more importantly, I simply can't get him or what he had meant to this country, to the world of running at-large & to Phil Knight both personally & professionally, out of my mind.

    In closing, this book proves the American Dream is still alive. It's not nearly as straightforward or as black or white (or even as legal or illegal) as one may imagine, but the opportunity is here! (Minus the factories, of course -- those remain very much off-shore.). Also, and perhaps most importantly, if one or two or twelve of those dreams don't workout, it's ok (and possibly even admirable) to give them up, because "giving up doesn't mean stopping."

  • Ned Frederick

    Shoe Dog could have been titled, "Buck Naked", because of the way Phil "Buck" Knight bares his soul in this fine memoir. I'm grateful to Knight for putting it all down in black and white. My 12 years with Nike started toward the end of the timeframe of this memoir, and so a lot of what Knight chronicles in Shoe Dog was the core of the Nike creation myth, revealed piecemeal to most of us in the late 70's and early 80's... usually in the form of humorous anecdotes shared over a cocktail or three.

    Shoe Dog could have been titled, "Buck Naked", because of the way Phil "Buck" Knight bares his soul in this fine memoir. I'm grateful to Knight for putting it all down in black and white. My 12 years with Nike started toward the end of the timeframe of this memoir, and so a lot of what Knight chronicles in Shoe Dog was the core of the Nike creation myth, revealed piecemeal to most of us in the late 70's and early 80's... usually in the form of humorous anecdotes shared over a cocktail or three. It's just wonderful to read this very personal account and especially to have so many unexpected revelations about Knight's state of mind during those seminal moments in Nike's early history. During my tenure at Nike, Knight was a shy, almost bashful, and sometimes quixotic, character who came across as extremely bright, introspective, and prone to occasional, intractable reluctance. I get it now. Of the dozens of CEO's I've met over these 30+ years in the sneaker business he is the only one I could even begin to describe as a seeker... his deep introspection is a quality I've always admired. More so now that I have read about the depth and breadth of what I can only call, his quest. Frankly, I'm astonished. I could never imagine him publicly sharing so much of himself as he does in Shoe Dog. Something else I always admired was his gift for hiring talented, dedicated people and giving them plenty of rope. He was always tolerant of failure, but intolerant of stagnation. These qualities certainly come across in this fine book. Remarkable man. Remarkable history. Remarkable book.

  • Brad Feld

    I think Shoe Dog by Phil Knight is the best memoir I’ve ever read by a business person.

    I consumed it in a day last week. It’s about the origin story of Nike, which started out as Blue Ribbon Sports.

    Unlike so many memoirs, it’s not an equally balanced arc through Knight’s life. It’s not an ego gratifying display of his awesomeness, heavily weighted in the success of the company and all the amazing things that went on around that. Instead, it’s a deep focus on the beginning years of Nike especiall

    I think Shoe Dog by Phil Knight is the best memoir I’ve ever read by a business person.

    I consumed it in a day last week. It’s about the origin story of Nike, which started out as Blue Ribbon Sports.

    Unlike so many memoirs, it’s not an equally balanced arc through Knight’s life. It’s not an ego gratifying display of his awesomeness, heavily weighted in the success of the company and all the amazing things that went on around that. Instead, it’s a deep focus on the beginning years of Nike especially around the first decade. It quickly gets to 1964 and the equal partnership between Bill Bowerman and Knight. But then it takes it’s time, year by year (each chapter is titled with the year number only) through the first decade of the company.

    It’s an incredible story. I didn’t realize that for the first five years of the company, Knight had to work full-time – mostly at Price Waterhouse and then Coopers & Lybrand as an accountant – because the company didn’t have any resources to support him and his new family. He used nights, weekends, and in all the gaps in between to get Nike (the Blue Ribbon Sports) up and running. Year one revenue – in 1964 – was $8,000. Year two revenue – with one full time employee (not Knight) was $20,000. Year 41 revenue (2015) was $30.6 billion with a net income of $3.3 billion.

    Knight covers all of it in detail. The ups and the downs. The many downs. The moments where he felt like he could lose it all, which seemed to happen at least once a year. His personal struggles as a leader and a manager. The people that drove him fucking crazy at the beginning, but were ultimately indispensable to the company. His momentary conflicts about whether or not the struggle was worth it. The breakthroughs – mostly understood in hindsight – when he realized they had gotten to another level.

    The thread of financing the company, especially through the first decade, was just incredible. His only real source of financing was tradition banks (who sucked) and partners (playing the float). The company had literally no equity available to it, but was growing at a rate that would put most of today’s VC-backed startups to shame. He made it work and how he did it was awesome.

    It’s incredible to get inside of a man now worth over $25 billion and the founder of one of the most iconic brands on the planet at the very beginning of his story. If you are a founder, this is a must read.

  • TS Chan

    In other words,

    Nike is the ultimate American dream. And it all started when a twenty-four year old Oregonian suddenly had this Crazy Idea of bringing Japanese running shoes, specifically the Onitsuka Tigers, into the country way back in 1962, just less than two decades after the

    In other words,

    Nike is the ultimate American dream. And it all started when a twenty-four year old Oregonian suddenly had this Crazy Idea of bringing Japanese running shoes, specifically the Onitsuka Tigers, into the country way back in 1962, just less than two decades after the United States of America bombed Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

    There had been some unauthorised biographies or stories about how Nike came to be, but this is the first time we are graced with the words from the creator himself, Philip H. Knight. Shoe Dog is a

    of how Knight’s Crazy Idea came into fruition and eventually metamorphosized into probably the most recognizable name in the athletic shoe and apparel industry.

    While not a business book per se, there are a lot of insights herein about entrepreneurship and challenges of running a successful business. The journey undertaken by Blue Ribbon Sports, the name of the company with which Knight started his distribution of the Onitsuka Tigers, was monumentally challenging in spite of encouraging sales and demand. What with the difficulties of dealing with the Japanese halfway across the world in a snail-mail era coupled with problematic and delayed shipments time and time again, and lousy conservative bankers who preferred equity (i.e. cash) over reinvested growth, Knight and his team of partners were constantly fighting a relentless uphill battle to stay afloat. Even when Nike as a brand was created, the challenges were far from over as manufacturing capacity and capital availability struggled to keep pace with the phenomenal growth.

    And what a team he was able to garner, the foremost of them all being arguably the most renowned American running coach ever, Bill Bowerman. The story of Nike has strong parables to sports as its massive success was built on strong and loyal team work. A lot of the ideas that brought Nike to bear were not solely Knight’s. It was also almost paradoxical to learn that Knight was not convinced on the powers of advertising, what with Nike being so revolutionary in its advertising campaigns and ideas. What he did bring to the table was his sheer passion and stubbornness (as stopping means losing) and a bunch of people who were willing to dedicate all their money and efforts into where their heart lies. At its core, the firm was essentially founded and nurtured by running geeks who understood the spirit of the sport and embraced innovation.

    Another highly notable mention in this book is, of course, the legendary Steve Prefontaine, whose greatly inspiring yet tragic story still resonates within the hallowed grounds of Hayward Field, Eugene, Oregon. Admiration bordering on worship for Pre, who was famously known for once saying

    , provided further fuel for the inner fire within Knight’s competitive psyche. It was also enlightening to learn about the origins of the Nike Cortezes and finally understand its cult status amongst shoe addicts.

    Admittedly, I have always been more of an Adidas fan. However, this frank, emotional and in-depth look into the history of Nike and people behind its success has significantly boosted my appreciation of the brand. Taglines like

    and

    are not merely marketing propaganda but the embodiment of the spirit of the brand and its founding fathers.

    I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves biographies. More so for budding or even seasoned entrepreneurs, sneaker or athletic shoe fans, and especially for runners, athletes or just sports fans in general. And if you are a fan of Nike, what are you even waiting for?!

  • Brina

    Growing up in Chicago in the 1980s and 1990s, as a collective society we were in awe of Michael Jordan. Not only did we imagine ourselves draining the decisive jump shot to seal the title, we also had to use every product that he endorsed; Gatorade, Wheaties, Coca-Cola, and, of course, Nike Air Jordan shoes. Nike most likely would not be where it is today without the sponsorship of Jordan and subsequent Jordan Brands, so when I found out that the company's founder Phil Knight had written a memoi

    Growing up in Chicago in the 1980s and 1990s, as a collective society we were in awe of Michael Jordan. Not only did we imagine ourselves draining the decisive jump shot to seal the title, we also had to use every product that he endorsed; Gatorade, Wheaties, Coca-Cola, and, of course, Nike Air Jordan shoes. Nike most likely would not be where it is today without the sponsorship of Jordan and subsequent Jordan Brands, so when I found out that the company's founder Phil Knight had written a memoir, I had my curiosity whetted. In Shoe Dog, Knight takes his readers on a journey back to the birth of company that today is one of the world's most noticeable name brands. As a fan of Jordan and one who has used the term 'just do it' in reference to getting the job done, I knew that this was a memoir that I had to discover for myself.

    In 1962, Phil Knight had what he calls a 'crazy idea'. He was about to finish his MBA at Stanford, and, as part of an entrepreneurial class, pitched the idea of marketing Japanese running shoes to American markets. All but one of Knight's classmates fell asleep on the spot, yet, Knight was onto something big. The Japanese had already flooded the American market with cameras and other products to follow as the yen recovered, so why not shoes. He pitched the idea to his father, and with a loan of $50, he set off on an around the world trip of self-discovery. After a stop on the pristine beaches of Hawaii, it was on to Japan, where then twenty four year old Knight discussed his idea with multiple companies. Only one, Onitsuka Corporation based out of Kobe, liked the idea, and made Knight into their sole western distributor of Tiger running shoes.

    After completing his trips that included stops in Jordan and the Parthenon in Greece which paid homage to the goddess Nike Athena, Knight returned to his home outside of Portland, Oregon. Forming a partnership with legendary track coach Bill Bowerman, Knight was on his way to success. Forming an initial team of castoffs-- a paralyzed former track star and professionals who did not mesh with their chosen careers--, in 1964, Blue Ribbon Sports, Inc. was born. Despite Bowerman's expertise in designing shoes; however, Blue Ribbon, later to be reborn Nike, did not take off initially. The market for running shoes, especially for the casual weekend runner, was not as popular as it is now. Japanese importers presented many problems which later resulted in law suits. Yet, Knight and his team, which later included track star Steve Prefontaine and early endorsements from athletes like Ilia Nastase, trekked on, perfected their ideas, and eventually became the corporation that they are today. It was Prefontaine's endorsement that gave Nike credibility, and even after his tragic death, the majority of 1976 United States Olympic hopefuls competed in Nikes. The swoosh symbol was everywhere, the company had exposure to rival Adidas, and, after going public at the end of 1977, Nike was on its way up in the world.

    Because I am not savvy in navigating the business world, I found the sections about Blue Ribbon's fight with Onitsuka shoes to distribute running shoes and later their entanglement with U.S. Customs Service to be fascinating. Today, people have heard one side of the story, that Nike has taken over decrepit factories in third world countries to produce athletic shoes that their employees can not afford. Yet, Knight has delivered his side of the story, from his early struggles against the Japanese, to his quest to modernizing factories to comply with current business practices. He details the company's precarious situation in the 1960s and 1970s, even after they had reached over $100 million annual in sales. Due to the constant business struggle with the Japanese and their American rivals, one ruling in the other direction could have meant the end of Nike. Yet, Knight's quality group had luck on their side, and won every law suit and threat thrown in their direction. With the business struggles behind them, the sky was the limit for the corporation that had once been a 'crazy idea'.

    Today Nike is situated on a sprawling campus in Beaverton, Oregon. The company took off after employing shoe guru Sonny Vaccaro in the late 1970s and signing Jordan out of college in 1983-84. Looking back, Knight wishes he could do it all over again with one caveat, to be a better father to his children. I would have enjoyed reading more about Knight's relationship with Jordan, but the world knows the gist of that story. Learning about how Nike got its start and how each day could have been the company's last during the entire decade of the 1970s was a fascinating read. Knight has said that business is 'war without bullets' and channeled generals such as Patton and MacArthur during the company's rise to greatness. Today the Nike swoosh symbol is emblematic as sports itself. Seeing how it came to be was a fascinating, fun, and informative 4 star read and highly recommended.

  • Supreeth

    All I wanted to Hear !

  • peiman-mir5 rezakhani

    دوستانِ گرانقدر، این کتاب، خاطراتِ <فیل نایت> مالکِ شرکت بزرگِ "نایکی" میباشد و به بهترین شکلِ ممکن نشان داده است که چگونه از کجا به کجا رسیده است و همچون دونده ای تیزپا از منطقهٔ پورتلند، این مسیرِ پیشرفت را طی کرده است... نمیتوان کتاب را چکیده کرد، امّا به انتخاب بخشی از نوشته هایِ کتاب را در زیر برایتان مینویسم که مربوط میشود به دورانی که او در دانشگاه درس میخوانده است و خاطراتش از شخصی به نامِ <بیل بُوِرمن> که تأثیر بسیار زیادی در پیشرفتِ او داشته است و از مربی تبدیل به شریکِ کار

    ‎دوستانِ گرانقدر، این کتاب، خاطراتِ <فیل نایت> مالکِ شرکت بزرگِ "نایکی" میباشد و به بهترین شکلِ ممکن نشان داده است که چگونه از کجا به کجا رسیده است و همچون دونده ای تیزپا از منطقهٔ پورتلند، این مسیرِ پیشرفت را طی کرده است... نمیتوان کتاب را چکیده کرد، امّا به انتخاب بخشی از نوشته هایِ کتاب را در زیر برایتان مینویسم که مربوط میشود به دورانی که او در دانشگاه درس میخوانده است و خاطراتش از شخصی به نامِ <بیل بُوِرمن> که تأثیر بسیار زیادی در پیشرفتِ او داشته است و از مربی تبدیل به شریکِ کاری برایِ او میشود و شرکتِ "روبانِ آبی" را تأسیس میکنند و نزدیک به هفت سال بعد تبدیل به شرکتِ "نایکی" میشود

    -----------------------------------------

    ‎سالِ دومِ دانشگاه بودم و برنامه هایم کاملاً مرا از پا انداخته بود. صبح ها کلاسهایِ دانشگاه و عصرها تمرین و ورزش و تمامِ شب تکالیفم را انجام میدادم... یکروز که از این میترسیدم که نکند دچارِ سرماخوردگی شوم، جلویِ دربِ اتاقِ کارِ <بُورمن> ایستادم تا به او بگویم که بعد از ظهرِ آن روز را نمیتوانم تمرین کنم.. بُورمن گفت: آهااا.. که اینطور... مربیِ این تیم کیه!؟ ... گفتم: شما هستی... بُورمن گفت: پس به عنوانِ مربی بهت میگم که امروز باید سرِ تمرین حاضر باشی... ضمناً امروز رکوردگیری داریم

    ‎نزدیک بود اشک از چشمانم جاری شود، امّا جلویِ خودم را گرفتم.. تمامِ احساساتم را خرجِ دویدن کردم و یکی از بهترین رکوردهایِ سال را ثبت کردم

    ‎وقتی از زمین بیرون می آمدم، با اخم نگاهی به بُورمن انداختم و در دلم به او گفتم: حالا راضی شدی حرامزاده؟!؟... نگاهی به من انداخت و کرنومترش را چک کرد و باز نگاهی به من کرد و سرش را به نشانهٔ تأیید تکان داد

    ‎او مرا آزمایش کرده بود.. مرا درهم شکسته بود و دوباره مرا سرهم کرده بود، دقیقاً کاری که با کفش ها میکرد... من از پسِ آن کار برآمده بودم.. از آن روز به بعد من واقعاً یکی از "مردانِ اورگن" او بودم (منظور انتخاب شدن در ایالت اورگن یا همان اورگون بوده است) ... از آن روز به بعد من یک ببر بودم

    ‎بلافاصله از بُورمن در موردِ مسابقه جواب گرفتم.. نوشته بود که هفتهٔ آینده برای برگزاری مسابقاتِ داخل سالنِ اورگون، به پورتلند می آید و مرا برای صرفِ ناهار به هتلی که محلِ جایگیریِ اعضایِ تیم بود، دعوت کرده بود

    *********

    ‎بیست و پنجم ژانویهٔ سال 1964... هنگامی که پیشخدمتِ هتل، ما را به سمتِ میزِ ناهار راهنمایی میکرد، استرس بسیار زیادی داشتم.. به یاد دارم که بُورمن همبرگر سفارش داد و من با صدایی که از تهِ چاه در می آمد (تته پته کنان)، گفتم: دوتاش کنید

    ‎چند دقیقه ای حال و احوال کردیم و برای بُورمن از جاهایی که از دور دنیا سفر کرده بودم، تعریف کردم و او نسبت به آن زمان که در ایتالیا بودم، علاقهٔ ویژه ای نشان داد.. با آنکه در زمان جنگ جهانی، ممکن بود در ایتالیا کشته شود، بازهم از آن دوره به نیکی یاد میکرد

    ‎بالاخره رفت سرِ اصلِ مطلب و گفت: آن کفش هایِ ژاپنی خیلی خوب هستش. چطوره من هم وارد اون معامله بشم؟

    ‎نگاهی بهش کردم و گفتم: معامله؟؟ مدتی زمان برد تا آنچه بُورمن گفته بود را هضم کنم و بفهمم.. اون نمیخواست فقط ده الی دوازده تا کفش برایِ اعضایِ تیمش خریداری کنه! بلکه قصد شراکت با من را داشت!؟ اگر خدا هم از درونِ گردبادی به من پیشنهادِ شراکت میداد، به همان اندازه تعجب میکردم

    ‎تته پته کنان، در حالی که زبانم بند آمده بود، به او گفتم: بله

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    ‎امیدوارم از خواندنِ این کتاب لذت ببرید

    ‎<پیروز باشید و ایرانی>

  • Masoud Irannejad

    تبدیل شد به بهترین کتابی که تا حالا خوندم

    فیل نایت با نوشتن این کتاب مارو دعوت میکنه تا به مدت 19 سال از زندگیش رو همراهش باشیم

    قدم به قدم همراهش به جلو میریم، از روزی که ایده ی واردات کفش از ژاپن به ذهنش رسید تا روزی که سهام شرکتش رو عرضه عمومی میکنه

    تو این نوزده سال پر از سختی ، همراه فیل به مسافرت دور دنیا میریم عشق زندگیش رو ملاقات میکنیم و تلاش های بی وقفه و تحسین برانگیزش رو برای سرپا نگهداشتن شرکتش میبینیم

    تلاش هایی خستگی ناپذیری که کاملا ارزشش رو داشت

    شرکت فیل نایت که سال اول تنها یک کارم

    تبدیل شد به بهترین کتابی که تا حالا خوندم

    فیل نایت با نوشتن این کتاب مارو دعوت میکنه تا به مدت 19 سال از زندگیش رو همراهش باشیم

    قدم به قدم همراهش به جلو میریم، از روزی که ایده ی واردات کفش از ژاپن به ذهنش رسید تا روزی که سهام شرکتش رو عرضه عمومی میکنه

    تو این نوزده سال پر از سختی ، همراه فیل به مسافرت دور دنیا میریم عشق زندگیش رو ملاقات میکنیم و تلاش های بی وقفه و تحسین برانگیزش رو برای سرپا نگهداشتن شرکتش میبینیم

    تلاش هایی خستگی ناپذیری که کاملا ارزشش رو داشت

    شرکت فیل نایت که سال اول تنها یک کارمند داشت (که اون هم خواهرش بود) الان تعداد کامندانش از 70000نفرهم فراتر رفته

    و فروش سالیانه محصولات شرکت از 8000دلار سال اول به بیش از 32 میلیارد دلار رسیده(تقریبا دو برابر شرکت آدیداس)

  • Andrew Smith

    I’m not sure when I became aware of Nike – maybe sometime around the millennium? Certainly not before that. I was therefore astounded to learn that the company had been founded in the early 1970’s, with the aim of producing and selling sports shoes. In fact, the co-founder (and major driving force), Phil Knight, was a runner in college and his driving goal was to produce top class running shoes. We first catch up with Phil, a native of Oregon, in the late 60’s when he’d already secured an MBA at

    I’m not sure when I became aware of Nike – maybe sometime around the millennium? Certainly not before that. I was therefore astounded to learn that the company had been founded in the early 1970’s, with the aim of producing and selling sports shoes. In fact, the co-founder (and major driving force), Phil Knight, was a runner in college and his driving goal was to produce top class running shoes. We first catch up with Phil, a native of Oregon, in the late 60’s when he’d already secured an MBA at Stanford and had decided to travel the world. Off he went on his voyage of discovery – and what a journey it was. In listening to an audio version of this book I was pretty much captivated from the very start. This wasn’t at all the book I’d anticipated it to be - it was much more literary than the account I’d expected. The descriptions of time and place and people and events transported me directly there. I was stood beside him, drinking it all in.

    When visiting Japan Phil came across the Tiger brand of running shoes and he decided to set up a business importing the shoes and selling them in America. His his old college running coach, Bill Bowerman, became a trusted adviser and then a partner. Along side this, Knight also took up a job in an accounting firm, eventually gaining a full accounting accreditation. In fact, these early days were a real struggle for his infant business, there were many challenges to overcome and it often seemed inevitable that the enterprise would fail. The author comes across as a bit of a romantic – he really wanted to produce the perfect shoe and worked tirelessly with Bowerman and his Japanese supplier to evolve their offering – but also as a workaholic, super-ambitious businessman not prepared to let any challenge stop him.

    Eventually, however, the challenges of working with his supplier did wear him down and as it became inevitable that he’d lose the ability to import their shoes he decided to start producing his own. So was the company that became Nike born. The details of his struggles are compelling as are his descriptions of the people he met along the way. At one point he describes a tough looking businessman he’s just met thus:

    Nike started to grow steadily, but Phil was in the habit of spending every last cent the company could raise on producing more stock. He knew this was a dangerous strategy but he was convinced it was the only way to ensure growth. He operated very close to the edge – in fact sometimes way over the edge - but still he continued to do things his way. It brought him perilously close to ruin, but (as we know) the business survived and went on to become the leviathan it is today. If it was fiction it’d be a great story, but as non-fiction it comprises a tale of almost unbelievable tenacity in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds.

    The account of his business adventures is wound up at the point the company is floated (at the same time as Apple) in 1980, by which point Nike had attained a 50% market share in the American athletic shoe market. The final section of the book comprises Knight’s reflections on his life and updates on the key figures featured in the book.

    What I like most about this book is the way the story is told. The author gives much credit for his successes to others – people he worked with through the years – and he explains not just what he did but also his motivations for taking the actions he did. Sometimes these seemed counterintuitive, and he acknowledges this, but he took them all the same. He is humble and self-deprecating in his portrayal of himself throughout. I grew to like him a lot. I can’t recall when I’ve enjoyed a memoir as much – maybe I never have. It was a joy and an inspiration to spend time with Phil Knight and to learn his story.

    NB: I was running in the early 70's when the leading brand of shoe in the UK seemed to be New Balance (the shoes I wore). I then played many other sports (soccer, tennis, badminton) again never wearing Nike but trying out Puma and Addidas amongst others. Later I ran again, this time buying Asics, Mizuno, Brooks and Hoka. Just as as was despairing of the fact that I'd never bought a pair of Nike shoes I spotted my current golf shoes in the garage - yes, you've guessed.


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