Larry Miller has built a successful career. He started his professional life as an accountant at Campbell Soup Company before eventually heading to Nike in 1997 where he currently oversees Nike’s Jordan Brand. The 72-year-old sports executive, who is the former president of NBA’s Portland Trailblazers, has helped transform the Jordan Brand, playing an influential role in Nike history and becoming a beloved member of the Nike family. He has today risen to the highest level of business and basketball.
But behind all of his success, he had a big secret; a dark secret he kept from everyone including his longtime friend and colleague Michael Jordan, Nike founder Phil Knight and NBA executives. It was only recently, after so many decades, that he felt that the story must be told.
In his new book, Jump: My Secret Journey From the Streets to the Boardroom, co-written with his oldest daughter, Laila Lacy, Miller shares details about murdering someone in 1965 when he was a teen. He said he served time for the crime, earned a college degree, and climbed the corporate ladder at Nike and other institutions. But he was haunted by the killing, which he kept hidden for over 50 years.
Before releasing his book, he spoke with Sports Illustrated in October 2021 and it was during that interview that he first revealed that he shot and killed another teen in Philadelphia, Penn. when he was 16 years old. The deceased was 18-year-old Edward David White, who had an eight-month-old son and was expecting a daughter at the time. White was unarmed and had just gotten off his shift at the diner and walking home when Miller shot him.
Miller was then a member of the Cedar Avenue Gang in West Philadelphia. He had joined the gang, not because of money or drugs or any problems at home but because he was “more interested in impressing people in the street”, he told Sports Illustrated.
On the night of September 30, 1965, Miller said he was angry that one member of his gang had been stabbed and killed earlier that month during a fight with a rival gang. Miller decided to revenge the murder by killing anyone who had links to that rival gang. He ended up shooting White with a .38-caliber handgun and left him to die on the street.
“We were all drunk,” Miller told Sports Illustrated. “I was in a haze. Once it kind of set in, I was like, ‘Oh, shit, what have I done?’ It took years for me to understand the real impact of what I had done.”
After the murder, Miller served over four years in prison. He went back to prison again in his 20s for armed robbery. But while serving his terms in prison, he decided to pursue an education through a prison program. “Once I got into it, I really started to believe that maybe I really can change my life through this process,” Miller writes in his book. “Maybe this is not just a way to get out of jail, but actually a way to really change my life and do something positive and constructive going forward.”
By the age of 30, Miller had earned his accounting degree from Temple University. He nearly landed a job with accounting firm Arthur Andersen since he was the best person for the job. But that opportunity was taken away from him for trying to be honest about his past.
“It was a shock and it was a challenge because sharing it kept me from getting what I was hoping to get. So after that, I decided not to share it anymore. If it came up, I wasn’t going to lie. I never lied. I just didn’t tell all of the truth,” he told Complex in an interview.
But his past haunted him. In 1997, he began working as vice president of Nike Basketball, and two years later he became president of the newly launched Jordan Brand. He then left to become president of the Trail Blazers in 2006.
He realized that the higher he rose in his career, the higher the pressure became on people possibly finding out his secret. He started having nightmares, which became much more frequent when he got the Trail Blazers job. That job came with a lot more publicity.
“I’ve had to go to the emergency room because of migraine headaches and there was nothing physically wrong with me after they did all the tests. It was just the stress and pressure of maintaining this secret,” he told Complex.
Miller is now “getting comfortable” as he tells all in his book. He hopes that his story will change the perception people have about formerly incarcerated people and also give hope to current inmates. The NBA executive is also grateful to Jordan and Knight for being encouraging and supportive when he told them about his story and the fact that he wanted to write a book about it.
But there have been some negative responses. White’s family recently told The New York Times that they were disturbed that Miller did not reach out to them before his interview with the Sports Illustrated or releasing his book.
“One of the things I’m really sorry about is that we weren’t able to connect with them before it went public,” Miller said in response. “That was definitely a mistake. I take blame for that. The reality is that I was nervous about doing that, so I didn’t push it as hard as I should have.”