Swoosh: The Unauthorized Story of Nike and the Men Who Played There

Swoosh: The Unauthorized Story of Nike and the Men Who Played There

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by J. B. Strasser, Laurie Becklund

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The unauthorized national-bestselling sensation revealing the absorbing story of the rise, fall, and recovery of Nike, by a former employee and a Los Angeles Times reporter.See more details below


The unauthorized national-bestselling sensation revealing the absorbing story of the rise, fall, and recovery of Nike, by a former employee and a Los Angeles Times reporter.

Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review
A lively and an engrossing account...as told from the perspective of the men who fought to push Nike from nowhere to the front ranks of its industry.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
1st HarperBusiness ed
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Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.34(d)

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Chapter One


Philip Hampson Knight was never easy to get to know, even as a young man. Those who made the effort found him a shy, down-the-center sort of guy with a wide grin that spilled across his face often. While he wasn't likely to lead a crowd, he had a wry wit that helped round one out. When, years later, he turned up in the inevitable snapshots of pals lined up on a field after some game on a Saturday afternoon, Knight would be off to one side, the sort who took more in than he gave out. Looking back on those good times, those who knew him would wonder what he had been thinking about, wonder if, in fact, they had ever really known him at all.

Early in his youth, for reasons friends had trouble remembering, he had acquired the nickname Buck. He was lanky and of average height. His hair was blond and his eyes were pale, blinking often. All in all, he left the impression of an intelligent if somewhat nervous young man anxious to avoid exposure, both to the sunlight and to the company of strangers. When Knight was an undergraduate at the University of Oregon, his fraternity brothers dubbed him the "White Mole," and found it fitting that his birthday fell close to Groundhog Day. When he went on to Stanford School of Business, classmates pigeonholed him as an accountant.

They were right; Knight was taking an accounting class and would eventually become a CPA. But there were signs even then that accounting would not be his life's work. Accounting majors were typecast as speaking in short, clipped sentences that added up to tidy conclusions punctuated with decimal points. Knight'sspeech meandered and tended to drift off into ellipses of laughter. Away from a stopwatch, Buck Knight himself tended to meander. He often misread road maps and tended to overlook basic maintenance of his car. But Knight was the first to laugh at his own foibles, and over time his pals developed a protective instinct toward their young, absentminded friend, a willingness to do things for him because, they figured, they had to or the'd wind up having to get him out of a jam.

Those who knew him best came to the conclusion that is apparent aimlessness was not so much a lack of direction as a comforting sense that wherever life took him would be okay. Ill at ease in specific social situations, he seemed perfectly comfortable with the larger questions of his future. Knight could afford to take life as it came, reasonably sure things would work out, because, more or less, they always had.

Born on the eve of World War II, he had grown up in the Portland suburb of Eastmoreland, a comfortable upper-middle-class Oregon neighborhood of old trees and handsome, if unshowy, homes. (Portland society was less ostentatious than most other American cities. People were more likely to brag about money they had saved than money they had squandered.)

Knight's mother, Lota, was a homebody to the point that later in life people thought her a recluse or an invalid. His father, William W. Knight, had been a state representative from the southern Oregon town of Roseburg at the age of twenty-six, and was accustomed to having access to local power, if not always being able to wield it to his liking. Tense and somewhat high strung, he left politics for labor law, and eventually found his way into a particular niche representing newspaper publishers.

Bill Knight seemed destined to be a competent behind-the-scenes counselor who carried out the wishes of more public men. Then, in 1953, a plane crash killed the young publisher of the Oregon journal, Philip L. Jackson, and Knight was handpicked by the widow Jackson to be publisher. He was an odd choice for the job. The journal was established as a populist, liberal alternative to the conservative Oregonian. And Knight, a staunch Republican with a reputation as a labor enemy, found himself the keeper of a flame he did not believe in. His son saw early in life that there was a difference between having a title and having power.

When his father became publisher, Buck was fifteen and following a predictable path through the city's best public schools. He was an honor roll student at Cleveland High School, though friends never thought of him as driven.

While bashful, Buck was we'll liked and expected to succeed. Like most boys, he took sports seriously. He wasn't built for football and couldn't hit a home run. Though he was on Cleveland's state tournament basketball team, there were classmates who forgot he ever played. He did well enough in tennis, but his strong suit was track, where he proved to be one of the city's best performers in middle-distance events. When he graduated in 1955, the yearbook editor chose quotes from Bartlett's Familiar Quotations for each graduating senior. Knight's caption read, "A more pleasant, willing lad I ne'er did meet."

High school graduates of his era, even honor roll students, did not often leave Oregon to go to college; they went instead to the University of Oregon in Eugene or to Oregon State College (now Oregon State University) in Corvallis. In those days in particular, the UO was for book learners and aspiring professionals; OSC was favored by ranchers, farmers, and foresters.

Knight's father had gone to the UO, and at eighteen, Buck Knight also went down the Willamette River Valley to Eugene. He joined Phi Gamma Delta, the Fijis, a respectable fraternity rather than a jock house, with which Cleveland High School alums had traditionally affiliated. His brothers found him a likable straight arrow who got through his assignments, rarely got drunk, and spent a lot of time running-which. in Eugene, in the winter, meant running in the rain.

Swoosh copyright © by J. B. Strasser. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All Rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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