The mementos lining Larry Miller’s office suggest a life of comfort and privilege, of celebrated achievements and celebrity friendships. The autographed red boxing gloves from Muhammad Ali. The commemorative basketball from President Obama. The signed notes from Michael Jordan.
This plush suite, tucked into a quiet corner of the Sebastian Coe building, on Nike’s sprawling campus in Beaverton, Ore., is the primary sanctuary for the man who has piloted the Jordan Brand since 2012, who counts MJ as a close friend and David Stern as a mentor and who has nearly every major figure in basketball (along with Kanye West) on speed dial.
You could spend hours admiring it all, without a single hint of the dark chapter that preceded the journey. Of the years Miller spent in prison, or the horrifying act that put him there. Of a September evening in 1965, when Miller, just 16 years old, stood at the corner of 53rd and Locust streets in West Philadelphia, and fired a .38-caliber gun into the chest of another teenager, killing him on the spot.
It’s a secret that Miller, 72, has guarded for more than 50 years. Even as he ran an NBA franchise and then oversaw the transformation of the Jordan Brand, nearly doubling its revenue during his tenure, he kept it from Jordan, Nike founder Phil Knight and NBA executives. He had already, for decades, been holding the truth from his friends and even his own children, for fear its exposure might destroy him. But it is a story Miller now feels must be told, and will be detailed in full in a forthcoming book, Jump: My Secret Journey From the Streets to the Boardroom, cowritten with his oldest daughter, Laila Lacy, set for release by William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins, in early 2022.
In a 90-minute interview with Sports Illustrated, Miller described being haunted by the killing, which he described as utterly senseless. He did not know the victim, identified in the news then as 18-year-old Edward White.
“That’s what makes it even more difficult for me, because it was for no reason at all,” Miller says. “I mean, there was no valid reason for this to happen. And that’s the thing that I really struggle with and that’s—you know, it’s the thing that I think about every day. It’s like, I did this, and to someone who—it was no reason to do it. And that’s the part that really bothers me.”
Revealing his past now, Miller says, will free him to discuss his experiences with at-risk youth and people in prison, and perhaps help steer others away from violence and toward a productive life.
Miller says he wanted the facts to become public on his terms and his timeline, by disclosing it exclusively to SI now, before any details could leak in advance of the book’s publication.
“This was a really difficult decision for me,” says Miller, reclining in a dark-brown leather chair, across from Lacy, sitting on a matching leather couch, “because for 40 years, I ran from this. I tried to hide this and hope that people didn’t find out about it.”
Preserving the secret allowed Miller to build a successful career with companies like Campbell Soup, Kraft Foods and the Trail…