Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike

Phil Knight recently released his memoir under the title Shoe Dog. For those in the sports and retail world, I'd believe you would enjoy hearing about the early years pre-Nike. Phil started in the business by selling Onitsuka Tiger Shoes under the company name Blue Ribbon Sports. Ironically he lost the lucrative Tiger distribution deal and was forced to start his own brand, Nike. 

Some of the best lines include:

  • On the idea of Nike Air: “Mr. Knight, we’ve come up with a way to inject . . . air . . . into a running shoe.” I frowned and dropped my pencil. “Why?” I said.
  • On the IPO value of Nike vs. Apple: A company called Apple was also going public that same week, and selling for twenty-two dollars a share, and we were worth as much as them, I said to Hayes.
  • On selling more than just shoes: But first we needed to start selling clothes. Aside from the plain numerical fact that Adidas sold more apparel than shoes, apparel gave them a psychological edge. Apparel helped them lure bigger athletes into sweeter endorsement deals. Look at all we can give you, Adidas would say to an athlete, pointing to their shirts and pants and other gear.
  • On how retail used to work: Why not go to all of our biggest retailers and tell them that if they’d sign ironclad commitments, if they’d give us large and nonrefundable orders, six months in advance, we’d give them hefty discounts, up to 7 percent?

Unfortunately Phil summarizes the most recent 25 years in a short, final chapter with mentions to Jordan, Tiger and LeBron. Despite this, the memoir is supported by strong story telling, honesty and a relatively balanced view.