Creator of the swoosh. After watching Air where he is portrayed by Ben Affleck in 80s garb, one might ask: Where is Phil Knight now?
The plot synopsis of the sports biographical film obtained by Deadline includes the following: “Air reveals the unbelievable game-changing partnership between then-rookie Michael Jordan and Nike’s fledgling basketball division, which revolutionized the world of sports and contemporary culture with the Air Jordan brand. The story follows the career-defining gamble of an unconventional team with everything on the line, the uncompromising vision of a mother who knows the worth of her son’s immense talent and the basketball phenom who would become the greatest of all time.”
One of the most well-known brands in the world, Phil Knight set himself and the company for success for ages and ages to come. Here’s where Phil Knight is now and how he continues the Nike legacy.
Where is Phil Knight now?
Where is Phil Knight now? Though he stepped down from his position as CEO decades ago, he is still involved with Nike as chairman emeritus of the sports company. He stepped down from his position as chairman in 2015 with Mark Parker succeeding him. He revealed that he’ll always be tied to the company. “I didn’t say I’m walking away. I said I was stepping down as chairman. I won’t walk away. I’ll be carried away.”
As of April 4, 2023, Phil Knight’s net worth is estimated to be around $46.8 Billion according to Forbes. He’s listed as number 25 on the Forbes Billionaires list. He was named The Richest Person in Sports in 2016 by the business magazine. He’s also the own Laika animation studios which produced stop-motion movies like Coraline and Paranorman.
Knight is an avid contributor to his alma mater with the University of Oregon’s athletics program. It includes a $100 million gift in 2007 to “support all athletic programs and allow the university to achieve excellence in its competitive sports.” In October 2022, Knight donated $1 million to Republican gubernatorial candidate Christine Drazan’s campaign, seemingly changing course after giving $3.75 million to a candidate unaffiliated with a major political party.
In a rare interview with USA Today, he talked about Nike’s influence and how it molds the sportswear industry. “The industry has changed enormously,” Knight said. “I’ll just say it’s grown and the companies that are in the industry are in more different areas than ever before. So Under Armour is a very serious competitor, but Adidas is the next biggest and they’ve got a lot of money to spend and they have a lot of capability. We worry about them all. And it isn’t just shoes. In golf, we compete against Titleist. In women’s athletic gear, we compete against Lululemon, so we worry about them all.”
In response to his former colleagues about who should take credit for the company’s success, Sonny Vaccaro said, “Phil Knight’s lying, Michael’s lying more than Phil and Raveling is insane,’’ “All three of them need to destroy me to live happily ever after. Everyone’s trying to rewrite history. It goes beyond Jordan. I am the savior of Nike.’’ He continued about his relationship with the Chicago Bull’s MVP, “Michael’s more important to me than Nike because I always felt that I brought Michael there. We were still warm. Even at the All-Star games, he’d tease me.”
Though decades after he left Nike, he still praised his former colleague Phil Knight who founded the giant company to Bleacher Report. “He allowed me to use my mind. All the time I was there until the day I got fired, on my personal level, was unbelievable. The guy was and is a genius. There’s no question about that. He knew. He was focused. He was going to make this company, or die trying, the No. 1 brand in the world.” He continued, “There’s no question, the years I spent with him, his drive was…he was an athlete. He was a runner. He hired many people in those early years who were very, very good at what they did. One of the first people he hired was Rob Strasser, who was Phil’s right-hand man. Then signing Jordan and the designer, Peter Moore, and all that. If you’re just talking about Phil, Phil was driven then. He climbed Mount Everest three times in this industry. Everyone is compared to Nike and will always be compared to Nike.”
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Ben Affleck revealed what it felt like when he portrayed the Nike mogul. “He talks about Buddhism, Eastern philosophy. He also talks about being a ruthless capitalist. So right there, I think this is a guy of many contradictions, which is fun to play. There’s a tension between having once been the entrepreneur, the guy selling shoes out of your car, and now running a big company, being responsible for everyone’s jobs. That’s a real change. And how do you reconcile that? The way he vacillates [about spending to sign Michael Jordan] but in the end goes for it. When we tested the movie in Vegas, people cheered. I was happy because I thought, “Good, they get it.” But I did not expect the audience to stand up and cheer for Phil Knight. I think it speaks to the fact that in this culture, we venerate capitalists. It’s our version of the divine right of kings.”
Reflecting back on the legacy of the Air Jordans and signing Michael Jordan to their brand, Knight reflected, “He was huge. We had good scouting reports that he was going to be a great player, but nobody could imagine that he’d be as great as he was,” Knight said of Jordan on CSM Sport & Entertainment’s Extraordinary Tales in Extraordinary Times podcast. “We started right out making a special shoe, which had a lot of different colors in it, and there weren’t any basketball shoes with all those colors in it.
“It was hard to sign him because everybody wanted him,” Knight said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. “We had a lot of really good players, but we didn’t have a lot of really great players and we thought he had the chance to be that.” Knight added, “He was obviously way better than we could’ve ever imagined.”
In Driven from Within, Michael makes it clear that the basis for his phenomenal success came from the inside out, thanks in part to those who guided him along the way. His skill, work ethic, philosophy, personal style, competitiveness and presence have flowed from the basketball court into every facet of his life.
Nearly three years removed from his last turn as an athlete, Michael’s twentieth Air Jordan shoe has helped push Nike’s Brand Jordan division to almost $500 million in sales.
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