When you see the “Jumpman” logo or someone wearing a pair of Jordan sneakers, you instinctively think of one person – Michael Jordan. However, one person many people have never heard of is also important to the iconic brand: Larry Miller.
Larry Miller is a generational corporate superstar at Nike and worked alongside Michael Jordan as the Jordan brand became one of the legendary company’s most defining assets. On paper, Larry is exceptionally well qualified. He holds an accounting degree from Temple and an MBA from LaSalle University. In addition to his time at Nike, Larry spent 5 years as President of the NBA Portland Trailblazers and was an accomplished business executive for Jantzen, Campbell Soup Company and Kraft Foods prior to his first hire at Nike.
In 1997, Larry was hired by Nike as Vice President and he rose through the ranks to President of the Jordan Brand. In 2007, he was drawn to the NBA as president of the Portland franchise. In 2012, he returned to his true love, the Jordan brand.
Why is this important?
In an October 2021 interview with Sports Illustrated, Larry Miller admitted to murdering Edward White. Miller was 16 at the time the heinous act was committed and as he tells the story, he had been angry and directionless since he was 12 and looking for trouble. He later recounts how “senseless” the murder was as Edward White left behind a loving family, including an 8-month-old son and an unborn daughter. Incredibly tragic.
Larry was arrested and spent time in jail. He got his GED behind bars and he spoke to his degree (still behind bars). He then declared to his fellow graduates “let’s not serve time, let time serve us”. Profound words for an incarcerated high school student.
In this Sports Illustrated interview, Larry recalled that some of the same people he met in prison 40 years ago are still behind bars now – that’s another column.
The point of this story is for Larry to come to terms with his past deed and how he was forgiven by the family he nearly destroyed some 40 years ago.
Larry lived with this secret for years and didn’t reveal it to many people. Larry and Michael Jordan’s daughter advised him to speak out and resolve this long-standing issue. As Larry said, his toxicity haunted him and made him sick. He talks about this horrific time in a book he wrote and co-wrote with his daughter, Laila Lacy. The title of the books is JUMP: MY SECRET JOURNEY FROM THE STREET TO THE MEETING ROOM.
In my opinion, the only mistake Larry made when he published his trip was not giving enough space and respect to the victim, Edward White. The White family was angry and eventually met Larry when he asked for forgiveness. Think of that moment when their father’s killer asks the son (that 8 month old) and daughter (then unborn) to forgive him – and they graciously forgave him. Think about it. They forgave him?!?! It’s amazing. How many of us have this ability?
Larry wanted this story told to free himself and, more importantly, to prevent another Larry Miller from repeating his mistakes and living the same life as a young Larry. The bonus here was that Larry was finally able to forgive himself and the White family forgiving him. A difficult and complicated maneuver by any calculation.
This may sound a bit concise, but I have to turn to politics.
Those of us who have lived a few decades in politics will have a time or two when we have to come to a crossroads and seek or ask for forgiveness. The politics are dynamic and have a punitive full contact element that is sometimes played out on unforgiving ground.
I don’t need to cite the virtues of helping others in this endeavor or asking for help. On the path to legislative policy assistance, employment, any appointment, inevitably, some party will cross, undermine, disappoint, or even lie for the life-changing assistance that has been given or sought.
Many of us in politics owe our existence to someone else, whether we want to admit it or not. Likewise, many of us have lived in a world of refusal to be helped. None of us did this thing alone. So what about this refusal to be helped? Too many people today seek help in the public arena and later resent the thought of receiving that help.
I ask all who know life and the language I speak, in times of contempt or resentment, to turn up your cheeks in these disappointing times, times when human weakness or frailty elevates its ugliness and simply forgive to the offender – I know what I’m saying isn’t easy. I’ve witnessed some pretty ugly and malicious campaign accusations, but along the way, I’ve found time to live with those moments. Whether it was a vicious lie about my mother being an illegal alien, or about me being a protected class and affirmative action baby, or harsh distortions of my election results or my supporters, these lies hurt, but were quickly forgotten. Sometimes these things are said by the people closest to you – a former staff member, a disgruntled family member, or a jealous rival.
As my mentor Steven Adubato has told me many times, in politics (and in life), sometimes the more you do for people, the more they resent you. While not always the case, it’s common enough to warrant its telling and long-standing observation. Also, just to be clear, Big Steve said that this rule is more painful and more apparent with family members.
I don’t know if this ending is perfectly analogous to Larry Miller’s story, but it has some of the same marks of human nature that we need to observe and, more importantly, learn to ask for forgiveness or to forgive.
The power of forgiveness is so empowering, powerful and rare.