A Nike executive and former Portland Trail Blazers president has admitted killing a teen more than 50 years ago – a secret he kept from powerful friends like Michael Jordan and NBA commissioner Adam Silver.
Larry Miller, who rejoined the Jordan Brand in 2012 after serving in the Blazers’ front office for five years, revealed his long-guarded secret in an exclusive cover story with Sports Illustrated.
The 72-year-old exec now serving as Jordan Brand’s chairman told SI of the 1965 slaying in his corner suite on Nike’s campus in Beaverton, Oregon, where he keeps notes signed by Jordan, as well as autographed boxing gloves from Muhammad Ali and a basketball signed by President Obama.
There’s no sign of Miller’s troubled past, however, which he kept from Nike and NBA officials until just the last few months, confiding in Silver and Jordan that he gunned down an 18-year-old in Philadelphia when he was just 16.
“This was a really difficult decision for me,” Miller said of revealing his criminal past. “Because for 40 years, I ran from this. I tried to hide this and hope that people didn’t find out about it.”
Miller decided to go public ahead of his forthcoming book, “Jump: My Secret Journey From the Streets to the Boardroom,” which is set for release early next year.
Miller said he didn’t know his victim, identified in news reports at the time as Edward White, whom he admitted fatally shooting on Sept. 30, 1965, with a .38-caliber gun in West Philadelphia. He was arrested soon after the slaying, the Daily News reported days later.
Miller — who said he was a “straight-up gangbanger” by 16 — claimed the slaying was retribution for a previous killing. His troubles began three years earlier when he joined the Cedar Avenue gang in West Philly.
Miller told SI he grabbed a gun he previously got from his girlfriend and downed a bottle of wine before heading out with three friends to hunt down anyone affiliated with the rival gang, shooting the first person they saw.
Miller admitted he didn’t know the victim or even if he had anything to do with the earlier stabbing or had ties to the rival gang.
“We were all drunk,” Miller said during a 90-minute interview. “I was in a haze. Once it kind of set in, I was like, ‘Oh, sh-t, what have I done?’ It took years for me to understand the real impact of what I had done.”
Miller, who was arrested multiple times for various offenses, ending up spending time in juvenile detention or prison until age 30, SI reported. He resumed his education while locked up and earned an accounting degree from Temple University about the same time he was released.
But Miller’s past came back to haunt him when he later interviewed at accounting firm Arthur Andersen, where he shared the 1965 slaying with the firm’s hiring partner. His offer was quickly rescinded, SI reported
“I’m never sharing this again,” Miller recalled making a decision at the time.
When he was later hired by Campbell Soup, he was relieved to see that the application only asked if he had been convicted of a crime in the last five years.
Miller then went on to become vice president of Nike Basketball in 1997 and the president of the Jordan Brand in 1999. He joined the Trail Blazers in 2006 before returning as president of the Jordan Brand in 2012.
“It’s great to have Larry return to the Jordan Brand at such an exciting time,” the Chicago Bulls legend said in a statement at the time. “He is a strong leader, knows our brand and understands how to accelerate the growth of a premium business.”
Miller said he was “definitely nervous” about telling Jordan, but said he’s received support from both him and Silver. The league’s commissioner told SI he was “stunned” at first by Miller’s disclosure.
“I then went from stunned to amazed that Larry had managed his long and very successful professional career, operating at the highest levels in our industry, with this secret firmly intact, and was ultimately left with a feeling of sadness that Larry had carried this burden all these years without the support of his many friends and colleagues,” Silver told SI in a statement.
Nike, meanwhile, is also backing Miller, citing his “influential” role in the company.
“His story is an example of the resilience, perseverance and strength of the human spirit,” Nike CEO John Donohoe told SI. “I hope his experience can create a healthy discourse around criminal justice reform, by helping remove the stigma that holds people and communities back.”
With his lifelong secret now revealed, Miller said the anxiety-induced nightmares and migraines he endured amid fears of his past coming back to haunt him are no more — calling it a “real freeing exercise.”
“It’s freed me,” Miller told SI. “I feel the freedom now to be me.”