Book Notes: Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

Reading Time: 19 minutes

Shoe Dog, by Phil Knight

Publisher : Scribner (2016)

ISBN-13 :978-1501135910

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

The Book in 3 Sentences

  • A lot of progress and change originates from a crazy or radical idea. Many things we take for granted today – books, democracy, free market capitalism, etc – began as bold or crazy ideas.
  • Building a business is extremely challenging, but the key is to work hard, hire great people, focus on building a good product, never give up, and catch some lucky breaks!
  • You define your own finish line. It’s okay to have goals and objectives, but the true pleasures, and growth, and lessons come from the act of striving itself, and from the people and relationships you make along the way. It’s not so much the destination as it is the journey along the way.

Five Key Takeaways

  1. Find something that makes work feel like play, an activity that is so engrossing, and encompassing, and satisfying that you have fun, despite the challenges. Also, that way, problems and challenges feel less like failure, and more like interesting opportunities to be solved.
  2. It is easier to sell something when you believe in your product.
  3. Aim for an unimpeachable reputation, but also be willing when required, at times, to bend the truth a little bit, for strategic purposes. Per General Douglas MacArthur, “You are remembered for the rules you break” (pg. 29). All the same, being honest and straightforward is important for a company’s growth and reputation.
  4. Competition helps a business to grow and improve. But, real growth comes when you forget about your rivals, and focus solely on improving yourself, your product, and your business.
  5. Problems create challenges. But they can also provide an opportunity. They force you to become more creative, resourceful, and imaginative. Working to resolve a challenge may even lead to valuable opportunities that weren’t even initially imagined.

Top Quotes

  • At twenty-four I did have a Crazy Idea, and somehow, despite being dizzy with existential angst, and fears about the future, and doubts about myself, as all young men and women in their midtwenties are, I did decide that the world is made up of crazy ideas. History is one long processional of crazy ideas. The things I loved most—books, sports, democracy, free enterprise—started as crazy ideas. (pg. 5)
  • For that matter, few ideas are as crazy as my favorite thing, running. It’s hard. It’s painful. It’s risky. The rewards are few and far from guaranteed. When you run around an oval track, or down an empty road, you have no real destination. At least, none that can fully justify the effort. The act itself becomes the destination. It’s not just that there’s no finish line; it’s that you define the finish line. Whatever pleasures or gains you derive from the act of running, you must find them within. It’s all in how you frame it, how you sell it to yourself. (pg. 5)
  • But my hope was that when I failed, if I failed, I’d fail quickly, so I’d have enough time, enough years, to implement all the hard-won lessons. I wasn’t much for setting goals, but this goal kept flashing through my mind every day, until it became my internal chant: Fail fast. (pg. 89)
  • I redefined winning, expanded it beyond my original definition of not losing, of merely staying alive. That was no longer enough to sustain me, or my company. We wanted, as all great businesses do, to create, to contribute, and we dared to say so aloud. When you make something, when you improve something, when you deliver something, when you add some new thing or service to the lives of strangers, making them happier, or healthier, or safer, or better, and when you do it all crisply and efficiently, smartly, the way everything should be done but so seldom is—you’re participating more fully in the whole grand human drama. More than simply alive, you’re helping others to live more fully, and if that’s business, all right, call me a businessman. Maybe it will grow on me. (pg. 330)


In 1962, 24 year old Phil Knight had graduated with an MBA from Stanford, and completed a year of serving in the US Army at Fort Lewis and Fort Eustis. Now, after seven years away from home, he was back living in his childhood home with his parents and twin sisters in Portland, Oregon. He was searching, and he was restless.

I had an aching sense that our time is short, shorter than we ever know, short as a morning run, and I wanted mine to be meaningful. And purposeful. And creative. And important. Above all . . . different.” — pg. 3

And then, Knight had a crazy idea!  An avid runner (he’d been on the University of Oregon track team), Knight wanted to take action on a research paper he had written about shoes for a seminar on entrepreneurship. If Japanese cameras were making inroads in the German-dominated camera market in the United States, perhaps imported Japanese running shoes might succeed against Adidas and Puma, the leading German athletic shoe makers in the US.

This was a radical idea, especially since running was not fashionable in the United States in the 1960s. “In fact, in 1965, running wasn’t even a sport. It wasn’t popular, it wasn’t unpopular—it just was. To go out for a three-mile run was something weirdos did, presumably to burn off manic energy. Running for pleasure, running for exercise, running for endorphins, running to live better and longer—these things were unheard of.”  (pg. 71)

With money from his father, Knight travelled to Japan to meet with Onitsuka, a Japanese shoe manufacturing company. He convinced Onitsuka that he represented Blue Ribbon Sports (a name he came up with on the spot based on the blue ribbons he won running track), and that Blue Ribbon should become Onitsuka’s exclusive representative in the western United States. Onitsuka liked his pitch, and Blue Ribbon Sports (it officially became Nike, Inc. in 1976) was born. To purchase his initial order of 300 Tiger running shoes from Onitsuka, Knight borrowed $1,000 from his father, and an additional $500 from Bill Bowerman, his former track coach who became his business partner in Blue Ribbon.

Over the next several decades, Knight would transform Nike from a scrappy startup, selling Tiger running shoes from the trunk of his lime-green Plymouth Valiant at track meets, into today’s global athletic goods colossus. Today, Nike is a global, publicly traded company, with billions of dollars in yearly sales revenue, and thousands of employees. Its shoes are worn by millions of people around the world, including famous athletes such as Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan. We’re all familiar with the Nike swoosh logo, and Nike’s famous tagline: “Just do it”!  Maybe, you’ve even got a pair of Nikes in your own closet.

Shoe Dog is Knight’s account of how he built this global juggernaut from scratch, facing countless obstacles along the way, from problems with cash flow, to a legal fight with the US government, while balancing his role as a husband, father, and friend. The book is part memoir, and part an honest retelling of how to grow a company into a global brand. Shoe Dog is the story of how Nike was born and raised.



  • Luck plays a big role. Yes, I’d like to publicly acknowledge the power of luck. Athletes get lucky, poets get lucky, businesses get lucky. Hard work is critical, a good team is essential, brains and determination are invaluable, but luck may decide the outcome. Some people might not call it luck. They might call it Tao, or Logos, or Jñāna, or Dharma. Or Spirit. Or God. (pg. 359)
  • Put it this way. The harder you work, the better your Tao. And since no one has ever adequately defined Tao, I now try to go regularly to mass. I would tell them: Have faith in yourself, but also have faith in faith. Not faith as others define it. Faith as you define it. Faith as faith defines itself in your heart. (pg. 359)


  • I wanted to experience what the Chinese call Tao, the Greeks call Logos, the Hindus call Jñāna, the Buddhists call Dharma. What the Christians call Spirit. (pg. 8)
  • Like books, sports give people a sense of having lived other lives, of taking part in other people’s victories. And defeats. When sports are at their best, the spirit of the fan merges with the spirit of the athlete, and in that convergence, in that transference, is the oneness that the mystics talk about. — (pg. 201)
  • Oneness—in some way, shape, or form, it’s what every person I’ve ever met has been seeking. (pg. 347)

Work as Play

As a young man, Knight doesn’t desire a traditional corporate career, or the respectability that his father desires for him: a solid, stable job at a local firm. He works as an accountant at Price Waterhouse, and teaches Accounting 101 at Portland State University, but that is only to pay the bills while Nike cannot support him full time. Knight wants to find work that feels like play, is fun and interesting, and makes him come alive. “I asked myself: What if there were a way, without being an athlete, to feel what athletes feel? To play all the time, instead of working? Or else to enjoy work so much that it becomes essentially the same thing.”  (pg. 4)

At  Blue Ribbon, Knight builds a culture that is irreverent and non-traditional, not big on rules, roles, or hierarchy.  “We were trying to create a brand…. but also a culture. We were fighting against conformity, against boringness, against drudgery. More than a product, we were trying to sell an idea—a spirit.” (pg. 236)


Knight is obsessed with winning. When he first has his Crazy Idea in 1962, it’s inspired in part because he wants to compete, win,  and have a meaningful life. “I wanted to leave a mark on the world. I wanted to win. No, that’s not right. I simply didn’t want to lose.” (pg. 3) He views life as a game, or a battle, and business or entrepreneurship is one means of waging battle:

Like it or not, life is a game. Whoever denies that truth, whoever simply refuses to play, gets left on the sidelines, and I didn’t want that. More than anything, that was the thing I did not want.” (pg. 4)

Throughout the countless obstacles and challenges that Nike faces – lawsuits, nervous bankers, unreliable suppliers, battles with the government, Knight is motivated to succeed in part because he doesn’t want to lose. He equates losing with a form of death.

“I would search my mind and heart and the only thing I could come up with was this word—“winning.” It wasn’t much, but it was far, far better than the alternative. Whatever happened, I just didn’t want to lose. Losing was death”  (pg. 262)

And, similar to his love for competition, Knight is fascinated with war, and the fighting spirit it engenders. He reads about and is inspired often by military generals. When thinking about the purpose of Blue Ribbon Sports (later to be renamed Nike), he channels Winston Churchill in World War 2, “You ask, What is our aim? I can answer in one word. It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory . . . without victory, there is no survival.” (pg. 34).

Despite his competitive nature, Knight believes that the best way to compete is to not compete against others. One must forget about their rivals, or think too much about what they are doing. To improve, you must compete against yourself.

“People reflexively assume that competition is always a good thing, that it always brings out the best in people, but that’s only true of people who can forget the competition. The art of competing, I’d learned from track, was the art of forgetting” (pg. 58)


Knight views himself as a shoe dog, “people who devoted themselves wholly to the making, selling, buying, or designing of shoes” .  (pg. 176). He loves running, and sports, and shoes, and believes wholeheartedly in the product he is selling. Unlike his first sales job (selling encyclopedias and securities in Hawaii) , Knight has no problem when he first starts selling Tigers out of the back of his car.  He realizes he is better at selling shoes than at his previous endeavors because he believes in his product and in the power of running to transform lives.

“Because, I realized, it wasn’t selling. I believed in running. I believed that if people got out and ran a few miles every day, the world would be a better place, and I believed these shoes were better to run in. People, sensing my belief, wanted some of that belief for themselves. Belief, I decided. Belief is irresistible.” (pg. 52)


Life and business will come with many problems and challenges. These challenges may swallow some people up, while others may be invigorated by them.  Most people will give up at a hint of danger or failure, but those who remain will reap the rewards. As Bowerman reminds Knight, “The cowards never started … and the weak died along the way—that leaves us.”  (pg. 2)

The most rewarding opportunities will not be easy, and one will have to fight and persevere. “Let everyone else call your idea crazy . . . just keep going. Don’t stop. Don’t even think about stopping until you get there, and don’t give much thought to where “there” is. Whatever comes, just don’t stop.” (pg. 6)

You must find a path or a way around a challenge, if you cannot go through it.  “You must forget your limits. You must forget your doubts, your pain, your past. You must forget that internal voice screaming, begging, “Not one more step!” And when it’s not possible to forget it, you must negotiate with it.” (pg. 58)


Knight’s style is to hire good people and give them free rein to perform according to the best of their abilities. He is inspired by General George S. Patton, commander of the US Army during World War 2: “Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.” (pg. 33) Knight allows his team to have autonomy; he doesn’t stifle them with rules or regulations, and trusts them to follow their instincts and interests.

“Clearly the Buttfaces liked the culture I’d created. I trusted them, wholly, and didn’t look over their shoulders, and that bred a powerful two-way loyalty. My management style wouldn’t have worked for people who wanted to be guided, every step, but this group found it liberating, empowering. I let them be, let them do, let them make their own mistakes, because that’s how I’d always liked people to treat me.” (pg. 283)


Almost inadvertently, Knight assembled a core team of people who he labelled as misfits or rebels. “We were the kind of people who simply couldn’t put up with corporate nonsense. We were the kind of people who wanted our work to be play. But meaningful play.” ( pg. 236) Johnson, Woodell, Hayes, and Strasser would form Nike’s core management team, people affectionately named “Buttfaces”.

“Buttface referred to both the retreat and the retreaters, and it not only captured the informal mood of those retreats, where no idea was too sacred to be mocked, and no person was too important to be ridiculed, it also summed up the company spirit, mission and ethos” (pg. 278)

Each of us had been misunderstood, misjudged, dismissed. Shunned by bosses, spurned by luck, rejected by society, shortchanged by fate when looks and other natural graces were handed out. We’d each been forged by early failure. We’d each given ourselves to some quest, some attempt at validation or meaning, and fallen short.  (pg. 282)

I identified with the born loser in each Buttface, and vice versa, and I knew that together we could become winners. I still didn’t know exactly what winning meant, other than not losing, but we seemed to be getting closer to a defining moment when that question would be settled, or at least more sharply defined. (pg. 283)

Bill Bowerman

Bill Bowerman was a WWII veteran, a famous US running coach who trained superstar US running athletes, and would go on to lead the US track delegation at the Olympics.  Bowerman was also Knight’s running coach at the University of Oregon, and would become Knight’s business partner in Blue Ribbon sports. He was passionate about running, and in 1966, wrote a book, “Jogging”, that would popularize running for pleasure in the US.  “Before long, thanks to Bowerman and his book, running was no longer just for weirdos. It was no longer a cult. It was almost—cool?” (pg. 107)

Bowerman was also a tinkerer, and worked on improving running shoes. Many Nike shoe innovations came from Bowerman, including a waffle sole pattern for better grip when sprinting.

Jeff Johnson

Jeff Johnson was Nike’s first full-time employee. Originally hired to sell Tiger shoes, Johnson proved himself to be highly capable, organized, and industrious. He opened Nike’s first store in California in 1966, and also helped to improve on Bowerman’s shoe design ideas.

Johnson was very passionate about running, and “believed that runners are God’s chosen, that running, done right, in the correct spirit and with the proper form, is a mystical exercise, no less than meditation or prayer, and thus he felt called to help runners reach their nirvana.” (pg. 71)

An avid reader, it was also Johnson who came up with Nike’s name. It came to him in a dream:  Nike, from the Greek goddess of victory.

Bob Woodell

Bob Woodell was a former runner who became disabled in an accident. Bowerman recommended that Knight hire him, and Woodell proved to excel at business operations. Woodell became one of Nike’s most competent managers, doing everything from launching and running new factories, to successfully expanding Nike’s product line from track shoes into clothing.

Delbert Hayes

Delbert Hayes was an accountant (with a drinking problem) that Knight met in the 1970s while working at Price Waterhouse.

Rob Strasser

Rob Strasser was initially hired as an attorney for Blue Ribbon in its lawsuit against Onitsuka. After successfully winning the trial, Knight asked Strasser to stay on as Nike’s first in-house counsel. He also successfully led the development of air-cushioned soles, which would later become the highly successful Nike Airs.


The name “Nike” randomly came to Jeff Johnson in a dream. Victory, or “nike” is one of the blessings bestowed by Athena, the Greek Goddess of War.  This appeals to Knight’s love of winning, “ “I liked that Nike was the goddess of victory. What’s more important, I thought, than victory?” “(pg. 174) Knight also notes that in the Oresteia, Athena says, “I admire . . . the eyes of persuasion.” , thus making her, in a sense, the patron saint of negotiators”  [and thus, of business]. (pg. 35)

And of Nike’s iconic swoosh logo, Knight pays $35 to Carolyn Davidson, a graphic design student he randomly meets on the campus of Portland State University. Asked to explain the meaning of the logo, the swoosh, Knight says, “The hell’s a swoosh? The answer flew out of me: It’s the sound of someone going past you. (pg. 191)

Knight’s Finest Hour

In 1971, Blue Ribbon’s bank, First National Bank, decided it would no longer do business with it and terminated the relationship. To make matters worse, Onitsuka, Blue Ribbon’s supplier, had begun searching for new distributors in the US.  Blue Ribbon is out of money, and nearly out of luck. If they cannot pay their creditors, or even make payroll, the company will have to shut down, despite strong sales growth. Knight gives his dispirited team a motivational speech:

“This is—the moment,” I said. “This is the moment we’ve been waiting for. Our moment. No more selling someone else’s brand. No more working for someone else. …If we’re going to succeed, or fail, we should do so on our own terms, with our own ideas—our own brand. …Let’s not look at this as a crisis. Let’s look at this as our liberation. Our Independence Day.” (pg. 196)

Knight continues:

We know our way around Japan now. And that’s one reason I feel in my heart this is a war we can win. And if we win it, when we win it, I see great things for us on the other side of victory. We are still alive, people. We are still. Alive.” (pg. 197)

His employees are inspired by his enthusiasm, some last minute financing comes through, and Blue Ribbon goes on to battle Onitsuka in court and win. Knight’s team calls that speech one of his finest hours, and he observes, “No matter the sport—no matter the human endeavor, really—total effort will win people’s hearts.”  (pg. 199)


Knight and his team saw failure as an opportunity to learn, and were never afraid to try new things, or come up with new innovations, or expand into new products, markets and territories. They operated with faith and confidence in their product, and in themselves. The goal was to move fast, experiment fast, and learn quickly from failure  “Not that any of us thought we wouldn’t fail; in fact we had every expectation that we would. But when we did fail, we had faith that we’d do it fast, learn from it, and be better for it.” (pg. 240)

One of these failures was the Tailwind, a shoe that launched in 1978 to initial success. It featured twelve different product innovations, including Nike’s famous air soles. However, consumers discovered defects with usage, and it eventually had to be refunded and recalled. Knight recalls that failure, saying ” In time we all agreed to pretend it was no big deal. We’d learned a valuable lesson. Don’t put twelve innovations into one shoe. It asks too much of the shoe, to say nothing of the design team. We reminded each other that there was honor in saying, “Back to the drawing board.”  (pg. 311)


Some of the major challenges that Nike faced included:

  1. Cash Flow

Much of the suspense in Knight’s story comes from Nike’s constant cash flow problems. Until it went public, decades after its founding, Blue Ribbon was always cash-strapped.  All profit was reinvested into ordering and producing more shoes. Blue Ribbon was doubling sales revenue year over year, which required bigger and bigger orders from its Japanese shoe manufacturers.

But, those larger purchase orders required larger loans, and larger loans made Blue Ribbon’s bankers very nervous about pay off. Thus, despite phenomenal sales growth, many banks rejected Blue Ribbon because “they didn’t have enough assets”, and Blue Ribbon always operated as a very lean, scrappy startup on the verge of complete failure with just one bad sales year.

Meanwhile, Onitsuka, his Japanese supplier would prioritize its deliveries to Japan, which caused Nike’s inventory and cash flow  problems. In order to continue financing ever larger orders, and pay off his bank loans, Knight constantly needed more capital.

Knight introduced the “Futures” program, a program that provided discounts to retailers that made large, non-refundable  advance orders. This helped to smoothen out financing and inventory somewhat.

Also, in 1971, Nissho Trading Company intervened and became Blue Ribbon’s steadfast creditor; it provided larger loan amounts than any previous bank had done so far for Nike. This provided Nike with some financial breathing room, and even enabled Knight to issue corporate bonds that same year to raise more funds.

  1. Supply & Logistics

Another challenge was producing enough shoes to keep up with huge demand. As Knight puts it, there were never enough shoes in the pipeline, and “there was never enough purple to go around. It’s hard enough to invent and manufacture and market a product, but then the logistics, the mechanics, the hydraulics of getting it to the people who want it, when they want it—this is how companies die, how ulcers are born.” (pg. 220)

Ultimately, Nike established factories in other countries besides Japan, due to supply issues, rising labor costs, and the volatility of the Japanese currency. They opened factories in Taiwan, Vietnam, Mexico, the US itself, and even subsequently became the first American shoemaker in twenty-five years to be allowed to do business in China.

  1. Nike versus the US Government

In 1979, Converse, Keds, and a few other American shoe manufacturer rivals of Nike conspired to manufacture shoes domestically that were extremely expensive. This triggered the “American Selling Price (ASP)” , an obscure tax law which states that import duties on nylon shoes must be 20% of the manufacturing cost of the shoe – unless there’s a “similar shoe” manufactured by a competitor in the United States. In which case, the duty must be 20 percent of the competitor’s selling price. (pg. 296).

By making a few select shoes in the US, and pricing them sky-high, Nike’s rivals ensure that Nike’s import duties increase by 40%. Thus, in 1971, Nike received a bill for $25 million from US customs, retroactive to a few years, and due immediately.

Knight lobbies Oregon’s Senators  in Congress for help. Nike also creates a new shoe and prices it low so that the US government would have to use this “competitor” shoe as a new reference point in deciding Nike’s import duty. But, ultimately, Nike produces a television commercial about its David versus Goliath fight against the US government.

The ad is successful and gets public opinion on Nike’s side. Finally, on February 29, 1980, Nike filed a $25 million antitrust suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, alleging that its competitors, and assorted rubber companies, through underhanded business practices, have conspired to put Nike out of business. (pg. 322)

Unwilling to risk further public displeasure, the government offers a settlement, and Nike agrees to take the deal and pay $9 million.

  1. Factory Conditions

In the 1990s, Nike comes under fire for unsafe working conditions at its factories. Its critics deem Nike factories to be sweatshops, with unsafe and unsanitary working conditions. Although Knight feels much of the criticism is undeserved, Nike uses that criticism to improve conditions at its factories, “We’ll make our factories shining examples.” (pg. 349) They improve conditions and operations, and come up with new innovations to make the factories cleaner and safer.

For instance, Nike invents a water-based bonding agent that removes 97% of the carcinogens in the air that are expelled during the shoe bonding process in the rubber room. They then give away this invention to their rivals so they can also improve working conditions in their own factories.

Nike also launches the Girl Effect, a program to educate and empower young girls in developing countries.

“Today the factories that make our products are among the best in the world. An official at the United Nations recently said so: Nike is the gold standard by which we measure all apparel factories.”  (pg. 350)

Going Public, 1980

Knight and his team resisted going public on at least two different occasions. Going public would mean a lot of money, but they would also lose control of the company, and be accountable to stockholders, investment firms, and thousands of strangers. “Money wasn’t our aim, we agreed. Money wasn’t our end game. But whatever our aim or end, money was the only means to get there. More money than we had on hand.”  (pg. 263)

Nonetheless, they would need more capital than they had on hand to successfully manage Nike’s exponential growth.  On December 2, 1980, Nike’s share offerings went for sale to the general public. It was priced at $22 per share, the same share price as Apple, which also went public that same week. The IPO was a huge success, and Knight would personally own about 46% of Nike, which netted him, at the time of the IPO, a fortune of $178 million. Bowerman would net $9 million, while Woodell, Johnson, Hayes and Strasser would each be worth around $6 million.

Wealth and Success

Nike’s IPO made Knight and his team extraordinarily wealthy. By the time he stepped down after forty years as CEO of Nike, in 2007, he was worth at least $10 billion.  “When it came rolling in, the money affected us all. Not much, and not for long, because none of us was ever driven by money. But that’s the nature of money. Whether you have it or not, whether you want it or not, whether you like it or not, it will try to define your days. Our task as human beings is not to let it.”  (pg. 356)

His vast wealth leaves him mostly unchanged. After a few millionaire-like-inspired purchases after the IPO (a Porsche, trying to buy the LA Clippers, etc), Knight settles back into normalcy. He and his wife now give away $100 million each year, and intend to donate most of their wealth to charity upon their deaths. In fact, his primary reaction to the success of the IPO appears to be regret and a sense of loss. “It wasn’t joy. It wasn’t relief. If I felt anything, it was . . . regret? Good God, I thought. Yes. Regret. Because I honestly wished I could do it all over again.“(pg. 337)


Knight’s parents provide him and his two twin sisters with a solid middle-class upbringing. His father desires Knight (who’s called “Bucky”) to be more respectable and pursue a steady job, while his mother (Lota Hatfield Knight) is more quietly supportive. Nonetheless, his father (upon his mother’s encouragement) provides the seed capital that enables Knight to make his first purchase order of running shoes. His father’s good reputation is also what enables Blue Ribbon Sports to establish a line of credit with its first bank.

In their house on Claybourne Street, the tension was concealed, and calm and reason almost always prevailed, because of their love for us. Love wasn’t spoken, or shown, but it was there, always. My sisters and I grew up knowing that both parents, different as they were from each other, and from us, cared. That’s their legacy. That’s their lasting victory.”  (pg. 346)

Knight attributes some of his risk-taking behavior to the stability of his family. “Could I have risked as much, dared as much, walked the razor’s edge of entrepreneurship between safety and catastrophe, without the early foundation of that feeling, that bliss of safety and contentment? I don’t think so.” (pg. 340)

Knight married Penelope, a student he met while teaching an Accounting 101 class at Pprtland State University. Together, they had two sons,  Matthew and Travis. There was a tension between fatherhood and work. Matthew, his older son, was more rebellious, perhaps resentful of the amount of Knight’s time that Nike consumed. Travis was more understanding.  “Of all the negotiations in my life, those with my sons have been the most difficult.” (pg. 301)

Unfortunately, Matthew was killed in a scuba diving accident in 2000, a tragedy that devastated Phil. All of Nike’s athletes called to offer their condolences, including Tiger Woods. It is a kindness that Knight remembers to this day.


Knight views this book as a way of teaching young people, entrepreneurs, and others about the challenges involved in growing a business and following your dream. Shoe Dog is the fulfilment of an outstanding item on Knight’s bucket list  – to tell his story and inspire artists, athletes, entrepreneurs, and other creative people to follow their dreams.

God, how I wish I could relive the whole thing. Short of that, I’d like to share the experience, the ups and downs, so that some young man or woman, somewhere, going through the same trials and ordeals, might be inspired or comforted. Or warned. Some young entrepreneur, maybe, some athlete or painter or novelist, might press on. It’s all the same drive. The same dream.  (pg. 358)