Nike co-founder Phil Knight began building his brand by selling shoes out of the trunk of his car and, now, is one of the country’s wealthiest men and the architect of a dominant basketball empire.
For his work, he was recognized Friday night when he was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
Introduced by former NBA star Michael Jordan, one of the first to sign on to endorse the Nike brand, Knight spoke about Jordan’s importance to the growth of his business.
“His magic made him a brand,” Knight said at the podium. “He is to the sporting goods industry what Nathan Hale, Patrick Henry, Che Guevara and Mao Tse Tung were to world politics.”
Just how pervasive is the iconic Nike swoosh? According to Bloomberg, Nike owns 95% of the market share in basketball shoes, dwarfing competitors like adidas, Reebok, and Under Armour.
In contemporary amateur basketball, Nike’s EYBL tournament is the most recognizable group of events on the summer AAU circuit, culminating in the Nike Peach Jam during the live recruiting period in July.
In college basketball, flagship schools like Kentucky, Michigan State, Duke, North Carolina, and Connecticut are branded with Nike’s logo and carry the brand at that level.
It was announced in mid-August that 16 Nike teams will host a tournament in November 2017 to honor Knight’s 80th birthday.
Among the participants are all of those schools listed above, as well as Florida, Ohio State, Butler, Gonzaga, Stanford, Texas, Oklahoma, Portland, Oregon, Xavier, and Georgetown.
According to Forbes magazine, Knight’s net worth is estimated at $14.4 billion.
Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_