Larry Miller rose to the pinnacle of the Nike Jordan brand, becoming chairman and working right alongside NBA legend Michael Jordan.
But he kept a dark secret hidden for decades even from Jordan himself. In 1965, when he was a 16-year-old gang member, he shot and killed 18-year-old David White, who Miller said was at the wrong place at the wrong time.
“It was totally senseless. There was nothing that he did that caused this,” Miller told CBS News special correspondent James Brown in Miller’s first broadcast interview.
“Did you ever even fathom that there was a possibility that you could do something like that?” Brown asked.
“No. No, I didn’t. There was always this voice in the back of my head saying, ‘You know you shouldn’t be doing this’ and the thing is, I just wouldn’t listen to it,” Miller replied.
He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for killing White, who was a father of two.
While in prison, he earned his GED and said he gave the valedictorian’s speech at the high school graduation inside the penitentiary.
“I remember my closing line. It was, “Let’s not serve time. Let’s let time serve us,'” Miller said.
Miller served fewer than five years for murder and by the age of 20, he was already out.
He was arrested shortly after for a series of separate crimes. Miller once again saw education as the key to his release.
“You could actually take college classes inside the jail. It was because of that program that I was able to really change my life,” Miller said.
Miller earned an accounting degree from Temple University. Once he was up for a significant corporate job, he made the decision to divulge his past after he was rejected from a job offer.
“At that point, I decided that I wasn’t going to share this anymore. I wasn’t gonna lie, and I never did,” he said.
Miller landed jobs at Campbell Soup, Jantzen Swimwear and then Nike.
But in his new book “Jump: My Secret Journey from the Streets to the Boardroom,” he wrote, “The secret’s malignant grip on my life had grown more toxic. Dark dreams fueled paranoia during the day, which made the next night’s dreams even darker.”
Miller said he even had to go to the emergency room at one point because he was holding “angst and fear.”
His daughter Laila Lacy, who he co-wrote the book with, said it took her 12 years to convince her father to come forward. She said as they wrote the book together, she found out what her father was secretly going through.
“Until we started writing, I didn’t know about the migraines. I didn’t know about the nightmares. I didn’t know how he was struggling,” Lacy said.
It was also “painful” for her to learn the details of her father’s crime because she was a mother—but it helped her come to an understanding.
“We all deserve a second chance. Now, there is no one that I meet, ever, that I think is unredeemable,” Lacy said.
Miller decided to tell Jordan about his past and about the book. Jordan, whose own father was murdered in 1993, encouraged Miller to contact the family of David White.
In an interview with Sports Illustrated, Miller had said he planned to reach out but White’s family said they didn’t hear from him.
“In hindsight, I should’ve reached out to them, should’ve tried to locate and find them much sooner than we did,” Miller said.
Last month, they finally met. The moment led to forgiveness.
“So, when I listened to him be remorseful, his eyes watered up and I felt okay to forgive him,” said White’s son, Hasan Adams.
More than 40 years after leaving prison, Miller said he’s also finally free.
“The thought and the idea that I took the life of a young Black man has eaten at me for years. And I’m hoping that maybe, you know, there is a 16-year-old Larry Miller out there that is about to do something crazy,” he said. “By sharing this maybe it’ll stop someone or make someone else think twice about doing something that they’re going to regret later in life.”
Miller plans to donate some of his book’s proceeds to the Philadelphia Juvenile Justice Services Center and Vera Institute.
He is working with the White family to set up scholarships to benefit descendants of David White and others in the West Philadelphia neighborhood where they both grew up.