Temple graduate, MBA from LaSalle, 10 years with Nike, former president of the Portland Trail Blazers, and boasting a CAA Speakers profile, this is how you would expect a Jordan Brand executive’s resume to read. That resume belongs to Larry Miller, chairman of the company’s advisory board. However, a close examination of that resume would reveal one “hole.” Miller received his bachelor’s degree in accounting from Temple in 1982. He is currently 72 years old.
That would make him 16 years old in 1965, the year he murdered 18-year-old Edward White in Philadelphia.
Miller had already revealed this information to his business partners, Phil Knight and Michael Jordan, and then he told the world in an interview with Howard Beck of Sports Illustrated in promotion of his book, Jump: My Secret Journey from the Streets to the Boardroom.
That journey begins with Miller as a juvenile delinquent. His life consisted of daily underage drinking, violence, and juvenile detention centers. Then one day a friend of his was killed in a gang fight. Miller then got drunk, took a gun, went out for revenge, and ended up killing White. Miller got out of jail at 30, and he embarked on a new journey, one that took him to corporate America. Miller told Beck that none of his employers ever knew about his crime, and for a time the only one of his children who knew was his oldest daughter, who had to visit him in prison — but the memory plagued him with nightmares and migraines throughout his life.
It reminds me of the ESPN 30 for 30, Benji. In that documentary, the murderer of former No. 1 overall basketball recruit Benjamin Wilson, Billy Moore, told his side of the story. Moore’s story can also be found at Obama.org, the internet home of the nonprofit bearing the name of the 44th President of the United States. Moore was also a teenager when he committed the crime and served nearly 20 years of a 40-year sentence.
In 2021, we as a society are rethinking the role that prison and law enforcement should play in American society. Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote an article for The Atlantic in 2015 about mass incarceration, and how the need to decarcerate was becoming a bipartisan opinion, but the myth remained that it could be done by focusing on low-level drug offenders. At that time, in order to have a prison population similar to the rest of the developed world, America would have to reduce its population by 80 percent. To get anywhere near that number, people who have been sentenced for committing violent crimes, including murder, would have to be included.
Swallowing that fact for many, including me the first time I read it, is like trying to swallow a large pill while having a strong gag reflex.
Yet, there is evidence this could work. For one, crime is still a problem in America. While murders are down from their early-90s peaks in most major American cities, in other cities and neighborhoods it’s as bad as it ever was. This country also does a poor job of preventing sexual assaults and domestic violence and prosecuting those cases in court.
Perhaps the resources spent locking up Americans could be put to better use in actual America. Say, programs geared to hammering into the minds of young boys that being a man means keeping their hands to themselves and communicating with their partners, instead of dominating them. It takes a true commitment to providing mental health resources and opportunities for people in neighborhoods that have been neglected for the better part of the last two centuries.
And for those who do end up in prison, it takes a legitimate opportunity to reform and become a positive member of society. Everything in Miller’s life suggested he was on a rapidly moving walkway to life in prison. Then he actually killed someone. He literally stopped that person’s heart and irrevocably damaged White’s family.
The horror of having to deal with that should make anyone feel pain on that family’s behalf. That heinous act deserves punishment, but here’s the question: is ending a second life justice or vengeance?
Miller was 16 years old and fell victim to the parts of his environment his parents tried to keep him away from. He then served time and while there changed directions on his journey. Miller started on a degree in prison and once released he started on another one. He eventually was put in a position of authority with one of the most iconic brands in the history of this country.
As for Miller and Moore, would our country be better off with them where they’re at now, or behind bars until they met the same fate as their victims?