Larry Miller rose to the top of the Nike Jordan brand, becoming president and working alongside NBA legend Michael Jordan.
But he’s kept a dark secret hidden for decades, even from Jordan himself. In 1965, as a 16-year-old gang member, he shot and killed 18-year-old David White, who Miller said was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“It was totally insane. Nothing he did caused this,” Miller told CBS News special correspondent James Brown during Miller’s first broadcast interview.
“Did you ever think there was a possibility you could do something like that?” Brown asked.
“No. No, I didn’t. There was always this voice in the back of my head that said, ‘You know you shouldn’t do that’ and the thing is, I don’t just wasn’t listening 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 speech at the high school graduation ceremony inside the penitentiary.
“I remember my last line. It was, ‘Let’s not serve time. Let time serve us,” Miller said.
Miller served less than five years for murder and by the age of 20 he was already out.
He was arrested soon 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 prison. It was through this program that I was able to really turn my life around,” Miller said.
Miller earned a degree in accounting from Temple University. Once he applied for an important position in the company, he made the decision to come out with his past after being rejected from a job offer.
“At that point, I decided I wasn’t going to share this anymore. I wasn’t going to 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 malign grip of secrecy over my life had become more toxic. Dark dreams fueled paranoia during the day, which even made dreams of the next night darker.”
Miller said he even had to go to the emergency room at one point because he was feeling “angst and fear”.
His daughter Laila Lacy, with whom he co-wrote the book, said it took her 12 years to convince her father to come forward. She said that while writing 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 to understand.
“We all deserve a second chance. Now there’s no one I meet, ever, that I think is beyond recovery,” Lacy said.
Miller decided to tell Jordan about his past and the book. Jordan, whose own father was murdered in 1993, encouraged Miller to contact David White’s family.
In an interview with Sports Illustrated, Miller said he planned to reach out, but White’s family said they haven’t heard from him.
“In hindsight, I should have contacted them, I should have tried to locate them and find them much earlier than us,” Miller said.
Last month, they finally met. The moment led to forgiveness.
“So when I heard him feeling remorse, his eyes watered and I felt okay to forgive him,” White’s son Hasan Adams said.
More than 40 years after his release from prison, Miller said he was also finally free.
“The thought and idea that I took the life of a young black man has eaten at me for years. And I hope that maybe, you know, there’s a 16-year-old Larry Miller who is about to do something crazy,” he said. “By sharing this maybe it will stop someone or make someone else think twice about doing something that he will regret later in life.”
Miller plans to donate some of the proceeds from her book to the Philadelphia Juvenile Justice Services Center and the Vera Institute.
He works with the White family to set up scholarships to benefit the descendants of David White and others in the West Philadelphia neighborhood where they both grew up.