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Ahmad Rashad and Phil Knight: How They Changed the Game of Sports and Entrepreneurship

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Ahmad Rashad and Phil Knight have made lasting impacts in sports and entrepreneurship. Rashad is a former NFL star and Emmy-winning broadcaster, while Knight is co-founder and chairman emeritus of Nike – an athletic footwear and apparel global leader. Their friendship is at the core of it all: both attended University of Oregon together and formed relationships that would go on to shape both of their careers and lives.

The Oregon Connection

Ahmad Rashad and Phil Knight
Ahmad Rashad and Phil Knight

Rashad and Knight both attended the University of Oregon during the 1960s, where they excelled in their respective fields. Rashad (then known as Bobby Moore) excelled as a versatile running back who set numerous school records and earned All-American recognition, while Knight excelled as a middle-distance runner under legendary coach Bill Bowerman; who would later become his business partner and shoe pioneer Bill Bowerman introduced them both to handmade Nike prototype shoes produced by Bowerman himself; Rashad and Knight were two of his first wearers of Bowerman’s handmade shoe creations that helped launch a brand later known by its acronym: NMD = National Athletic Department

The Sports and Business Success

Rashad and Knight completed their degrees at Oregon, then pursued their goals in sports and business. Rashad was selected by the St. Louis Cardinals to play in 1972 before going on to Buffalo Bills and Seattle Seahawks teams. He reached his prime while with the Minnesota Vikings, becoming a four-time Pro Bowl receiver and an exceptional clutch performer. Perhaps best known for his spectacular catch in 1980’s NFC Divisional Playoff game at Madison Square Garden known as “Miracle at the Met” that advanced them to play for their second NFC Championship Game victory, he is remembered fondly. After retiring from football, Rashad quickly found success as a broadcaster covering various sporting events and hosting shows such as “Inside Stuff” and “NBA TV”. Additionally, he formed a close bond with NBA icon Michael Jordan – then Nike’s face – who later became one of Rashad’s closest confidantes.

Knight pursued his MBA at Stanford University and wrote an influential paper about importing low-cost running shoes from Japan. With Bowerman as partners, they created Blue Ribbon Sports which later evolved into Nike. Knight’s vision and leadership helped Nike grow from a modest startup into an international powerhouse, producing such iconic products as Air Jordans, Air Maxs and its trademarked Swoosh logo. Knight revolutionized sports marketing by signing endorsement deals with top athletes like Jordan, Tiger Woods, Serena Williams and LeBron James. Knight stepped down as CEO in 2004 and chairman in 2016, but remains both the largest shareholder and influential force at Nike.

The Legacy and Impact

Rashad and Knight have not only achieved personal success, but have also made significant strides toward the advancement of sports and entrepreneurship. Through their passion, dedication, and ingenuity they have inspired generations of athletes and entrepreneurs. They have also given back to the University of Oregon by contributing millions to academic and athletic programs at Oregon. Rashad and Knight are examples of how sports and business can go hand in hand, with Rashad receiving two honors from Oregon University: induction into both its Sports Hall of Fame and Athletics Hall of Fame; while Knight was given both Presidential Medal of Freedom and Oregon Pioneer Awards. Friendship and loyalty between Rashad and Knight endure.

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