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Volume 23 No. 14
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2003: The Year in Brief for Nike and Chairman Phil Knight

Jan. 13: The Sporting News ranks Phil Knight No. 6 on its 13th annual "Power 100" list. Knight is up nine positions from No. 15 in 2001.

Jan. 19: Nike debuts its Shox NZ "streaker" spot to rave reviews. The Wieden & Kennedy spot premieres during the NFL conference championships, and Newsday's Steve Zipay calls it "hilarious."

Shox NZ ad: Nike’s naked ambition

Feb. 6: Sonny Vaccaro, then Adidas director of grassroots basketball, tells that he is out of the bidding to sign high school phenom LeBron James. Vaccaro: "Nike has more money than God. If Phil Knight wants to sign him, he'll get him. I know LeBron better, no question, but what does that mean? There have been people from Nike living in Akron so long, they're going to have to pay Ohio taxes."

May 19: Nike signs former Syracuse basketball player Carmelo Anthony to a six-year, $19.5 million deal.

May 21: LeBron James agrees to a seven-year, $90 million deal with Nike, and it includes a $10 million signing bonus.

May 26: Thirteen-year-old soccer prodigy Freddy Adu agrees to a $1 million contract with Nike. Adu is already an offensive star on the U.S. under-17 national team.

June 6: Knight talks of signing Adu with Portland radio station KFXX-AM: "In some ways, that might long term be a bigger deal than LeBron James in the sense that not only is he a great player at a very, very young age, but he really, as an American, could lift soccer to become a very popular sport."

June 23: Knight receives his second Advertiser of the Year award at the 50th Cannes Lions advertising festival, making him the first two-time winner of the award. Knight previously received the award in 1994.

June 24: The Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant signs a five-year, $40 million endorsement deal with Nike. The Los Angeles Times reports that Bryant also will "receive royalties on a planned signature shoe, which would boost the total value of the deal, though not necessarily into the range" of LeBron James' $90 million Nike contract.

July 10: Nike announces it will pay $305 million to acquire Converse and assume some of the company's debt. Thomas Clarke, Nike president of new business ventures, tells The Wall Street Journal that Converse is "a great brand that has a lot of elasticity. We like their business plan." Nike brand communications manager Joani Komlos is quoted as saying, "Nike is becoming a much more mature brand. We're looking for non-Nike brands to grow."

Aug. 18: SEC filings reveal that Nike increased its monetary commitment to athletes and teams by almost 32 percent, or nearly $350 million, in the last year, from $1.094 billion in fiscal 2002 to $1.442 billion in fiscal 2003 ended May 31. The figures do not include the value of the Nike products the company supplies to all of its endorsers, whether individuals or teams.

Aug. 25: Nike receives a perfect score in the Human Rights Campaign's second ranking of how large domestic companies treat gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees.

Aug. 30: Knight tells GolfWeek magazine, "In my mind, golf fits perfectly. Nike is all about sports and fitness and excellence. We attacked running first, and basketball second, and probably tennis third. We've made great progress in soccer. Now it's golf."

Sept. 19: Nike posts a first-quarter profit that tops Wall Street estimates. The company reports net earnings of $261.2 million, or 98 cents a share, for the first quarter, compared with a loss of $48.9 million, or 18 cents a share, in the year-ago period. Nike's shares rise 4 percent in after-hours trading following the announcement. Analysts had expected earnings of 88 cents a share.

Sept. 23: Nike holds its annual shareholders meeting, and Knight and other executives use the occasion to promote the growth opportunities they see in soccer.

Sept. 25: Golf Digest ranks its 18 most powerful people in golf, and Knight is No. 12.

Oct. 6: Forbes ranks Knight No. 31 in its annual list of the 400 wealthiest Americans, putting his worth at $5.8 billion.

Oct. 31: University of Oregon President Dave Frohnmayer defends Knight's contributions to the university's $90 million renovation of Autzen Stadium, disputing criticism from skeptics calling Knight, an Oregon alumnus and a major donor to the program, "the best owner in college football." Frohnmayer: "That statement's halfway between uninformed and insulting. Phil Knight has been extraordinarily important to the [University of Oregon]. He has given more of his resources to the academic side of the university than any single donor in our history and obviously he's done the same on the athletic side of the university."

Nov. 5: The Sporting Goods Industry Hall of Fame announces it will induct Knight in 2004.

Nov. 7: The New York Times reports that several Finish Line and Footaction stores in Cleveland had received small allotments of LeBron James' Air Zoom Generation and the shoe quickly sold out. Footaction President Shawn Neville: "They blew out. Nike wanted to create some buzz and seed the business."

Research by Alisha Puckett

Sources: The Sports Business Daily, SportsBusiness Journal archives