Phil Knight Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike

Last updated date: June 27, 2019

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Phil Knight Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike

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We looked at the top Sports Books and dug through the reviews from some of the most popular review sites. Through this analysis, we've determined the best Sports Book you should buy.

Update as August 6, 2023:
Check out The Best Sports Book for a detailed review of all the top sports books.

Overall Take

Entrepreneurs and aspiring athletes alike will find Phil Knight's "Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike" inspiring. The Nike founder recounts his journey to making his shoe company one of the most recognized brands in the world. His struggles will be inspiring to anyone who has ever had a dream.

In our analysis of 26 expert reviews, the Phil Knight Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike placed 1st when we looked at the top 7 products in the category. For the full ranking, see below.

From The Manufacturer

In this instant and tenacious bestseller, Nike founder and board chairman Phil Knight “offers a rare and revealing look at the notoriously media-shy man behind the swoosh” (Booklist, starred review), illuminating his company’s early days as an intrepid start-up and its evolution into one of the world’s most iconic, game-changing, and profitable brands. Bill Gates named Shoe Dog one of his five favorite books of 2016 and called it “an amazing tale, a refreshingly honest reminder of what the path to business success really looks like. It’s a messy, perilous, and chaotic journey, riddled with mistakes, endless struggles, and sacrifice. Phil Knight opens up in ways few CEOs are willing to do.” Fresh out of business school, Phil Knight borrowed fifty dollars from his father and launched a company with one simple mission: import high-quality, low-cost running shoes from Japan. Selling the shoes from the trunk of his car in 1963, Knight grossed eight thousand dollars that first year. Today, Nike’s annual sales top $30 billion. In this age of start-ups, Knight’s Nike is the gold standard, and its swoosh is one of the few icons instantly recognized in every corner of the world. But Knight, the man behind the swoosh, has always been a mystery. In Shoe Dog, he tells his story at last. At twenty-four, Knight decides that rather than work for a big corporation, he will create something all his own, new, dynamic, different. He details the many risks he encountered, the crushing setbacks, the ruthless competitors and hostile bankers—as well as his many thrilling triumphs. Above all, he recalls the relationships that formed the heart and soul of Nike, with his former track coach, the irascible and charismatic Bill Bowerman, and with his first employees, a ragtag group of misfits and savants who quickly became a band of swoosh-crazed brothers. Together, harnessing the electrifying power of a bold vision and a shared belief in the transformative power of sports, they created a brand—and a culture—that changed everything.

Expert Reviews

Expert Summarized Score

11 expert reviews

User Summarized Score

2,750 user reviews

What experts liked

The title of the memoir is apt, for much of it is a rather dogged struggle through the minutiae of shoe distributorship and manufacture, with all the deals and lawsuits that entails.
- Kirkus Reviews
The book is solid material for everyone interested in business, entrepreneurship, because you can learn a lot from this book.
- I'm Educating Myself
September 2, 2018 | Full review
Shoe Dog is brilliant! The style of writing, (I listened to the audiobook of Shoe Dog which was not narrated by the author except the introduction but I enjoyed the delivery).It gets kind of tricky especially with memoirs, this is someone’s life story, it is not fiction that we can debate about the plot and protagonist. With memoirs, I ask myself if I enjoyed the story; the writing.
- Dasience
Worth to say that Phil Knight is an excellent writer and a storyteller. He did a great job as the book is absolutely astonishing not only by the inspiring story it tells but also by its abundance of useful information for experienced an inexperienced entrepreneurs. I really enjoyed reading about real financial struggle (cash flow in particular) as so few popular books underline that.
- Leaders Are Readers
September 20, 2018 | Full review
I really think this book is a great motivational book for people in any business. Se the opportunity around you and go for it. This book belongs in my top five biographies of all time, I really enjoyed every last minute of the book.
- Mentors Book Shelf
I was very surprised how well the book is written. I am not sure but I think most of the memoir is written by Phil Knight himself. The book reads much more like a Thriller than like a (somewhat boring) “How I did it” memoir.For the first 200 pages or so I couldn’t put the book down.
- Value and Opportunity
August 2, 2016 | Full review
his is an entertaining book and contains a lot of useful business lessons.
- Seeking Alpha
May 9, 2017 | Full review
On my reading list was Shoe Dog by Phil Knight. Having grown up in the period of Air Jordan and the rise of Nike, the story Phil Knight tells of building one of the greatest retailers and most recognisable brands in the world was almost impossible to put down. This is a must read for anyone who has started or wants to start a business as his story is fascinating.
- PenderFund
November 3, 2017 | Full review
This book also surprised me by how clean it was. There was probably about a dozen swear words in the entire book, and other than that, nothing else objectionable in the entire thing.
- Everyday Reading
I think Knight wanted to write scarily honest account of what starting a business is really like. And, according to my heart rate, he certainly managed to do so.
- What Me Think
May 28, 2018 | Full review

What experts didn't like

Unfortunately, much of the book conforms to the dry formulas of business writing, borrowing in turn from business speechifying: tell a joke, show a slide, read the text and expand on the bullet points, move to the next slide.
- Kirkus Reviews
My biggest problem with the book is that it stops right as the good stuff happens in the Jordan era. It would be great to read more about the modern history of Nike, competition with Adidas and other brands as well as the latest trends in manufacturing and marketing in the shoe industry.
- Leaders Are Readers
September 20, 2018 | Full review
It’s not clear whether Knight used a ghostwriter or if he’s done the dead himself, but whether it was one, the other, or a mixture of the two, it’s a strangely gripping read.
- What Me Think
May 28, 2018 | Full review

Sports Book Overview

  • Before you start looking for a good sports book to read, think about the topic you’re interested in exploring. If you want an in-depth look at a sports figure, Kobe Bryant’s “The Mamba Mentality: How I Play” and David Epstein’s “The Sports Gene” are both good choices. For those who are interested in an analysis of sports as a whole, David Epstein’s “The Sports Gene” is a can’t miss. Phil Knight’s “Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike,” on the other hand, is a book that takes an in-depth look into the sportswear industry.
  • Phil Knight’s “Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike” is the Nike founder’s tale of his own journey in building one of the top brands in the world. With Kobe Bryant’s “The Mamba Mentality: How I Play,” you get a look at the five-time NBA champion’s own unique approach to the game. Arnold Palmer’s “A Life Well Played: My Stories” isn’t an autobiography – that was published previously. This book is filled with anecdotes and wisdom directly from Palmer that can apply to both golfers and nongolfers. In David Epstein’s “The Sports Gene,” an expert in sports medicine uses scientific studies and his own expertise to break down whether certain athletic abilities truly are genetic rather than learned.
  • No matter how passionate you are about your favorite sport, you’ll still want a book that is a page-turner. Phil Knight’s “Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike” describes in-depth the processes involved in creating and distributing shoes. Even if you never thought you’d be interested in such a topic, you’ll find this book draws you in. Kobe Bryant’s “The Mamba Mentality: How I Play” uses photos to illustrate Bryant’s points, breaking up the text in a way that will appeal to even those who aren’t avid readers. Arnold Palmer’s “A Life Well Played: My Stories” makes you feel as though you’re spending time with the late legend, thanks to Palmer’s distinct writing voice. David Epstein’s “The Sports Gene” can slow down at times, particularly while the author is providing scientific evidence to back up his claims. He does have a way of weaving those sections in between anecdotes and commentary to keep things moving, though.
  • Whether you’re into sports or not, you’ll still find Phil Knight’s “Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike” useful. Knight is open about the struggles he faced along the way, and his honesty can be motivating to those trying to reach a goal of their own.
  • Kobe Bryant’s “The Mamba Mentality: How I Play” is ideal for those who want to learn a little more about his preparation process. As with Knight’s book, this one can also provide lessons applicable to any field.
  • By tackling the nature versus nurture debate, David Epstein’s “The Sports Gene” will help you analyze whether things you’ve heard all your life, such as the 10,000-hour rule, are fact or fiction.
  • Although Phil Knight’s “Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike” is great, it does stop right before the Jordan era of the athletic company. Those looking for an analysis of Nike in the modern era may not find it there.
  • David Epstein’s “The Sports Gene” tackles some very sensitive issues with a straightforward approach. Typically, science steers clear of statements that might be seen as racial stereotyping, but Epstein jumps right in. He tampers any criticism by making sure he has scientific studies and reports to back up every finding.
  • One thing to keep in mind with Kobe Bryant’s “The Mamba Mentality: How I Play” is that it’s only around 200 pages, and many of those pages are filled with photos. You may find yourself disappointed that you aren’t getting more meat.

Buying Advice

Whether it’s football, basketball, hockey, golf or tennis, supporting sports teams is America’s favorite pastime. Fans grow to care about their favorite athletes, wanting to learn as much as possible about them. For that reason, there are plenty of books on the market profiling sports’ greatest heroes, as well as those analyzing various historical sporting events and offering analysis into various facets of athleticism.

But you’ll also find books tagged under sports that give you value in other areas of your life. An athlete’s process, for instance, could inspire you as you build your own business or try to achieve your goal of learning a new skill. Although often only sports fans read books in the genre, there are many benefits for nonfans as well.

When you’re looking for a sports book, readability is also a factor. If you’re reading about a sports figure, you’ll likely want the storytelling to be true to the person’s voice. This is especially important if the book is a series of anecdotes and stories directly from the subject of the book. If you’re reading a historical retelling or analysis, it’s even more important to verify that the writing style reads the way you prefer, especially if you want to avoid a dry recital of facts and figures.

Even if you buy a book because you want to learn more about a particular person or sporting event, accuracy is still essential. If it’s a profile of the person, it can help if the book has that person’s byline. Unauthorized biographies can sometimes be full of inaccuracies and hearsay. If it’s a historical event or analysis, pay close attention to the author’s credentials to make sure the person is qualified to speak as an expert on that subject.

Primarily, though, a good sports book will inspire and motivate readers. One of the reasons Americans are so fascinated with sports is that it shows that with determination and hard work, anything is possible. You’ll find that most sports books are written with the goal of conveying that message to readers.