5 Things To Know About Howard White, The Nike Executive Behind The Jordan Brand

5 Things To Know About Howard White, The Nike Executive Behind The Jordan Brand

Howard White

Image: https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Believe-to-Achieve/Howard-White/9781582706900

Howard White, the Nike executive known as “H,” was crucial in starting the world-renowned, billion-dollar Air Jordan sneaker brand he now helps lead as vice president, earning him the superlative “Godfather of the Jordan Brand.”

Comedian and movie star Chris Tucker helped tell White’s story to a wider audience when he played the executive in the movie “Air: Courting A Legend.” Released in March, it’s based on the true origin story of Air Jordan, named after basketball superstar Michael Jordan.

Here are five things to know about Howard White, the Nike executive behind the Jordan brand.

White was a talented basketball player before injuries changed his trajectory

In his senior year of high school in Hampton, Virginia, White was a playground legend. He was recruited in 1970 by the University of Maryland’s Lefty Driesell, who admired white’s leadership and commitment on and off the court, according to HowardHWhite.com.

White impressed the Maryland Terrapins enough to allow him to put his nickname, “H,” on the back of his jersey — a unique privilege.

Drafted into the NBA in 1973, “H” had a short stint there due to knee injuries before serving as a Maryland assistant coach with a big role — he recruited Moses Malone to sign with the Terps. In 1978, White signed on with Nike as a field representative, developing business and personal relationships with up-and-coming athletes including Michael Jordan.

Michael Jordan was known for only wearing Converse

White watched Jordan excel in the men’s basketball Atlantic Coast Conference with the North Carolina Tar Heels and courted him. Jordan was known for wearing only Converse sneakers while with Carolina, but when he turned pro, White encouraged him to explore other options.

The only Black person in the room

Recognizing that Jordan could be the next big thing, White signed Jordan to an endorsement deal with Nike in 1984, becoming Jordan’s daily manager and mentor.

Besides Jordan and his family, White was the only other Black person in the room during the signing and he’s had Jordan’s attention from Day 1.

The Jordan brand

White saw Jordan win six NBA championships in his signature sneakers and by the time Jordan left the Chicago Bulls, White had persuaded Nike founder Phil Knight that Air Jordan and the Jumpman logo he inspired could continue to grow.

The Jordan Brand was launched in 1997 and grew into a $5 billion subdivision of Nike, with White as its vice president for the past 25 years.

“I don’t do much without at least talking to Howard White,” Jordan told USA Today in 1998. 

White has an Air Jordan sneaker named in his honor

In June 2023, Nike released a limited-edition sneaker, Air Jordan 2 “H” Wings, honoring his legacy with the brand.

When actor-director Ben Affleck approached Michael Jordan with the idea for a feature film about the evolution of Air Jordan, Jordan replied, “Howard White needs to be in the movie,” according to the Black-led media platform Andscape.

Cast as the young executive Howard White in the movie “Air,” actor Chris Tucker told Andscape, “Howard doesn’t carry himself like it, but he really is the Godfather of the Jordan Brand. I didn’t want to let him down.”

White wrote an inspirational memoir on mentoring

In White’s 2018 book, “Believe to Achieve: See the Invisible, Do the Impossible,” he shares tips for achieving professional and personal success and helping others succeed.

“This book … speaks about becoming successful in a language teenagers appreciate,” “Coach” Carolyn Edwards wrote in an Amazon review. “Howard White is a phenomenal leader. He influenced me to make my bed every day!!!”

In another review, Dex wrote, “I was given a copy of this book at a workshop for managers … A must read for parents as well, as these basic truths are applicable to all ages. I will be reinforcing them with my seven year old son.”