Muhammad Ali was the self-proclaimed, ‘Greatest of All Time.’

And then Joe Frazier walloped him with a massive left hook, sending Ali and his pretty red tassels sprawling on the canvas.

The lesson: Be careful about labeling someone, anyone — particularly anointing yourself — as the ‘Greatest.’

As an on-and-off naturalized Oregonian since 1975, Almost DailyBrett believes it’s now safe to make the call about the state’s greatest-ever citizen.

Hands down, it has to be Phil Knight.

Happy Birthday #82, Uncle Phil.

Some may want to immediately contend that Knight is being named Oregon’s greatest simply because he the 16th wealthiest in the world with an estimated fortune of $35.9 billion (Forbes). Bernie Sanders says billionaires should not exist. Oregon should be proud that Phil Knight more than exists; he thrives and cares.

To be considered by Almost DailyBrett for this lofty honor, one has to be born in Oregon. Salem lists among its most influential: President Herbert Hoover, Governor Tom McCall, trail blazers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, but alas … none of them were born in Oregon.

Some worthy native Oregonian candidates for the ‘greatest’ designation include: Oregon track coach Bill Bowerman, Senator Mark Hatfield, author Ken Kesey, Senator Wayne Morse, runner Steve Prefontaine and democratic socialist John Reed.

Sorry being the only American to be buried in the Kremlin Wall (played by Warren Beatty in the interminable “Reds”) does not put Reed at the very top of the greatest Oregonians list.

Why is Phil Knight the greatest? Let’s Just Do It.

Never In Recorded History Have So Many Oregonians Owed So Much To One Man

If one Googles (21st century verb) the word, “entrepreneur,” the image of one Philip Hampson Knight should serve as the definition.

His best seller, “Shoe Dog,” tells the story of how he turned a $1,000 loan from his father and almost failing about nine times, he actually turned the proverbial corner with his athletic apparel company, Nike.

Today, Almost DailyBrett is a happy-camper-investor for many moons in the global athletic apparel market leader by far, Nike (NYSE: NKE).

The total amount invested in Nike stock is $156 billion (e.g., Feb. 21 market capitalization figure) with shares trading at 35 times multiple compared to the prior year’s earnings (P/E ratio).  Beaverton, Oregon-based Nike reported annual revenues of $39.1 billion in FY ’19. In total, 70,000  employees work for Nike globally, 8,000 of them in Oregon.

Without any doubt, Phil Knight’s Nike is the largest and most influential publicly traded company in the history of the State of Oregon. Think of Nike this way, great company, great products, great employer and great publicly traded company. How’s that for fiduciary responsibility?

Nike pioneered its much copied marketing campaigns celebrating The Athlete: Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Roger Federer, LeBron James,  Rafael Nadal, Kevin Durant, Rory McIlroy, Stephen Curry and many, many others.

Almost DailyBrett has not always agreed with Nike’s marketing decisions (e.g., Nike Takes A Knee), particularly designing and selling apparel associated with NFL persona non grata, Colin Kaepernick. Your author has never expected perfection with any individual or organization (impossible distinction to achieve, let alone maintain), and the same is true with Nike.

Giving Back To His Native State, Oregon

“And here at home in Oregon, we believe the potential to arm our talented young people with the skills and tools, they will need to have a lasting impact on the world and to pursue rewarding careers, make such (charitable) investments essential.” — Phil Knight upon making a $500 million pledge to the University of Oregon for a new science center

When discussing Uncle Phil’s financial impact you are reaching the end of the beginning of the Phil Knight story, not the beginning of the end. Knight’s legend particularly revolves on his giving back to his native Oregon and the world.

Preparations for the opening of the Knight Cancer Research Building, August 21, 2018. (OHSU/Kristyna Wentz-Graff)

Considering that Phil’s business strategies and his company focused on sports (e.g., track and field), it’s only natural to first emphasize his sports philanthropy, particularly for his alma mater, the University of Oregon (e.g., BA in Business Administration, 1959). He has given more than $300 million (and counting) to the school’s Athletic Department, including $100 million to the UO Athletics Legacy Fund.

Academically, he contributed the lion’s share to the $27 million renovation to the University of Oregon Knight Library. The name of his late father and 1932 Oregon Law grad, William W. Knight, adorns the 68,000-square foot UO law school.

He has also directed $500 million-plus to Oregon Health Sciences University’s (OHSU) Knight Cancer Institute, and $125 million more to establish the OHSU Cardiovascular Institute.

Knight’s generosity is not limited to Oregon universities, as he gave $105 million to the Stanford Graduate School of Business (e.g., MBA, 1962). Recently, he pledged another $400 million to Stanford to establish an on-campus new graduate scholarship program.

With all due respect to the memories and accomplishments of Governor McCall and Senators Hatfield and Morse, Bowerman, Pre, Kesey and Kremlin Wall fixture, John Reed … none of them rose to the level of entrepreneurial and philanthropic success and impact on Oregon’s past, present and future than Phil Knight.

Yes indeed without any conceivable doubt, Phil Knight is the greatest Oregonian of all time.

https://sos.oregon.gov/blue-book/Pages/explore/notable/knight.aspx

https://sos.oregon.gov/blue-book/Pages/explore-oregonians.aspx

https://www.oregonlive.com/life-and-culture/erry-2018/07/227b06fbff2915/the-100-greatest-oregonians-ev.html

https://www.forbes.com/forbes-400/#39cd30857e2f

https://www.businessinsider.com/athletes-endorsements-nba-golf-tennis-2019-6

https://www.oregonlive.com/business/2016/10/phil_and_penny_knight_will_giv.html#incart_river_index

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2012/09/25/taxing-uncle-phil-to-death/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2018/09/04/nike-takes-a-knee/