Netflix has optioned film rights to Nike founder Phil Knight’s bestselling memoir Shoe Dog, which he will produce alongside Oscar-nominated producer Frank Marshall. The Golden Globe- and Emmy-winning team of Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski (Ed Wood, American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson) will write the screenplay.
Shoe Dog traces Nike’s evolution from intrepid startup to iconic global brand, and Knight’s entrepreneurial journey, as a business school graduate who borrowed $50 from his father to launch a company that would import low-cost shoes from Japan, which he sold from the trunk of his lime green Plymouth Valiant.
“It’s an amazing tale about what the path to success really looks like, with its mistakes, struggles, sacrifice and even luck,” said Marshall of the project. “It’s about how a company can grow with the right people, dedication, a belief in the power of sport and a shared mission to build a brand that would change everything.”
The film reunites Marshall and Knight, who met in the 1980s during the production of Back To The Future (movie buffs will recall Michael J. Fox’s self-lacing Nike Mag shoes from Part II).
“I look forward to working with my friend, the great Frank Marshall, in bringing my story and the story of Nike to the screen,” Knight said in a statement. “I have been gratified by the reception my book has received and think that we can explain my journey and the story of Nike to an even larger audience in collaboration with Netflix.”
Shoe Dog was published in April 2016 and remains on the New York Times Best Seller list, and has beene translated in more than 40 languages worldwide. While the Nike brand, and its swoosh logo, are instantly recognizable around the world, the man behind the athletic footwear, apparel and equipment-maker has always been a mystery.
In Shoe Dog, Knight tells his own story. He details the risks, the setbacks, the ruthless competition and the hostile encounters with 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 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.
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, no stranger to entrepreneurship, called Shoe Dog “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.”
Scott Stuber, head of Netflix’s film group, said he’s excited to be making Shoe Dog.
“Phil created a brand and a company that became much more than the swoosh. Through innovation, passion, and trial and error, Phil created something that became a part of our culture. We can’t wait to share that with the world,” Stuber said. “This project is also giving us the ability to extend our relationship with world-class writers Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski.”
Robert B. Barnett and Michael O’Connor of Williams & Connolly and Steve Burkow of Ziffren Brittenham negotiated the film deal on behalf of Knight who, at 80, is Nike’s chairman emeritus.
Alexander and Karaszewski are repped by CAA and Kleinberg Lange Cuddy & Klein.