Larry Miller’s Remarkable Story of Resilience and Redemption

Larry Miller’s journey from the streets to the boardroom is one of resilience, redemption, and inspiration. As the Chairman of Nike’s Jordan Brand, and former team president of the Portland Trail Blazers, his story shines a light on the transformative power of education, second chances, and the importance of shattering stigmas associated with the justice-impacted.

In our Second Chances @ Work podcast interview with Orijin Co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer, Arti Finn, Larry shares his remarkable journey, starting from his upbringing in West Philly to his involvement in gang life as a teenager. Despite being a self-described teacher’s pet in elementary school, Larry’s trajectory took a sharp turn when he succumbed to the allure of the streets and gangs during his junior high years. 

At the age of 16, Larry’s life took a tragic turn when he committed a crime under the influence of alcohol, resulting in the loss of another young man’s life. Charged as an adult and sentenced to four and a half to 20 years in prison, Larry faced the harsh realities of incarceration. It was during his time in a maximum security prison, however, that he experienced a pivotal shift, and took major steps to rewrite his life story.

Driven by a desire to change his life and be there for his newborn daughter, Larry seized the opportunity to pursue education while incarcerated. He earned his GED and immersed himself in reading, eventually becoming the valedictorian of his graduation class. One of the key moments in Larry’s life journey was his decision to pursue higher education, which he saw as a gateway to a better future. 

“I discovered the education piece and I was like, well, you know, I’ve always done pretty well with books, with education,” he says. “Maybe this is the way for me, if I can get into this program, get my education, and start with the associate’s degree and then move on. Then, maybe that is the key to changing my life. And it turned out to absolutely be the key to changing my life.”

Yet, throughout his career, Larry concealed his past in fear of judgment and being passed over for opportunities. However, with the encouragement of his daughter, he found the courage to write a book Jump: My Secret Journey from the Streets to the Boardroom, and share his story with the world. In doing so, he has become a source of inspiration for other justice-impacted individuals facing similar struggles.

“The goal should be that justice-impacted individuals come out better people than they were when they went in. And the only way that’s gonna happen is if there are opportunities provided to help people to change their life.”

– Larry Miller, Chairman of Nike’s Jordan Brand

In this insightful podcast, Larry underscores the need for systemic change in how society perceives and supports justice-impacted individuals. He advocates for providing opportunities for education, skill-building, and reintegration to empower individuals to lead productive and fulfilling lives post-incarceration. 

“The goal should be that they come out better people than they were when they went in. And the only way that’s gonna happen is if there are opportunities provided to help people to change their life,” he says. “I would venture to say that there are a ton of people currently incarcerated who would love to change their life, but they don’t have the opportunities to learn the things they need to learn. They don’t have the opportunities to get the kind of skill-sets that they need.”

As Larry reflects on his personal journey, he emphasizes the importance of changing societal perceptions and creating a culture of acceptance and support for those seeking redemption. “I tell people this all the time, some of the smartest, most creative, intelligent people I’ve ever met are people I met when I was incarcerated. And if we can tap into that creativity, that intellect, to me, that’s a win-win. It’s a win for the people, but it’s also a win for whoever is willing to employ those folks.”

His story serves as a powerful reminder that no matter the circumstances, it’s never too late to rewrite one’s narrative and pursue a brighter future. We hope you enjoy this special podcast.


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