Life is all about choices, but they don’t have to define you, and Larry Miller is proof.
Larry Miller made a life-changing decision at the age of 16, and now he is on a mission to share his story to help others. As the chairman of the Jordan Brand — created by basketball legend Michael Jordan — he understands how this can be a lesson to us all when it comes to the power of second chances.
After a turn of events in Larry Miller’s life landed him behind the weapon that took the life of another Black man, he found himself behind bars. Upon his release and entry back into society, the Philadelphia, PA native decided that he would leave that chapter behind him as he began to work his way up the ranks as an executive in the business world.
“For over 40 years, I carried around the secret that people that I’ve worked closely with and interacted with on a daily basis had no idea about,” Miller shared in an exclusive interview with AfroTech. “And carrying that around for 40 years was really challenging.”
Now that Larry Miller has shared the truth with close acquaintances, Miller says it is time for the world to know about his past and how his personal journey is proof that there’s always a chance to turn your life around.
The Truth Shall Set You Free
Miller has led the Jordan Brand since 2012 and considers Michael Jordan as one of his closest friends, with even the late David Stern as one of his mentors. Yet, no one knew the truth about his life before his work with the brand.
On a late September evening in 1965, Miller pulled the trigger and ended the life of another teen, who the news identified then as 18-year-old Edward White. In just one moment, his life changed forever.
“No one knew that I was carrying the secret around, and the ability to share the story and really get it out has definitely freed me a lot,” he expressed.
The burden of this secret caused everything from nightmares to intense migraines for Miller, who admits that living in his truth has helped change his life for the better.
“The nightmares stopped, the headaches stopped, but even more than that, I just feel that I can be free to talk about this journey of mine, which I think can potentially help and motivate some people,” said Miller.
If Miller had continued to listen to the voice in his head telling him that those closest to him would not be able to accept his past, he might have never embarked on this journey to free himself and, in turn, free others.
“For the people who know me now, the biggest response has been that it’s hard to believe because they know who I am today, and they see me as who I am now in this moment,” Miller explained. “And that’s one of the things that has been encouraging and has really helped me to believe that I’ve done the right thing in telling the story because the way that people have reacted has been extremely supportive.”
He realizes he was blessed to have the news come out on his terms and still doesn’t fully understand how it didn’t come out sooner.
“For some reason, I was blessed that the story never came out, and so I kind of just continued down that path, but my daughter helped me to realize that this story could be motivating to others and help people to see that you can change your life,” he continued. “That a person can change who they are and can become a contributing member of society, that’s the goal here and the reason for doing this.”
Changing The Narrative
Another reason that Miller is sharing his story is to help change the world’s perception when it comes to those who have been incarcerated.
“Right now, there’s a stigma, there’s the box on applications, there are all these things that make it challenging and difficult for formerly incarcerated people to really change and move forward in life,” Miller told AfroTech.
He understands that he can help shift this outlook as chairman of the Jordan Brand. He notes that working for a brand that just gets it is also important.
“I’m a firm believer in giving back to the community and maybe it’s because of my past and what I’ve gone through,” Miller recalled. “Even folks who didn’t know anything about my past have always known that this is something that has been important to me and how we as a brand can give back and help the community, especially when you’re in a position to make things happen.”
As the former president of the Jordan Brand and now the chairman, Miller’s focus on serving the community remains through the current work that they’re doing.
“We are looking at a number of organizations to really connect with, and there are a couple that we’ve really zeroed in on to spread this story and to also connect with both formerly incarcerated and currently incarcerated people to equip them with the tools and resources needed to turn their lives around,” he continued. “I think that this story does provide a platform that we can use to really change some things both legislative and culturally.”
To His Former Self
Despite the decision made at age 16 that changed the trajectory of his life forever, Miller went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Temple University and an M.A. from La Salle University. He is also a graduate of the Urban League Leadership Institute.
Although he has come to terms with what happened and is now sharing his story to be the example for others to know that they too don’t have to be defined by past life choices, if he could turn back the hands of time, Miller says the outcome would’ve been a lot different.
“I think about that a lot,” he shared when asked what he would say to his younger self if he had the opportunity. “I would tell that young man that he’s got a lot of potential and that he can do whatever he puts his mind to and that he should utilize the potential that he has and not waste it.”
He also would have never taken the life of another Black man.
“I would also tell that young man that he has a responsibility, as a Black man, to help his community and not to hurt it, to try and lift his community up and not to tear it down,” Miller continued. “That he should be standing on the shoulders of all the folks who came before him and put him in a situation where he could have opportunities.”
Unlike many people, he had opportunities and chose not to take advantage of them.
The world will learn all about Larry Miller through his memoir, “Jump: My Secret Journey From The Streets to the Boardroom,” co-written with his eldest daughter, Laila Lacy.
Be on the lookout for its release in early 2022.