Remember when athletic shoes were sneakers and the athletes who wore them became heroes because of their great feats on the field? Perhaps those days haven't disappeared entirely, but in Just Do It, Donald Katz suggests how they have begun to slip into the past. The culprit? The incredible marketing muscle and engineering prowess of an Oregon athletic shoe company called Nike.
A chronicle of an American success, Just Do It is essentially the story of how Phil Knight, Nike's reclusive founder, turned a tiny start-up operation into a $4 billion pop fashion behemoth. Katz, author of two previous nonfiction bestsellers, Home Fires and The Big Store, covers Nike's various victories and defeats—the comings and goings of Michael Jordan, Shaquille O'Neal, Charles Barkley and a dozen other athletes who pride themselves on having a Nike "attitude." He also tells the story of the company's research, marketing and manufacturing methods, adding tales of corporate derring-do with arch rivals Adidas and Reebok. But somewhere along the way Katz drops the ball, losing sight of the great Nike paradox: The more megabucks the company spends trying to re-create the halcyon days when money didn't matter, the more it contaminates the field of sports. (Random House, $23)