In the summer of 1996, a professional sports mascot working in Minneapolis received a top-secret invitation. Nike executives wanted to fly him to the company’s Beaverton, Oregon, headquarters for a tryout session. Details would follow. The man, who was in his seventh year playing Crunch, the high-flying mascot of the Minnesota Timberwolves, figured, “What the hell?” He packed his bags, including his favorite trampoline, and headed to the airport.
Inside the Bo Jackson Fitness Center on the company’s sprawling campus, the man’s jumps, dunks, half-court shots, and dances impressed the Nike team. For one stunt, his arm hit the rim of the basket so hard that it drew blood. (The fuzzy Crunch suit usually prevented such injuries.) “The tryout was nerve-wracking,” the man recently recalled. He had tried to anticipate interview questions and resolved to do some talking about sport and authenticity. He even read the 1995 business book Just Do It: The Nike Spirit in the Corporate World, hoping it would provide insights into the company ethos.
“It wasn’t totally clear what they wanted. I remember just trying to accommodate whatever they needed. I dunked, played basketball, threw a football, and just tried to seem capable of anything. I interviewed with everyone there, trying both to impress and figure out what the hell they were up to.”