Another elite Nike athlete is golf superstar Tiger Woods. Many companies dropped Tiger when his infidelity scandal became tabloid fodder and national news, but Nike made a point of saying that they were sticking by him. "We think that athletes are human beings and have foibles just like human beings do," Phil says. "We've known [Tiger] for 18 years and worked with him for 15, and he had a three-year span in there where he kind of went off the reservation a little bit in some of the things he was doing, which he apologized to the company and everybody involved. We think the essence of Tiger Woods is basically very, very good, and over the long run, people will see that."

Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong says Phil and Nike have stood beside him through career highs and lows—like doping allegations—as well. "[After] winning the tour, a lot of people ask questions, a lot of people say, 'How?' A lot of people have serious questions, and these guys never flinched," Lance says. "I'm so very appreciate of that, and it's been a great partnership."

Watch Lance Armstrong surprise Phil Knight Watch

Lance's partnership with Nike is also the force behind the Livestrong yellow wristband. Proceeds from bracelet sales benefit the Lance Armstrong Foundation, which provides support for people affected by cancer. To date, there have been about 80 million yellow wristbands sold. "Through this partnership, Phil and Nike have helped Livestrong raise $93 million to help fight cancer," Lance says. "That's nearly a quarter of what we've raised in our entire life span."

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