There have been countless nicknames for Terps players throughout Maryland’s long athletic history. Some of our favorites include the “Manster” (Randy White), the “Wizard” (Walt Williams), and Renaldo “Skeets” Nehemiah. But it’s not just the nickname “H” that makes former Terp basketball star Howard White unique. Rather, it’s the fact that “H” is the only letter that appeared on the back of his Terrapin uniform, and that he eventually helped start a world-famous, billion-dollar brand.
As a youngster in his hometown of Hampton, Virginia, White was renowned as a playground legend and gained a reputation for showing up any defenders who dared to take him on. By the time he reached his senior year of high school, White was being recruited by the likes of North Carolina’s Dean Smith and Maryland’s Lefty Driesell, who admired White’s leadership and commitment on and off the court. In 1970, White finally chose Maryland as his college destination.
At Maryland, White looked to mimic the play of his favorite basketball player, point guard and NBA legend Oscar Robertson. Coach Lefty Driesell even told White that if he listened to everything he said and continued to work hard, he would be just like his idol Robertson. White must have listened because as a testament to his hard work, he was rewarded by having his nickname “H” placed on the back of his jersey instead of his last name, the only Terp we believe was ever allowed to do this. “H” quickly became a household name as he continued to produce on the court. Maryland won the NIT and had an NCAA Elite 8 appearance in White’s last two years with the Terps.
In 1973, “H” was drafted into the NBA, where he only had a very short stint due to knee injuries. White found a few ways to make a lasting impact on the game of basketball, though, despite the early end to his playing career. First, he served as a Maryland assistant coach for a few years where he played a large role in recruiting Moses Malone, who signed with the Terps but later decided to go pro. After that, in 1978, White signed on as a Field Representative with Nike. While on the job, White developed both business and personal relationships with up-and-coming athletes, one of them being a young man by the name of Michael Jordan.
In the mid 1980s, White courted Jordan after watching him shine in the ACC with the North Carolina Tar Heels. Jordan was known for wearing only Converse sneakers while with Carolina, but when he turned pro, it was time to explore more options. Recognizing that Michael Jordan could possibly be the next big thing, White put his recruiting tools to work and signed Jordan to a deal with Nike. The rest is history. Together, Jordan and White revolutionized the shoe industry with the introduction of the Jordan Brand under Nike. White now calls Nike headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon, home and holds the title of Vice President, Jordan Brand. White is also the founder of “Believe to Achieve,” a national Nike youth movement. Today, Howard White isn’t just remembered for the “H” that once graced his uniform or his sparkling play on the court. Instead he is also known as “the man who helped Air Jordan take flight,” raising the Jordan brand to global icon status and helping youth pave their own way to success.