Air”: A Film About the Iconic Michael Jordan and Nike Shoe Deal That Centers on the Underdog Story of Nike’s Rise to Success

The new film “Air” centers on the watershed shoe deal between Michael Jordan and Nike, but instead of focusing on the NBA legend, the character of Jordan is rarely on-screen. Portrayed by actor Damian Young, Jordan doesn't make an appearance until the final scenes of the film, and even then, his face isn't shown, with almost exclusively shots of his back.[0] The movie instead focuses on the upstart Oregon-based footwear company with the swoosh logo, the “just do it” slogan, and an initially lackluster profile in the basketball sneaker market.[1] The truer underdog here is Nike, which manages to outbid and outmaneuver its deeper-pocketed rivals, Adidas and Converse, and hitch its own fortunes to Jordan's meteoric rise.[0]

The story of how Nike teamed up with then-rookie and future NBA superstar Michael Jordan to launch the iconic Air Jordan shoe is the focus of Ben Affleck's latest directorial feature, “Air.” Phil Knight, co-founder of Nike, is portrayed by Affleck in the film, with Matt Damon, his frequent collaborator, playing Sonny Vaccaro, the marketing executive who came up with the proposition of signing Jordan.[2] The film depicts the frenzied few months Nike execs dedicated to signing Jordan to an endorsement deal, a potentially game-changing proposition and a potentially business-killing gamble.[1] Sonny has a lot of skeptics to convince, including Jordan, a die-hard Adidas fan, and (more importantly) Jordan's mother, Deloris, the solid rock and gently guiding hand behind his every career move.[1]

“Air” mainly takes place in drab offices, yet the cast's expert performances transform those spaces much in the same way that Michael Jordan transformed courts and sneaker racks — by turning them into sites of magic.[3] The conferences between Sonny and Deloris are the highlight of the film.[3] Both characters believe that a sneaker collaboration could transform society, that Jordan is not just a good basketball player but an inspirational force as well.[4] Sonny has put significant financial backing on the line and is eager to validate that decision, whereas Deloris is more invested in her son's long-term future than in one big payday.[3] Watching Damon's devout intensity bump up against Davis's calm assuredness is an understated thrill.[3]

“Air” was released in cinemas on April 5 by Warner Bros.[5] Even though Amazon Prime created the pictures.[6] This exclusive wide theatrical release means that “Air” will be fully eligible for some big nominations come awards season.[6] The film is a meaningful movie but an unsatisfying one, a fascinating story vigorously depicted and acted, featuring characters whose heroism is unusual and whose place in history is both secure and obscure.[7] The movie depicts how Nike recruited Michael Jordan to the company, creating the Air Jordan line and thereby making the company very profitable and Jordan very rich. It's a story of cultural change, of the invention of a ubiquitous style and its wider implications.[7] Yet the film is a hermetic one, self-contained and nearly context-free, that thrusts its protagonists so far into the foreground that they block the movie's purview.[7] Instead of highlighting the greatness of these individuals, the narrow perspective reduces their significance, neglects their contributions to the broader community, and reduces them to a mere tale of triumph.[7]

0. “The True Story Behind ‘Air,' Michael Jordan Shoe Movie” TIME, 5 Apr. 2023,

1. “‘Air' review: How Nike bagged Michael Jordan” Los Angeles Times, 5 Apr. 2023,

2. “Ben Affleck’s and Matt Damon’s ‘Air’ rises to the occasion” Awful Announcing, 7 Apr. 2023,

3. “‘Air' Has More Substance Than You'd Expect” The Atlantic, 7 Apr. 2023,

4. “A-lister’s first movie role in seven years”, 6 Apr. 2023,

5. “Matt Damon and Ben Affleck’s ‘Air’ is powered by its performances”, 4 Apr. 2023,

6. “How to Watch ‘Air' – Is Ben Affleck Film ‘Air' Streaming?” Men's Health, 7 Apr. 2023,

7. ““Air,” Reviewed: It’s Fun to Spend Time with These People, but We Don’t Know Much About Them” The New Yorker, 7 Apr. 2023,

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