Sometimes a shoe is just a shoe… until Michael Jordan steps in it. That’s the crux of this feel-good movie based on the true marketing backstory of Nike’s iconic Air Jordan brand.
The year was 1984 and Nike’s fledgling basketball division was struggling to find star players to promote its brand. At the time, Nike was primarily known as a “running shoe” company while Converse dominated the basketball market with the likes of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. Adidas also had a foot in the door and was riding high with those swanky tracksuits.
All three companies set their sights on landing an endorsement deal with an up-and-coming NBA rookie named Michael Jordan. Nike was the underdog. But the company’s basketball guru Sonny Vaccaro (Matt Damon) had a gut feeling about MJ and convinced Nike’s skeptical marketing head (Jason Bateman) and CEO (Ben Affleck) to commit the division’s entire budget to this singular pursuit. The odds were not in their favor. But Vaccaro had a plan. And it involved none other than Michael Jordan’s mother, Deloris (Viola Davis)– the true shero of this story.
Deloris Jordan had enough business savvy—and faith in her son’s abilities, and worth—to insist that he get a cut of sales. An unprecedented ask that launched a global, multibillion-dollar industry and forever changed the rules of marketing.
Air is an unusual sports drama in that we never actually see anyone portraying Michael Jordan, though we do sense his presence throughout and know what a phenom he will indeed become. The “team” here is the ensemble cast of family and business associates seeped in the art of the deal.
Ben Affleck pulls double-duty as the film’s director and as Nike’s entertaining and quirky CEO Phil Knight, described in the production notes as a “Buddhist capitalist captain of industry.” Spot on. Air marks the first time Affleck has directed his Good Will Hunting buddy Damon in a film and the two share an easy chemistry that serves the movie well.
Air doesn’t have major spikes in drama or buzzer-beater moments. But it works. It’s like a low-key Jerry Maguire. Everybody wins.
Arty Chick’s take: I agree with Mainstream Chick. This one is an easy watch. Nothing amazing about the flick. But definitely a feel good story.
Air is streaming on Prime Video.