Movie Review: “Air”

A peak inside the empire of Nike’s Air Jordan.


Manny Morales, Staff Writer, Photographer

  If you’re a sneakerhead or a Michael Jordan fan, the recently released film “Air” gives watchers 2 things: a “how” and a “why.”

  “The Last Dance,” a docuseries that premiered in 2020, sparked a resurgence in sneaker culture, and “Air” gives the origin story of the most famous tennis shoes of all time. The film delves into the history of the athletic shoe industry and how Michael Jordan’s partnership with Nike transformed it forever.

  The film, directed by Ben Affleck, chronicles the origins of the Air Jordan sneaker brand and its spokesman. We are graced with a star-studded cast including Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Jason Bateman, Chris Tucker and Viola Davis, who play crucial roles in the story of how Michael Jordan became the face of Nike’s failing basketball division.

  The film takes place in 1983 and revolves around Sonny Vaccaro (Matt Damon), a basketball scout who had the idea of placing all of Nike’s basketball funding into one player: Michael Jordan. At the time, most of the NBA’s stars were signed to wear Converse and Adidas sneakers.

  Vaccaro is tasked with finding players entering the NBA draft to sign to Nike. We see a whiteboard full of names like basketball legends John Stockton and Charles Barkley as potential candidates. But ultimately, Vaccaro wants only to sign Jordan. The thing is that in 1983 Jordan was a huge fan of Adidas and dead set on signing with the German brand. Plus, no one wanted to wear Nike shoes on the basketball court.

  Damon masterfully portrays Vaccaro’s persuasive skills in convincing Phil Knight (Ben Affleck), the co-founder and CEO of Nike, to place his faith in Jordan. Moreover, the film brilliantly depicts how Vaccaro had to go above and beyond to persuade Jordan’s mother, Deloris Jordan (Viola Davis), to influence her son’s decision to join Nike. The intricacies of these negotiations are compellingly captured in the film, showcasing the tenacity and strategic thinking required to strike such a groundbreaking deal.

  One of the most significant aspects of the film is how it portrays Jordan as the first athlete who was paid a royalty for every shoe sold with his name on it. This groundbreaking deal revolutionized sports deals and cemented Michael Jordan’s legacy as a pioneer in the sports industry.

  We also get a look into Jordan’s legendary and infamous contract where he was fined $5000 every game due to the color of his shoes. Nike of course floated the bill and used it as a marketing opportunity to sell even more Jordan shoes.   

  The film takes us back to the 1980s by incorporating music, shoes and everything nostalgic about that time. The attention to detail in recreating the era is remarkable and makes for an immersive experience that transports the audience back in time.

  “Air” is a must-watch for anyone interested in sports, pop culture or just a Michael Jordan fan. The film’s star-studded cast, attention to detail and historical significance make it a compelling and informative film.

[email protected]