Did you know that Michael Jordan makes $400 million a year and passive income from the percentage he gets from selling Air Jordans? Understanding how this happened, we have to travel back to the 1980s and famous sneaker label Nike, in Ben Affleck’s latest movie. air. Written by Alex Convery, the movie stars Affleck, Matt Damon, Viola Davis, Chris Messina, Chris Tucker, Jason Bateman, and Julius Tennon.
Sonny Vaccaro (Damon) likes to gamble – which shows that he likes to take risks. He works for Nike CEO Phil Knight (Affleck) in the company’s Basketball Division expert. He seeks out up-and-coming b-ball players and offers them shoe endorsements, and currently he has his eye on 18-year-old Michael Jordan. Sonny thinks Jordan is worth the full price they’re offering ($250,000), and so does Vaccaro’s advisor Howard White (Tucker), but Knight, and vice president of marketing Robert Strasser (Bateman), think it’s a responsibility to do so. He tries to get a meeting with Jordan by talking to his agent David Falk (Messina), but the athlete is more interested in signing with Adidas.
With no plans to give up, Vaccaro steps over the chain of command and flies to North Carolina to talk to Jordan’s parents Delores (Davis) and James (Tennon). With two shoe endorsement meetings coming up with Adidas, and Converse, Sonny asks his mother to reconsider talking to Nike, and warns her about what to expect when talking to those companies. With the Nike CEO, Falk, and Strasser breathing down his neck to close the deal or lose his job, Vaccaro deploys a clever maneuver to secure the client, and stay employed.
In his fifth feature film, Affleck’s talents exceed expectations. He has grown as an actor and director, but is at his best when he does both. Not sure how he does it. The organization and patience required to balance all those elements must be grueling, but I couldn’t tell because he never breaks a sweat. In Air, Affleck makes great use of aerial shots showing how large some of these company campuses are. A staple of his visual style are desaturated scenes that use a mix of green and blue that suits the tone of his earlier work, but he changes it up here by raising the brightness and color that made the viewing experience hopeful.
air has the best cast with some of the greatest in Hollywood. Every single one of them gives an award worthy performance, it’s hard to pick a favorite, and such a rarity for good acting across the board. I saw two Affleck performances at SXSW, and you can just tell when he’s excited about a project, and when he’s phoning it in. Convery’s script has all the elements to summon the energy needed to pull this off.
Delores Jordan is responsible for the career her son has today. Despite resistance from Nike, she was able to negotiate a deal where Michael would receive a worldwide percentage of every Air Jordan shoe sold. Her attitude was that she knows her son’s worth, and that “A shoe is just a shoe … until my son steps into it.” The goal was to create shoes that reflected his character and give fans something that will make them feel closer to the Chicago Bulls player.
seeing air, and how the world’s most popular sneaker came to be makes me think about the evolution of the shoe almost 40 years later. People steal, kill and die for a couple. It’s crazy to think about this trajectory starting innocently and turning customers into predatory consumers. Of course that’s not Jordan’s problem, but this story puts things into perspective. So many white men dominated his career, I’m glad to see some kind of on-screen advocacy for athletes like Mike and others like him, because this deal with Nike changed the sneaker and basketball industry monumentally.