Courtesy of TV Insider

“Air” encapsulates the electrifying impact Michael Jordan brought to Nike

Based on the real-life story of how Nike transcended basketball shoe culture, “Air” presents Nike’s success through its engaging direction, storytelling and acting. 

Directed by and co-starring Ben Affleck, “Air” was released in theaters on April 5 and has been available on Amazon Prime Video since May 12. 

The sports drama film takes place in 1984 and primarily stars Matt Damon who plays Sonny Vaccaro, a Nike marketing executive. The plot is about the relentless efforts Vaccaro went through to sign Michael Jordan to Nike.

As the movie begins, it sets the tone with a flashy montage of 80s references with clips of popular bands and celebrities, and diverse basketball clips. 

After the montage, the film reveals the 1984 market share for basketball sneakers with Nike at just 17 percent. Since Converse and Adidas were their main competitors, Nike’s basketball department struggled to sign NBA players. 

So, what was Nike’s plan to stay relevant in the basketball market? The company’s chief executive officer, Phil Knight, played by Affleck, wanted to spend Nike’s $250K budget signing mid-tier basketball players.  

However, Vaccaro disagreed with Knight’s strategy. Instead, Vaccaro suggested spending the entire budget on then-rookie Michael Jordan and building a sneaker line around him. 

Unfortunately, several problems would arise with Vaccaro’s idea. 

First of all, Nike didn’t want to rely on a player who hadn’t played in the NBA yet. Also, Nike had to compete with Adidas and Converse for Jordan. Lastly, Jordan didn’t even want to consider Nike until his mother, Deloris Jordan, played by Viola Davis, told him to. 

As everyone knows, Nike overcame these adversities and signed one of the greatest players the game has ever seen, eventually turning Nike into the largest sports brand in the world. 

Even with this predictable ending, the movie never slows down, keeping viewers interested in how challenges are overcome in the story.  

For example, when Jordan’s agent told Vaccaro that the rookie didn’t even want to consider Nike, this didn’t stop Vaccaro from trying to sign Jordan. Vaccaro decided to drive from Oregon all the way to Jordan’s home in Wilmington, North Carolina, unannounced to personally convince the Jordans to consider Nike. 

Another enjoyable aspect of “Air” is the iconic 80s soundtracks used in the pivotal points of the movie, including Michael Jordan’s very own legendary theme “Sirius.” 

In addition to the use of iconic soundtracks, the movie makes viewers truly feel like they are immersed in the 80s through the perfection of their movie sets. 

This was well executed through the furnishings and the aesthetic of Nike’s headquarters. The movie perfected the 80s office look with messy stacks of papers, telephones, and ancient-looking computers on every desk in the wooden contemporary office. 

Plus, the retro cars actors drove such as Phil Knight’s Porsche 930 Turbo added a nice touch.

These movie elements used to present the 80s became crucial for the story of “Air” to come alive.  

With any great movie, the acting between characters must be enjoyable to watch. “Air” is no different. 

In particular, the charisma between Matt Damon and Chris Tucker (Nike executive Howard White) made for the most comedic scenes in the movie. 

For instance, one of the beginning scenes of the movie establishes the bond between Vaccaro and White. In this scene, White humorously explains to Vaccaro why Nike isn’t successful in the basketball business. 

“Nike’s a damn jogging company man,” White said. “You ain’t gonna catch no black person jogging 26 miles for no damn reason. Kids want to dribble like Magic Johnson, and all we got is Moses Malone.” 

The only disappointing aspect of the movie was that the actor playing young Michael Jordan didn’t have any lines. Considering that the movie is about how signing Jordan would rejuvenate Nike’s basketball franchise, it’s weird and unnatural that the film completely avoids giving young Jordan any character. 

Nonetheless, “Air” is a phenomenal watch for anyone interested in the pursuit and journey of how Nike would one day become the most successful sports brand in the world. With the movie’s incredible directing, storyline and choice of actors, “Air” is also a must-watch for any basketball fan. 

Air Rating
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