Air Movie Review

“Air,” the story of how Sonny Vaccaro led Nike in their search for the next great basketball star in Michael Jordan, premiered in theaters on April 5. 

The movie was directed by Ben Affleck, which was his first since “Live By Night” in 2016. Affleck plays the role as the laid back Nike CEO Phil Knight in a cast full of stars. Matt Damon stars as Sonny Vaccaro, Nike’s basketball recruiter and shoe salesman and Jason Bateman plays Rob Strasser, Sonny’s boss. Chris Messina is the ever-arrogant and obnoxious David Falk, Jordan’s agent, while Viola Davis is Jordan’s mother, Deloris Jordan. 

One of the two requests Jordan made for the movie was that Davis had to play the role of his mother. Chris Tucker acts as Howard White, and he is hilarious in the movie as he helps out Sonny. Matthew Maher takes the role of Peter Moore, the shoe designer and so-called creator of the titular “Air Jordan.” 

The plot revolves around Nike’s consideration for the next spokesperson for their Nike basketball shoes. Vaccaro and Strasser are tasked with other recruiters to identify who they want to pick in the 1984 NBA draft. Some prefer John Stockton, the Gonzaga guard, while Vaccaro is adamant about picking the University of North Carolina guard Michael Jordan. 

The group, which is stuck with a low budget, cannot agree on who to pick. They believe that Jordan is already committed to Converse, because they can’t offer more than $250,000 and Jordan requested a red Mercedes Benz 380SL from whichever company he signs with. Suddenly, even after believing they have no chance, Vaccaro is inspired by an Arthue Ashe tennis racket commercial and believes Nike must pursue Jordan as a generational talent.

After back and forth arguments, Vaccaro is forced to go behind Falk’s back. He does the unprecedented and unorthodox move by going directly to the Jordan household to speak to his parents and his hopeful star. Vaccaro, with his moxie and confidence, convinces Deloris to give Nike real consideration. After meeting with all three brands, Nike assumes they are no longer in contention because their offer was matched, and Adidas agreed to include the car of Jordan’s dream. 

Even though Nike thought they were out of the race, Vaccaro receives a call from Deloris who informs him that Jordan is willing to sign, but on one condition. He would only sign if he earned a percentage for every Air Jordan sold. After a conversation with Knight, Vaccaro tells Deloris that Nike agrees to the deal. This was a revolutionary move at the time because no athlete had ever been able to negotiate to those terms before. The contract broke the sports’ brand market and set the foundation for future athletes to be able to profit off their own sales. Now, Nike has their man, and Jordan turned into the greatest basketball player of all time, while earning Nike $162 million in one year. 

Overall, the cast does a very good job and makes an already interesting storyline an even better one. The plot revolves around Nike’s next NBA headliner for their shoe brand. However, they are forced to compete with Converse and Adidas in recruiting athletes. The only problem? Nike had no clout compared to the other companies. Converse had NBA legends in Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Julius Irving. Adidas had flashed onto the scene, becoming one of the popular mainstream shoes in the 1980s after signing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and George Gervin in the 1970s. 

The soundtrack is also exceptionally well done and includes a wide variety in genres from rock to alternative to many more, but mostly 1980s classics. The 1986 song “My Adidas” by RUN D.M.C. is included, which helps show the brand’s growth in popularity. Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” and “Rock the Casbah” by The Clash are a part of the soundtrack. Other classics include “Money for Nothing” by Dire Straits, “Sister Christian” by Night Ranger and “Blister In The Sun” by Violent Femmes. Every song captures the essence of the 80s but most importantly they all blend well with their respective scenes.

This sports drama entails both Vaccaro and Nike’s hard fought battle in signing their next basketball star. With Jordan, they made the perfect choice for their basketball brand, as the Air Jordan became one of the all-time selling shoes in just its first years.