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  • Writer's pictureTierney Deanne

Air: A Story Of Greatness

Director Ben Affleck brings us the true story of how Nike collaborated with Michael Jordan to make the most profitable shoe on the market for as long as four decades and counting. The Air Jordan broke record sales the first year it was released, earning $162 million. To this day it remains the top selling shoe.

Affleck also stars in the film, playing Nike CEO Philip Knight. Nike was in trouble in 1984, there were mass layoffs, money losses, the company needed a serious boost in sales. Matt Damon plays Sonny Vaccaro, Nike basketball talent scout. Nike's basketball division had planned to pair with three of the top NBA players to boost shoe sales. They had minimal funding and most of the players disliked Nike. Adidas and Converse ruled the basketball courts at the time. Jordan himself preferred Adidas, he would wear their track suits before and after games. The marketing team and Vaccaro disagreed on players to chose for the basketball division.

Vaccaro saw something in Jordan that no one else did. The general public didn't even have faith in Jordan at the time. He was a young kid who was just drafted into the NBA, and many thought he wouldn't make it in the league. Chris Messina plays Jordan's talent agent David Falk. Falk refused to even set up a meeting between Nike and Jordan because he knew Jordan would never go for it.

Marlon Wayans plays George Raveling, assistant coach for the U.S. Olympic mens basketball team. This is the first time that I have seen Wayans play a serious role. I find that he did extremely well. He has a very powerful monologue in the film. For as short as his role in the film is, it is very memorable.

Vacarro meets with Raveling to discuss Jordan, as Raveling knew Jordan from his time on the Olympic team. Raveling tells Vacarro what Jordan would want out of a shoe contract, and convinces him to do whatever he can in order to get Jordan. Vacarro decides to go around Falk and head straight to the Jordan's home in North Carolina to talk with Jordan's mother. Deloris Jordan, played by Viola Davis, is the head of the Jordan family. She agrees to talk with Vacarro but won't allow him to meet with Mike until a deal is in place. The Jordan family already have plans to meet with Adidas and Converse, but Deloris tells Falk to set up a meeting with Vacarro and Nike as well. Vacarro won her over by proving how important it was to him to meet with her son.

The camera never shows Michael, which is an artistic choice I find perfectly fitting for the story. It is ultimately a story about this one man, this man who holds the power in his talent, but this particular part of the story is about everyone else. As Sonny says in his speech to Mike, "Everyone at this table will be forgotten; -- except for you."

As we all know, Sonny Vaccaro gets the deal with Michael Jordan and the Air Jordan was born. What some people don't know is that Mrs. Jordan is who truly made the deal happen. She was the one that knew her sons value and negotiated a deal that forever changed his future and the sports industry. No other player owned his own shoe or received profits from their sales. Jordan still earns 5% of each Air Jordan sale, earning an estimated $150 million last year alone. Nike even paid the fines that Jordan received for playing in a shoe outside of the NBA color rules. Those fines totaled $5,000 per game. A small price to pay for Nike's marketing goldmine.

Even as someone who comes from Cleveland, don't ever come to me with the words LeBron and G.O.A.T. in the same sentence. I don't care if he is in a field herding a flock of them. The best player to ever be in the NBA is Michael Jordan. He will live on as the greatest of all time not only in the basketball world, but in shoes, and business as well.

Available to stream on Amazon Prime Video

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