Directed by Ben Affleck and starring Matt Damon, new film ‘Air’ tells the story of the origin and rise of Nike’s trainer brand Air Jordan.
The movie, due for UK release on April 7, follows the story of the game-changing partnership between a rookie Michael Jordan and Nike’s fledgling basketball division with its star studded cast.
Air Jordans were created for NBA Hall of Famer Jordan during his time with the Chicago Bulls in 1984 and released to the public on April 1, 1985.
The film sees Damon play sports executive Sonny Vaccaro as he hears about how both sales and growth in Nike’s basketball division are trending downward.
Nike founder Phil Knight, played by Affleck, tells Vaccaro to come up with a pitch for a new shoe, which leads him to have the idea of formulating a brand around the upcoming player.
At the time the prospect of signing Jordan seemed far-fetched, but after it solidified, it changed trainer and basketball culture significantly.
Here, MailOnline looks at the real people the upcoming film is based on.
Ben Affleck as Phil Knight in Air – he attended the film’s premiere on Monday
Ben Affleck stars alongside Matt Damon, Jason Bateman, Chris Tucker and Viola Davis
(L-R) Deloris Jordan and Michael Jordan pictured on ‘Superstars And Their Moms’ in 1988. Jordan himself doesn’t appear in the movie Air
Air, directed by Ben Affleck, is due for UK release on April 7
Interestingly, Jordan himself isn’t seen in the new film – but Viola Davis does play his mother.
Oscar-winner Affleck explained: ‘I thought: ‘The minute I turn the camera on somebody and ask the audience to believe that person was Michael Jordan, the whole movie falls apart.
‘I want Michael Jordan to have the effect in this story that he had in the world. In a way, he’s a presence that’s felt and discussed. Everybody else around him is there, but you never see his face.’
Phil Knight who founded Nike played by Ben Affleck
September, 1986. Phil Knight in his office at Nike in Beaverton, Oregon
Phil Knight co-founded and built the Nike Corporation and came up with the logo
Ben Affleck in the official trailer – he also directed the film
Phil Knight co-founded and built the Nike Corporation and like those who are the best in business, he threw out a lot of ideas along the way.
When he’d decided in 1972 that taking on Adidas was a business proposition – the German company’s training shoes were expensive and hard to come by in the US – he tried to come up with a lasting name and logo.
It took a long time to put Knight off his idea of ‘Dimension Six’ and it was the company’s co-founder who came up with ‘Nike’ – the winged goddess of victory from Greek mythology.
Some tried to put Knight off the logo he’d come up with – or rather, that a local art student he’d met had come up with, after he’d asked her to work on designs, for a fee of $35 (£28).
‘Looks like an upside down Puma stripe,’ the co-founder, Bob Woodell said. But Knight insisted on it. ‘I don’t love it. But I think it’ll grow on me,’ he said of what would become known across the planet as the Nike Swoosh.
And when they’d put all of that together, Knight decided they needed athlete endorsements – very fast – especially for the new basketball and tennis shoes they were trying to sell.
Sonny Vaccaro, who embarked on a quest to sign Michael Jordan, played by Matt Damon
Sonny Vaccaro with Michael Jordan – Sonny embarked on a quest to sign the Chicago Bulls shooting guard
Sonny Vaccaro at the ‘Air’ film premiere, Los Angeles, California, 27 Mar 2023
Matt Damon as Sonny Vaccaro in Air – The film shows Vaccaro’s efforts to secure Jordan
Former Nike executive Sonny Vaccaro, played by Matt Damon, embarked on a relentless quest to sign Chicago Bulls shooting guard Michael Jordan to what was then the fledgling running-shoe company in 1984.
The film shows Vaccaro’s efforts to ink Jordan via his family, friends, ex-coaches and advisors at a time Nike was the third-selling shoe company.
Vaccaro worked to convince Nike’s co-founder Knight that he was worth gambling everything on while the company was experiencing an unstable period throughout the 1980s.
Rob Strasser – then director of marketing – played by Jason Bateman
Former Nike Director of Marketing Rob Strasser
Matthew Maher as Peter Moore, Matt Damon as Sonny Vaccaro and Jason Bateman as Rob Strasser
Former Nike Director of Marketing Rob Strasser has been described as having had a strong grasp of brand identity.
Nike invited Jordan and his parents to Oregon to hear Strasser’s presentation, where he talked about the company’s winning advertising campaigns and about building up Jordan’s image.
According to Portland Monthly, the late Strasser once told colleagues: ‘If Jordan does what we think he can, and if we can execute, this can be big.’
Jordan even told USA Today: ‘I absolutely fell in love with (Strasser) when he actually made the first presentation of the Jordan thing, the Air Jordan concept.’
Peter Moore, the company’s first creative director, played by Matthew Mahar
Creative director of Nike Peter Moore, left, is played by Matthew Mahar (right)
Peter Moore was central to the creation of the Air Jordan line in the 1980s.
He became the company’s first creative director in 1983 and played a crucial role in the image of the brand.
When Nike signed Jordan, Moore designed the first Air Jordans, as well as the identity of the whole line, according to Complex.
He died on April 29, at the age of 78.
Howard White, Vice President, played by Chris Tucker
Chris Tucker (right) as Howard White (left) – vice president of the Jordan brand – in Air
Howard White is Vice President of the Jordan Brand and has been with the company for 40 years.
He founded the ‘Believe to Achieve’ program, a traveling seminar designed to encourage young people to believe in themselves and adults to mentor them.
Deloris Jordan – Michael’s mother – played by Viola Davis
Viola Davis as Deloris Jordan in Air – Deloris was said to be crucial in the negotiations for her son
Michael Jordan and Deloris Jordan pictured on ‘Superstars And Their Moms’
Michael’s mother Deloris Jordan was said to be vital in the start of his brand empire.
Affleck has said she led by example to instill the values of ‘knowing your worth and self respect and taking risks’ in her son.
According to Yahoo, Deloris played a big part in negotiating the terms that have since made her son rich.
George Raveling, Director for International Basketball for Nike, played by Marlon Wayans
Former basketball coach George Raveling (left) is played by Marlon Wayans (right)
George Raveling, now 85, is a former basketball coach who has worked as the Director for International Basketball for Nike.
According to reports, it was Raveling who pointed Jordan in the direction of Nike employees Rob Strasser and Peter Moore.
David Falk, Jordan’s former agent, played by Chris Messina
Jordan’s Agent David Falk in 1999 (left) – he is played by actor Chris Messina (right)
Jordan’s former agent, David Falk, has spoken out about how Jordan kept a poker face during Nike’s pitch to keep the company on its toes.
‘Jordan does not crack a smile, he looks like he’s about to cry, he looks like he’s about to scream, he’s angry,’ he told Insider.
‘I’m dying because I know he’s hating this, and he’s gonna fire me when this is over.
Following the pitch, Nike took the Jordans out to dinner but Falk said Jordan barely said a word the entire time.
After the dinner was over, Falk asked Jordan for his opinion.
‘He looks at me and says, ‘Amazing. I don’t wanna go anywhere else.’
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