Ben Affleck returned to the director’s chair with the new biopic that revealed the true story of how Michael Jordan wound up signing with the Nike Basketball division of the shoe company. This led to the creation of the Air Jordan shoe line, with a celebration of capitalism front and center.

It was 1984 and the shoe company Nike was struggling in a distant third place among the giant show companies. They had Sonny Vaccaro (Matt Damon), a basketball expert looking to recruit the best possible NBA athletes to Nike. Things had not been going well as the top draft picks were signing with either Adidas or Converse.

Sonny was unhappy with the amount of funds available for him to do his job and was not a fan of the draft picks that could be available. Sonny came up with an idea to pursue one player instead of spreading out the money on several players and customize the show around that athlete. The athlete? Michael Jordan.

Putting all of his eggs in one basket was risky, so Sonny had to convince Nike CEO Phil Knight (Ben Affleck) that this was the way they needed to go.

Ignoring protocol, Sonny took a trip to North Carolina to stop by Michael Jordan’s parents’ place unannounced. James (Julius Tennon) and Deloris (Viola Davis) Jordan met with Sonny and would end up giving him a chance, despite Michael’s stated opposition to Nike.

There was a lot of awesomeness to this story. Honestly, the film does an excellent job of creating suspense, despite everyone knowing the end result with Jordan joining up with Nike. I really wanted to see HOW it happened because they did a great job of building that uncertainty in the storytelling.

Matt Damon did a fantastic job as Sonny, leading the ensemble cast with his dogged determination for the fledgling Nike. Damon delivered some amazing monologues throughout the film, including one at the meeting with the Jordans. Affleck’s character was full of quirks and he provided a excellent job of showing them. Viola Davis is always awesome, but she was not in this movie as much as I might have liked. Jason Bateman was here too as Rob Strasser, director of marketing, and his relationship with Sonny was shown by a group of just excellent scenes. There is a scene where Rob chastised Sonny for his risk-taking by speaking about the daughter that Rob rarely got to see. The whole ensemble cast does wonderful work in this movie.

Ben Affleck returned as a quality director after a few missteps over the last few years. He allows this film to breathe properly and to develop this story in an effective manner. As I said, despite knowing the eventual result, it was still a captivating story to discover how Michael Jordan wound up with his name on the Nike shoe.

Michael Jordan does not appear, and, truly, even the actor playing the rookie NBA player was shot mostly from behind or blocked by something or other. Jordan’s visage was not truly needed since this story was more about the people involved in the Nike process than the talent.

I have never been a fan of Michael Jordan as I have a few gripes about how he was treated as a talent. However, there is no denying that he is arguably one of, if not the, greatest player in NBA history and his name recognition made Nike the leader in shoe sales. Air was entertaining and thrilling, and the end may even bring about a goose bump or two.

4.3 stars

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