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Movie Review: Air

Matt Damon as Sonny Vaccaro | Amazon Studios Press

“A shoe is just a shoe until someone steps into it.” – Sonny Vaccaro

With a star-studded cast and a story unlike any other in sports and fashion, “Air” tells the story of the Air Jordan sneakers through the lens of Nike—a company in its infancy at the time—and its employees who believed in one athlete, one legend and one shoe.


Director Ben Affleck plays Phil Knight, the CEO of Nike in 1984, when the brand hopes to expand its weak basketball division. The perfect person for this job turns out to be Matt Damon’s character, Sonny Vaccaro, a basketball talent scout. Jason Bateman tackles the role of marketing vice president Rob Strasser, who does not always see eye-to-eye with Vaccaro.

In their performance, Affleck, Damon and Bateman are able to balance the amiability of camaraderie with the tension of pressure these Nike workers faced during the mid-1980s. 

According to the film, the basketball world much preferred Converse and Adidas at the time, with NBA legends Magic Johnson and Larry Bird rocking the Converse Weapon sneakers throughout the 1980s. What Nike workers must do is find the perfect people to step into the Nike brand and bring life to the classic swoosh. 

With a budget of $250,000 to be spread among multiple players, Vaccaro and Strasser, among other Nike executives, must choose from a sweltering list of 1984 draft picks that included future NBA legends, including Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley and John Stockton. 

And Michael Jordan.

The centering character that scouts the greatness of Michael Jordan before he stepped foot on an NBA court is Vaccaro, who personally drives to Jordan’s house to speak with Michael’s mother, who Viola Davis plays. 

After negotiating, rule-breaking, staying up late, rising early, driving across the country and going over budget, the tale of the Air Jordan sneaker unfolds to highlight the greatness of one athlete who changed the game forever. 


Ben Affleck is able to play the notorious big boss who has to wrangle with employees who have bigger dreams than what the company wallet allows. In his stern and rigorous yet adventurous and willful portrayal of Knight, Affleck is able to show what the 1984 Nike looked like. 

As viewers, it is easy to view Nike in a post-Air Jordan world (in 2022, the company’s fiscal income statement review shows a $46.7 billion revenue). It is also easy for viewers to view Michael Jordan through his current legend status, yet the movie brings into question whether or not the North Carolina guard would make an impact on the game.

Affleck transports viewers to the past and allows the nerves and questions to sink in: Who should represent Nike? How can they make this shoe unforgettable? 

Viewers find a dreamer in Vaccaro, who Matt Damon is able to mold into a likable and hardworking guy who simply loves basketball and believes in Michael Jordan. With subtlety and fluidity of a veteran actor, Damon translates passion through the screen. His fury, excitement, despondency and elation all make the storyline more cohesive, believable and immersive. 

What people might not expect from this movie is that viewers never see the face of Michael Jordan’s actor. This directing choice shifts the focus from the athlete to the company and strengthens the role of Michael’s mother in the negotiation processes. 

Viola Davis brings grace and power in her role as Michael’s mother, Deloris. Davis’s care for the role perfectly encapsulates a mother’s fierce love and desire for her child’s success. 


This story is truly one that takes viewers back in time to trace the production of one of the most well-known sneakers ever made. 

Through powerful acting, nostalgic set designs, a legendary soundtrack and thoughtful cinematography, “Air” is the perfect summer movie for sports fans to sneakerheads, making it truly a story of greatness. 

Alexis Lewis


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