Air: Making the Impossible Possible



Sonny Vacarro working long hours to research Michael Jordan in hopes of signing him with Nike.

Eli Karpas, Reporter

Ben Affleck’s drama, Air follows Nike shoe salesman Sonny Vacarro and his journey to signing basketball prodigy Michael Jordan to an endorsement contract that made Nike and Jordan an extremely rich duo. 

The film sets the scene in 1984 in Beaverton, Oregon, at Nike’s headquarters where employee Sonny Vaccaro, played by Matt Damon, and his colleagues are looking at the latest National Basketball Association (NBA) draftees to sign. One night while looking over game footage, Vaccaro comes across Michael Jordan, a 21-year-old from North Carolina who was the fifth overall draft pick in the 1984 NBA draft to the Chicago Bulls. Vaccaro finds game footage tapes of Jordan in college, replaying moment after moment as Jordan consistently makes astounding shots. Vaccaro realized how relaxed and comfortable Jordan played, and had a rock-solid belief that when the rookie migrates to the NBA, he is destined to become a superstar. The problem was that before Jordan signed with anyone, he established that he wanted nothing to do with Nike, saying, “I don’t even like Nike. They don’t have anything to do with basketball.” Jordan similarly commented, “I’ll never wear Nike. I’m an Adidas guy.” While this posed as a conflict, Vaccaro was determined to convince Jordan to sign with Nike.
To persuade Jordan’s favorability to Nike, Vaccaro proposed an original yet risky deal; Jordan would be guaranteed $250,000, the same amount of money offered by Adidas and Converse, but, he would additionally receive a signature shoe line that Nike would create around Jordan, which would be called Air Jordans. At first, Jordan was hesitant to agree to this contract since he was familiar with the more NBA-affiliated brands like Converse and Adidas. But, during Nike‘s presentation to the Jordan family, Vacarro spoke up and presented his opinion on how he viewed Jordan not only as a basketball player but rather as a cultural icon. Jordan saw this as an opportunity to be creative while building something uniquely his own. Ultimately, Nike won Jordan because they were willing to take a chance on him, just as Affleck took a chance on creating this film. 

Because Air is a film about corporate marketing, a boring subject to say the least, it is genuine that Affleck and his filming crew were able to make Air fun thanks to the upbeat ‘80s soundtrack and funny outfits that the cast wore throughout the film. 

Oliver Coco, an avid shoe lover, NBA follower, and junior at Emery/Weiner stated, “I thought the movie was entertaining. I was satisfied with the ending and I was able to stay focused while watching the movie since it wasn’t slow-paced at all.” Air’s critical success came from Affleck’s directing skills which brought energy and hope to this inspirational story, bringing an impressive 98% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. 

Once Jordan signed with Nike, the Air Jordan shoes were released to the public, and over time the shoes have reported over five billion dollars in revenue. In 1984, Nike believed that they would make three million dollars in Jordan sales over four years, and now, they generate three million dollars in Jordan sales every five hours. 

Will Hancock, Emery basketball player and Jordan shoe lover reported, “There are so many different models of Air Jordan sneakers now. I don’t blame Nike for making so many different Jordans; they all make a profit, and most of them look cool.”

Air is a story of cultural change in the NBA and a film where there is one of those rare instances where a great cast can bring the dull storyline to life. The inspiring performances, solid direction with profound writing, and an appealing soundtrack keep this film engaging throughout the 1 hour and 51 minutes of screen time. Capping off the film with an emotional monologue by Sonny Vaccaro, Air is a feel-good film about achieving the impossible no matter the circumstances, or in this case, the shoes you stand in.