“Air” a slam-dunk for all audiences


Commentary by Julieanna Childs

“Air” is a great American sports story about the unconventional team behind the rise of the Air Jordan brand.

It was 1984. “The A-Team” was a hit with TV audiences, Cyndi Lauper and Run DMC occupied the airwaves, Cabbage Patch Dolls made every girl’s Christmas list, and Larry Bird, Moses Malone and Magic Johnson dominated the NBA. Adidas and Converse captured most of the sports shoe market, while Nike had only 7 percent of the industry’s sales.

Directed and produced by Ben Affleck, “Air” is an inspiring story about the pressures of risking it all. Matt Damon, who also serves as a producer on the film, plays Sonny Vaccaro and is tasked with delivering a much-needed boost to Nike’s floundering basketball division. Relying on instincts, he decides to bet everything on then-rookie Michael Jordan, the third-overall pick in the 1984 NBA draft.

In competing for Jordan’s attention, Vaccaro builds a relationship with Deloris, played by EGOT winner Viola Davis, the mother who negotiated the unprecedented deal that changed the world of sports marketing forever. The casting of Davis, the story’s central character, was Michael Jordan’s idea.

The talented cast also includes Jason Bateman, Chris Tucker, Chris Messina, Marlon Wayans, and Ben Affleck as Phil Knight, Nike’s CEO.

The screenplay, written by Alex Convery, highlights the human aspect of the sports marketing world. The genius script and slam-dunk performances do the impossible (given we all know how it ends) by electrifying a mundane story with infectious energy and behind-the-scenes insight that’s part “Jerry Maguire” and part “Moneyball.”

“Air” breaks all the rules in an entertaining and heartwarming story for sports and movie fans alike.