How much of Air is fact and how much of it is fiction? Find out about the details of the true story here.
Ben Affleck’s newest film, Air, is based on the true story of how the giant sportswear brand Nike signed Michael Jordan to come up with the iconic Air Jordans.
As it turns out, the process to come out with one of the most popular basketball shoes of all time was not entirely smooth sailing — or so the movie depicts. But for those of you who have already seen the movie, I’m sure we’ve all thought the same thing: how much of is it true?
Let’s take a deeper look into the details in the movie Air and how accurately they tie up to the true story of the Air Jordans.
WARNING: Spoilers ahead!
Did Sonny Vaccaro really drop by the Jordan household?
When Sonny Vaccaro visits Michael Jordan’s house in Air, it proves to be a pivotal moment in the movie and an exciting one for the audience. Knowing that Vaccaro was going behind Jordan’s agent, David Falk, to do so definitely added to the tension in the story. And when Falk himself found out about it, he was livid.
However, this did not actually happen in the true story.
While David Falk was depicted as a hindrance to Nike in the movie, he was actually one of the key players in the deal. In fact, he was among those who had suggested that Michael consider Nike’s pitch in Oregon.
So, who convinced Jordan to meet with Nike?
In Air, Michael Jordan’s mother, Deloris, plays one of the biggest roles in convincing the basketball icon to take the deal with Nike, and this largely honors the true story of this historic brand deal.
Prior to the film’s production, Michael Jordan told Ben Affleck himself that he wanted the role of his mother to be prominently depicted in the story, as Deloris was “meaningful and important” in bringing this deal to life.
According to sources, the day before the Nike presentation, Jordan did not feel like going, given that he had already initially dismissed the American shoe brand as an option. However, it was his mother who told him to listen to what Nike had to offer, even though he did not feel up to it. And during the meeting itself, Michael barely had anything to say, and thus, Deloris did most of the talking, brokering a deal that would go in her son’s favor.
Though the movie portrays this slightly differently, his mother’s role in getting Michael into the room with the Nike executives cannot be denied.
Who pushed Jordan to Nike?
The screenwriting of the film portrays Sonny Vaccaro as the central figure in brokering the deal between Jordan and Nike, and this is true for the most part, as he is credited for pushing the brand to pursue the young player in the first place.
The movie, however, romanticizes his role to an extent. In Air, the story reaches its climax when Sonny Vaccaro offers a passionate speech, accurately predicting the trajectory of Jordan’s career, and this would appear to be one of, if not the biggest selling points from the Nike team.
But, in reality, Michael himself has shared that it actually wasn’t Vaccaro who convinced him to join Team Nike, and rather, that it was college basketball coach George Raveling, who was pushing the American brand to him when the two were together on the 1984 Olympics team.
Did the NBA really fine Jordan for his Nike shoes?
Yes, the NBA fined Michael Jordan over his shoes, as the movie Air explains correctly.
When the Air Jordan 1s debuted in 1984, the NBA fined Jordan $5,000 every time he wore them in-game because the black-and-red color scheme violated the league’s “uniformity” rules, which Nike paid for.
Things escalated in 1985 when the NBA sent a letter to Nike to inform them that the Air Jordan 1s were in violation of the league’s “uniform clause” and the league banned Jordan from wearing them in games. But just like Rob Strasser suggested in the movie, the brand used this as a way to promote the shoe even further.
Nike later released promotional campaigns with censored bars over the Jordan 1s in advertisements, which drove sales even further, because fans just had to have the banned shoes.
Who came up with the name ‘Air Jordan’?
Two people in the movie fight over who came up with the now-iconic name, the Air Jordans: sports agent David Falk and shoe designer Peter Moore.
In real life, Falk takes credit for himself. In the Netflix docu-series, The Last Dance, the agent himself shares, “Nike had just come out with this new technology for their running shoes called air soles. Obviously, Michael played in the air, so I said, ‘I got it, we’re going to call it Air Jordan.”
The movie, however, also includes a scene where Peter Moore looks at his creation ahead of the team’s pitch and coins the name Air Jordan by himself. This sparks a debate between the two — a debate that may never be settled.
Fact vs. Fiction — which wins?
In total, Air does not stray too far away from the true story of the deal. Because of this, we’d have to say that fact wins.
Yes, Nike was the underdog when Jordan was choosing a brand to sign with; yes, the main characters in the film all played a huge part in converting the deal; yes, the deal turned out to be historic in the sports world. Sure, bits of the story were romanticized here and there for Hollywood. But, the movie does well to showcase how the drama unfolded.
After all, few deals (if any) in the sports-business world are as historic and as captivating as this one.
Banner image from AIR on Instagram.