“The Last Dance” chronicled the six championships won by larger-than-life basketball legend Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, while Alex Convery’s debut script for “Air” portrays the methods utilized by shoe salesman Sonny Vaccarro (played so convincingly by Matt Damon) in leading the Nike brand to pursue Jordan. The A-list ensemble includes the always reliable Jason Bateman (as Rob Strasser), Chris Tucker (as Howard White who went from player to executive), Chris Messina (as the scene stealing agent David Falk), Marlon Wayans (as George Raveling), and Affleck himself as Phil Knight, the zen co-founder and CEO of Nike. And while they all give entertaining performances, for me, the person who emerges as the film’s heart is Michael’s mother who is channeled in another Oscar-caliber performance by Viola Davis.
Nike and the Jordan Brand have been popular for so long that it is hard to remember that they were once eclipsed by both Converse and Adidas. And although we know the outcome, that there will be an Air Jordan shoe, film critic Christy Lemire cites the “deceptive brilliance of Ben Affleck’s directing” that allows us to enjoy the story despite knowing how it ends.
However, even when we think we know, we get the eye-opening details of the pivotal role Mrs. Jordan played in allowing Damon’s character to court Michael Jordan on Nike’s behalf even after his agent told them no-go. Strasser discovered that family was primary to the Jordans. And if you were going to approach Deloris, no–make that “Mrs. Jordan!,” you had to do it with respect. She knew not only her own value, but that of her son (who Affleck wisely never really shows us in the movie). What is phenomenal is that Mrs. Jordan had the cool presence to negotiate a deal on her son’s behalf that forever changed his future and the sports industry. You can say that this Mother’s love was truly worth its weight in gold. And that Michael’s brand amplified the House of Nike.
You can view one of her pivotal scenes with Matt Damon in the clip embedded below, where she reveals that the Nike deal with Michael will go through on the condition that her son earns a percentage of every Air Jordan that is sold…in perpetuity!
In the fall of 2014, I was honored to receive the Deloris Jordan Award for Excellence in Community Leadership at the 20th Annual Black Harvest Film Festival. Mrs. Jordan presented me with the award, which also posthumously honored my late husband, Roger, for among other things, the work we did in supporting emerging students in education and the arts. But I also knew Mrs. Jordan because as Chicagoans, both Roger and I were massive fans of the Bulls. During that period the whole city, no, the whole nation, and I think I can even safely say, the whole world was obsessed with them.