It was 1984 and Vaccaro, a basketball expert at Nike, hadn’t had much success recruiting top players to Nike’s basketball division. Converse had all but cornered the market with superstars like Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. Adidas, hyping its cool factor, was attracting the hot prospects from the draft, including the third pick – a guard out of the University of North Carolina named Michael Jordan. Putting his career on the line, Vaccaro decided to take the biggest gamble of his life. In an unprecedented move, he wanted Nike to create a shoe designed specifically for Jordan.
“It is an all-or-nothing gamble, but one in which he entirely believes because he absolutely knows and loves the game,” says Matt Damon, who plays Vaccaro in the film “AIR,” in cinemas April 19. “But he’s at a point where his career is in a precarious place and Nike’s entire basketball division is on the brink. He is risking all their jobs by pushing that agenda because he’s been told Jordan really wants to go with Adidas. Their shoes are cooler, and Nike is considered a jogging shoe company that Michael doesn’t associate with basketball. Nobody really does.
“That was one of the things that was so surprising to me when I read the script,” Damon continues, “because I always had this idea of Nike as this absolute powerhouse in the basketball shoe market, which they are now. But when you catch them at the beginning of this story, they are the clear underdogs… One thing Sonny Vaccaro was very clear with me about was that the feelings of camaraderie, friendship and loyalty are his takeaways from that time. That’s what we wanted to put in the movie—a story about these underdogs doing something that had never been done before.”
Besides the inspiring story of “AIR,” Damon relished working with his longtime buddy Ben Affleck as his director. “Obviously, we’ve written and produced together over the years, but getting to work with him as a director was utter joy and so creatively rewarding,” shares Damon. “We tend to have similar sensibilities about what’s working in a scene and what isn’t, so we had such an ease with each other.”
Affleck also had only great things to say about his old pal. “He is very, very gifted and it was a pleasure to direct him for the first time and discover even more about him as an actor,” says Affleck about Damon. “I feel very lucky that my oldest friend and I are in the same line of work and get to work together. We’re doubly blessed in that way.”
From award-winning director Ben Affleck and starring Matt Damon, “AIR” reveals the unbelievable game-changing partnership between a then-rookie Michael Jordan and Nike’s fledgling basketball division, which revolutionized the world of sports and contemporary culture with the Air Jordan brand.
“AIR” also stars Ben Affleck, Jason Bateman, Chris Messina, Marlon Wayans, with Chris Tucker and Viola Davis in a moving story that follows the career-defining gamble of an unconventional team with everything on the line, the uncompromising vision of a mother who knows the worth of her son’s immense talent, and the basketball phenom who would become the greatest of all time.
In Philippine cinemas April 19, “AIR” is distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Discovery company.