Ben Affleck's Air: Everything We Know About The Air Jordan Origin Story

Ben Affleck sits at a desk, wearing shades and a track suit, in Air.
(Image credit: Amazon Studios)

Since its inception nearly 40 years ago, Nike’s Air Jordan brand has been the premier name in sports apparel, especially when it comes to the highly sought after shoes that have helped turned the sneakers, and the NBA icon whose name they bear, into a financial and cultural behemoth the likes of which had never been seen before. And the story of how the shoe came into existence will be told in great detail with Ben Affleck’s upcoming directorial effort, Air.

If this is the first you’re hearing about the upcoming release from Amazon Studios, or perhaps you saw the trailer alongside other 2023 movies like the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 preview during the big game, there’s a good chance you want to know more about the movie starring Affleck and longtime friend Matt Damon. If that’s the case, stick around because we’re about to break down everything we know about the Air Jordan origin story…

What Is The Air Release Date?

The Air logo

(Image credit: Amazon Studios)

It is going to be an extremely busy time at the box office over the Easter weekend, as Ben Affleck’s first directorial effort in more than six years, Air, is slated to open Wednesday, April 5. Several high-profile movies, including the highly anticipated The Super Mario Bros. Movie and The Pope’s Exorcist are scheduled for release on April 7, so it'll have some fast-approaching competition.

According to Deadline, the movie will be the first Amazon Studios release to come out in theaters before coming to Prime Video since 2019’s Late Night starring Mindy Kaling and Emma Thompson. The movie will eventually call the streaming service home, but no date for that has been announced at this time.

Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, And Viola Davis Lead The Air Cast

Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, and Viola Davis in Air

(Image credit: Amazon Studios)

When Air opens in theaters in April, it will feature a cast anchored by some of the most prolific names in Hollywood in recent years. Leading the cast is Matt Damon, who will take on the role of Nike sports marketing executive and creator of the Air Jordan line of shoes and apparel, Sonny Vaccaro. Appearing alongside him will be director and longtime friend Ben Affleck, who is set to portray Nike founder Phil Knight. 

Viola Davis, who joined the list of EGOT winners after winning a Grammy in February 2023, is set to portray Deloris Jordan, the mother of the basketball GOAT, with Julius Tennon taking on the role of MJ’s late father, James Jordan Sr.

Other members of the Air cast include Marlon Wayans, Chris Tucker, Jason Bateman, Chris Messina, and multiple others.

The Movie Chronicles The Creation Of The Air Jordan Nike Brand

Matt Damon and Jason Bateman in Air

(Image credit: Amazon Studios)

Set in the early 1980s, Air will focus on Sonny Vaccaro (Damon) and his quest to take Nike from the third-place shoe company to the leader of the market by signing Michael Jordan and giving him a signature shoe, according to The Hollywood Reporter. This will prove to be no easy task, as when the movie is set, Jordan is not yet the legendary sports icon he is now, but a young rookie coming out of the University of North Carolina. Along the way, Vaccaro will cross paths with Jordan’s parents, coaches, and various Nike executives who don’t see what all the fuss is about.

The Trailer Shows How Air Jordans Went From A Longshot Idea To The World’s Most Popular Shoe

Matt Damon and Viola Davis sit at a picnic table in conversation in Air.

(Image credit: Amazon)

In February 2023, Amazon Studios offered up a quick glance at the ‘80s fashion (and hair), drama, and over-the-top personalities that will be on display in the movie with a quick trailer. The video, which shows how Air Jordans went from a longshot idea to the world’s most popular shoe, is loaded with the movie’s biggest stars, including Affleck and Damon’s characters in multiple exchanges that make it clear this won’t be the standard, stuffy biographical sports drama. Take a look!

One of the highlights of the trailer is definitely Davis, whose portrayal of Jordan’s mom, Delores, could be one of the standout performances of the year. Though that is to be expected with someone as talented as she is. And, sneakerheads will surely be excited to see all those early renderings of what would go on to become the Air Jordan (as well as other Nike shoes from the era).

Michael Jordan Will Not Be Portrayed In Air

Michael Jordan on The Last Dance

(Image credit: ESPN)

Though Michael Jordan is at the center of the drama in Air, the future six-time NBA Champion, Professional Basketball Hall of Famer, and Space Jam star will not only not be showing up in the movie, he won’t even be portrayed in the upcoming movie. In June 2022, when cameras were starting to roll on the Amazon original movie, it was reported by People that no actor will take on the role of the iconic sports figure and that MJ would remain an unseen character.

In a strange way, the decision to not find an actor to portray him makes perfect sense, considering the scope of the story, as well as the fact that it could have become a distraction in the lead up to its release. Now, this isn’t to say there won’t be a highlights package at the end of the movie featuring archival footage of Jordan crushing it on the court, but we’ll have to wait and see once the movie is released. 

Ben Affleck And Matt Damon Reworked The Original Air Script After Boarding The Project

The Good Will Hunting cast

(Image credit: Paramount)

What started out as a spec script written by Alex Convery that sat atop the Black List of unproduced screenplays has since turned into another writing collaboration for Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. In April 2022, The Hollywood Reporter announced that the longtime friends, who won an Academy Award for their Good Will Hunting script 25 years ago, reworked the screenplay after joining the project, making it their third time writing something together, and first since Ridley Scott’s 2021 historical drama, The Last Duel.

How much of Convery’s script was changed by Affleck and Damon remains to be seen, but the name did go through a slight change in the process, going from Air Jordan to the current title along the way.

Air opens in theaters on April 5, 2023, and will be available to stream for anyone with an Amazon Prime subscription at some point in the future. Until then, check out our list of the best basketball movies to hold you over in the meantime.

Philip Sledge
Content Producer

Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he's not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop yelling at the mailman, or yelling about professional wrestling to his wife. If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.