ARTICLE BY Chris Danforth

Ben Affleck’s Jordan Movie Air: The Key Names Explained

Ben Affleck as Phil Knight in Air (via Amazon Studios)

The trailer for Ben Affleck’s Jordan story Air has just landed.

The movie chronicles the saga of signing Jordan to a Nike endorsement deal, a move that irreversibly changed the footwear and sports industries, effectively kickstarting a new era of global athlete superstars.

Michael Jordan himself will not be portrayed in the film, but Air will be told through behind-the-scenes figures from Nike co-founder Phil Knight to the designer of the Air Jordan 1, Peter Moore. The film also touches on the rivalry between Nike and its more established competitor, adidas.

Here’s everything you need to know about the main characters of Air.

Matt Damon as Sonny Vaccaro in Air (via Amazon Studios)

Sonny Vaccaro
Played By: Matt Damon

Sonny Vaccaro is the man who signed Michael Jordan to Nike and arguably the central character of Air. The intertwined stories of Jordan and Nike simply would not be the same without the relentless efforts of Vaccaro, who went to great lengths to sign the rising star to what was considered the third-place brand at the time, behind adidas and Converse.

Vaccaro was a key figure in identifying Jordan’s marketability, signing him to a contract, and leveraging his charisma and style of play into a tour de force that changed the entire industry. Vaccaro’s professional relationship with Jordan lasted over 28 years, from 1984 to 1991, when he was fired by Nike and moved on to work for adidas.

Phil Knight

Played By: Ben Affleck

Nike’s co-founder. The shoe dog. Perhaps the most recognisable name from the film, Phil Knight started Nike with track coach Bill Bowerman. Affleck will play a young, curly haired Knight at a time when Nike was building on its strong foundation in running and tennis by moving into the basketball world.

Jason Bateman as Rob Strasser in Air (via Amazon Studios)

Rob Strasser
Played By: Jason Bateman

Rob Strasser was Nike’s director of marketing. Strasser and his longtime partner, Peter Moore, helped Phil Knight build the company into what it is today. Nike’s signing of tennis upstart John McEnroe proved that athlete endorsements could be an extremely effective marketing strategy, which opened Strasser’s mind when it come to the precedent-setting, industry-shifting agreement between Nike and MJ.

Strasser departed Nike to join adidas in 1987, only shortly after Jordan joined the brand with the Swoosh.

David Falk

Played By: Chris Messina

Michael Jordan’s agent and close contact with Strasser at Nike, David Falk, negotiated with Nike to secure Jordan’s own signature line of shoes and apparel, up-front advertising support, and a cut of future sales. In addition to Michael Jordan, Falk has represented over 100 professional basketball players, including Patrick Ewing and Reggie Miller, and in his prime, he was considered one of the most powerful people in the NBA. Falk’s agency, FAME, earned a reputation for its representation and negotiation before Falk sold his agency to an entertainment group for $100 million.

Deloris Jordan

Played By: Viola Davis

While Michael himself is not featured in the film, his mother, Deloris Jordan, is portrayed by Viola Davis. Deloris Jordan makes an appearance in the trailer as well, during a scene when Damon’s Vaccaro stops by the Jordan family home with the hopes of signing Michael’s name on the dotted line.

Chris Tucker as Howard White in Air (via Amazon Studios)

Howard White
Played By: Chris Tucker

White joined Nike in 1978 as a field representative. In that role, White developed both business and personal relationships with up-and-coming athletes – one of them being Michael Jordan. While Jordan wore Converse models like the Fastbreak during his time at the University of North Carolina, it was White who tried to convince Jordan that he belonged at Nike.

White helped smooth relationships between the Swoosh and Jordan during tumultuous times. He was present at many of the most pivotal moments in Jordan’s career, including his first championship and even the meeting when ‘Air Jordan’ was coined.

Peter Moore

Played By: Matthew Maher

Creator of the iconic Air Jordan 1 basketball sneaker, Michael Jordan’s first-ever signature shoe with Nike, Peter Moore is also responsible for designs like the Nike Dunk and logos, including the Air Jordan wings logo and the Jumpman logo. During his time in the industry, Moore made a huge impact at both Nike and adidas, acting as creative director for both brands, while his design portfolio also includes the adidas EQT logo.

Horst Dassler

Played By: Gustaf Skarsgård

Son of adidas founder Adolf ‘Adi’ Dassler, Horst Dassler was chairman of adidas at a time when the brand was starting to develop a bitter rivalry with Nike, one which arguably exists today, albeit in a less personal capacity.

In the years prior to Jordan’s dominance, adidas had introduced the first-ever leather basketball shoe in the form of the adidas Superstar. Nike’s response was the 1972 Bruin, and over the next decade and a half, both brands endured a power struggle that ultimately ended when Nike and Jordan tipped the scales in the mid-80s.

While Dassler did not play a role in the story of Michael Jordan, his portrayal in the film is a necessary pre-text for characters like Peter Moore and Sonny Vaccaro, who moved from Nike to adidas during this period of sneaker wars.

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