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Sneaker culture has grown leaps and bounds over the past few decades and there has been no greater shoe company driving this phenomenon than Nike. And retired NBA legend Michael Jordan has been a big reason why Nike has soared. Air chronicles the genesis of the Nike-Jordan partnership and the gamble that both made on each other during an era when Converse was king, and Magic Johnson and Larry Bird ruled the NBA. 

The movie stars Ben Affleck as Nike’s rebel-CEO Phil Knight, and his running mate, Matt Damon, as the equally rebellious Sonny Vaccaro, whom the movie credits as the instrumental factor in bringing the two parties together. While Vaccaro’s role in bringing Jordan to Nike is disputed (Phil Knight borrows the aphorism “Success has a thousand fathers but failure is an orphan,” in describing the degree of Vaccaro’s influence), the fact remains that Nike and Jordan would change the sports apparel industry for an entire generation and beyond. 

The movie properly credits the role Michael Jordan’s mother had in his life, both professionally and personally. Deloris Jordan (Viola Davis) prophetically asserts, “A shoe is just a shoe until my son steps into it.” As a recovering sneaker addict (I used to own over 100 pairs of shoes), I can attest to the Deloris Prophecy. Air depicts a good understanding of this as the rise of Air Jordan, the sneaker, has only ascended to the level that Michael Jordan, the NBA player, has also ascended. 

Looking at it now, we can all agree that both parties were symbiotically attached to each other’s great benefit. At a recent Sotheby’s auction, a pair of 1985 Nike Air Jordans sold for over $30,000. That’s a Ford Mustang on someone’s feet, and within the next generation or two, we may see prices for high-end sneakers go even higher. Air is a movie that shows us the beginning of it all and “sneakerheads” (shoe addicts), basketball fans and pop-culture enthusiasts will enjoy this cultural biopic. 

Christian viewers may be reminded of Jesus’s words in Matthew 6 to not worry about “what you put on” (ESV), even on your feet. (Rated TV-MA for strong language throughout. Amazon Prime Video)

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