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Ben Affleck says Michael Jordan made one strict request for ‘Air’ movie about NBA legend’s iconic shoe

NBA legend Michael Jordan gave Ben Affleck permission to make a movie about him, but only on one condition.

Michael Jordan is arguably the most recognisable name in sporting history, so it’s no surprise that a huge Hollywood star like Ben Affleck wanted to make a film about him.

Air: Courting a Legend – released last year and starring Ben Affleck and Matt Damon – tells the story of how Jordan and sportswear giant Nike built a partnership that became the biggest in sporting history.

Nike was just a small-scale company in the ’80s and hadn’t cracked basketball, but co-founder Phil Knight – played by Affleck – saw potential.

Knight gave Nike marketing executive Sonny Vaccaro – played by Matt Damon – a budget of $250,000 to sign up three to four players from the 1984 NBA Draft.

Instead, Vaccaro spent the whole budget on signing up Jordan, then at the University of North Carolina.

Jordan’s mother persuaded her son to accept the offer and ditch Adidas and Converse in favour of Nike. Since then Nike has sold over 150 million pairs Nike Jordan shoes, with both player and brand becoming household names.

Jordan doesn’t actually feature in the movie but his mother does.

When Affleck asked Jordan’s permission to make the film, the Chicago Bulls legend had one request: Viola Davis had to be cast to play his mom.

Speaking to NBA (via talkSPORT), Affleck said: “I was like, ‘Mike, you just can’t get Viola Davis.’

“He was like ‘nope’. So I had to get her. Thank goodness she said yes. I was very happy I was able to do that.

“He didn’t have a whole laundry list. He left it at that. It was important that I honor that.”

Basketball GOAT Michael Jordan. (


It’s not surprising that Jordan wanted Davis to play his mum – she is one of only a few actors to have been awarded an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony (EGOT).

Affleck went on to explain why the movie won’t actually feature Jordan.

“I thought the minute I turn the camera on somebody and ask the audience to believe that person was Michael Jordan, the whole movie falls part,” he said.

“When somebody is that powerful, where just their silhouette is a globally recognized phenomenon, you lose people.

“If it’s [the film] about anything, it’s about what Michael Jordan meant to the sporting world, the world at large, and who he was and how it transformed sports and sports marketing and how athletes were compensated and treated, how he was supported in that process.”