Michael Jordan Not Featuring in Air Jordan Movie Raises Questions

A movie about Michael Jordan's revolutionary deal with Nike, which unleashed the Air Jordan brand on the world, will not prominently feature the NBA legend.

Despite being one of the main protagonists in the changing of sports branding thanks to the Air Jordan, the man himself will not be portrayed in Ben Affleck's upcoming take on Jordan's deal with Nike, titled AIR. Instead Jordan will be a "mythic figure hovering above the movie and never seen."

A press release about the film states that Ben Affleck will direct and star in the flick, along with Matt Damon and Viola Davis.

The release states: "From award-winning director Ben Affleck, 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.

Michael Jordan
Michael Jordan, of the Chicago Bulls, center, eludes the New York Knicks', Gerald Wilkins, left, and Charles Oakley, right, as during their NBA game at Madison Square Garden in New York in January 1990. A movie about Jordan's revolutionary deal with Nike, which unleashed the Air Jordan brand on the world, will not star the NBA legend. Getty Images

"This moving story 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."

The release continued: "Matt Damon plays maverick executive Sonny Vaccaro and Affleck plays Nike co-founder Phil Knight with Jason Bateman as Rob Strasser, Chris Messina as David Falk, Matthew Maher as Peter Moore, Marlon Wayans as George Raveling, Chris Tucker as Howard White, Viola Davis as Deloris Jordan, Gustaf Skarsgård as Horst Dassler, and Julius Tennon as James Jordan—among others."

The story will "focus on Vaccaro's relentless quest to sign Jordan to what was then the third-place shoe company, a journey that took him to Jordan's parents, and in particular his powerful, dynamic mother, as well as to former coaches, advisors, and friends."

The casting has raised eyebrows, with suggestions on social media that the story has been "whitewashed" with white actors taking the main roles.

Air Jordan
Air Jordan shoes worn by Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics during their game against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Paycom Center on January 3, 2023. Questions have been asked about the casting for a new movie about Michael Jordan's deal with Nike that gave rise to the Air Jordan brand. Getty Images

One person hit out on Twitter, with an imagined conversation about the film.

They tweeted: "Everyone we're making a movie about Air Jordans! Look at this casting!"

"Who's playing Michael?"


Another was upset about the make up of the characters in the film, tweeting: "So it's about the white men, and not the Black man who made the brand and company what it is today?"

The deal between Nike and Jordan helped transform the sneaker company into a global phenomenon.

Michael Jordan
Michael Jordan attends a press conference for the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Air Jordan Shoe during the "Palais 23" interactive exhibition at Palais de Tokyo in Paris on June 12, 2015. Getty Images

The Air Jordan was first released in 1984, as Jordan helped the Chicago Bulls to become an NBA powerhouse in the 1980s and 1990s.

The Jordan brand is still an iconic style and its legions of fans still clamor to own the latest incarnation of the sneaker.

Jordan is no stranger to the world of Hollywood, having starred in Space Jam, which was released in November 1996.

The Warner Bros. Features Animation movie was a crossover of live action with Looney Tunes cartoon characters including Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck.

The reviews may have been less kind than the ones that the 59-year-old Jordan was used to during his playing career but this didn't worry the studio, as the movie earned $250 million worldwide and proved a huge success with the children who were the target audience for story.

Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James has cited it as his favorite movie when growing up, and when Jordan declined the opportunity to star in the reboot Space Jam: A New Legacy, James stepped up to take the lead role—25 years after the original hit the screens.

Do you have a tip on a sports story that Newsweek should be covering? Do you have a question about the NBA? Let us know via entertainment@newsweek.com.