Chris Tucker stars as Howard White in “Air” (Photo Credit: Ann Carballosa/Amazon Content Services).
(“Air” trailer courtesy of MGM)
It takes greatness to recognize the greatness in others before the world sees it.
Sure, once that underrated and unsung individual reaches unreachable heights, everyone claims to have known all along.
But in “Air,” the movie shows that to be great one must have a great belief in themselves and great confidence to put all their eggs in one basket, which is one great gamble.
In “Air,” Sonny Vaccaro (Matt Damon) is a gambling man anyway and many of his bets have become profitable.
He basically creates the high school basketball showcase concept, which other companies have taken and run with.
Although he works for Nike in its basketball division, Nike was not what it is today in the early 1980s.
Nike is in third place when it comes to the market share of sneakers.
Furthermore, Nike does not have the streets behind them.
No matter what athlete that Nike gets to endorse its shoes like Moses Malone or Artis Gilmore, it is hard for Nike to compete with Adidas and its track suits that everyone is wearing on the streets.
To make matters worse, hip-hop group Run-D.M.C. has cemented Adidas’ spot on the Mt. Rushmore of apparel companies for the urban market.
And as the urban market goes, so goes the mainstream market.
In “Air,” Adidas track suits are so popular that Nike’s own executive Howard White (Chris Tucker) has his cousin get him some track suits from overseas.
Howard would never wear the Adidas track suits to a Nike function.
However, as soon as he is on his own time, he rocks what the youngsters are rocking on the streets and that ain’t the swoosh from Nike.
In “Air,” it has gotten so bad in the basketball division that the board and the company’s CEO Phil Knight (Ben Affleck) are contemplating getting rid of the division totally.
In fact, who could blame them?
Nike is a running shoe company.
And the company makes billions on running shoes.
Furthermore, running shoes are the most popular sort of shoe for people.
The only time people wear basketball shoes is to play basketball.
And in 1984, even with Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Larry Bird and Julius Erving all wearing Converse sneakers, they have not made basketball shoes much more popular than they were before.
For Heaven’s sake, the NBA Finals was on tape delay not too long before the 1984-85 season.
So, America’s Pastime basketball is certainly not.
However, desperate times call for desperate measures.
In “Air,” Sonny knows he is on his last leg with the company.
Additionally, other employees in Nike’s basketball division are on their last leg too like Rob Strasser (Jason Bateman), who has made his reputation in the field of marketing.
Nike has allotted $250,000 to promote its basketball shoe for the 1984-85 season and the company wants to spend it on three rookies.
Unfortunately, Hakeem Olajuwon (the number one overall pick in the draft) is signing with Converse.
Additionally, third overall pick Michael Jordan hates Nike and does not even want to take a meeting.
Jordan loves Adidas track suits too and wants to sign with the company even though he has accepted a meeting with Converse too.
In “Air,” Jordan is well-known throughout the basketball world because of his championship winning jumper against Georgetown in 1982.
But guards do not transform the league like big men.
And the fact that Jordan did not even average 20 points per game in college does not have many convinced that he will tear the league apart from an offense standpoint.
Nevertheless, Sonny eventually sees something that only a handful of people see early on and that is a fierce competitiveness, unshakeable faith in himself and a confidence that he will be great.
In “Air,” Sonny sees it.
Jordan’s coach at North Carolina Dean Smith sees it.
And Jordan’s parents James (Julius Tennon) and especially Deloris Jordan (Viola Davis) see it.
And because of that believe, all involved in the Jordan business are willing to go against the grain and break with custom to get Michael Jordan to the top of the sports and sports business world in an unprecedented way.
To stay in the Nike basketball shoe business, Sonny must convince Phil and the board that they need to put all their chips on Jordan like a true gambler and make him the face of the company and not just another face like the other shoes companies are offering.
First and foremost, “Air” is not a Jordan biopic, thankfully.
Jordan’s life has been so eventful and game-changing that it would take several movies to tell his unique story.
In “Air,” Jordan basically does not even appear in the movie.
The character Michael Jordan (Damian Young) is not really shown and says only a few mumbling words.
Nevertheless, Young is the perfect person to play the back of Jordan’s head because the back of his head looks just like the back of Jordan’s head in 1984 with actual hair on the head.
“Air” is star-studded to say the least with Marlon Wayans even showing up as George Raveling.
But the stars of “Air” are Davis and Tucker, who are both fantastic.
In “Air,” Davis is no nonsense and the embodiment of the phrase “know your worth.”
Additionally, Tucker is his usual hilarious self in “Air.”
Furthermore, “Air” will have 80s babies rocking in their seats to songs from Dazz Band, George Clinton, Zapp, Chaka Khan and Rufus and Cyndi Lauper.
Unfortunately, fans of Jordan will already know exactly what will happen in “Air.”
Nonetheless, with real star power a predictable story can become a very good film.
But the real star of “Air” is the message of the film and that is geniuses often look like crazy people until others realize that their craziness was actually brilliance.