Seven years after his previous directorial effort, Ben Affleck has returned behind the camera for the new sports drama Air.


Affleck also stars in the film alongside his old friend Matt Damon and an impressive ensemble cast that includes Jason Bateman, Marlon Wayans and Viola Davis, with each of them playing characters based on real people.

Air tells the origin story of the partnership between iconic sportswear brand Nike and then rookie basketball star Michael Jordan, which went on to become one of the most lucrative merchandising arrangements in history after Jordan ascended to global superstardom.

If you're wondering just how much of the story presented in the film is based on real events, read on for the Air true story.

Air true story

While many of the events depicted in the film did appear to really happen, there are multiple conflicting accounts as to the real starting point for the Nike/Michael Jordan partnership – with they key people involved in the true story having provided different versions of the events.

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The film most clearly sides with the view shared by Sonny Vaccaro (played by Matt Damon) who had previously expressed his disappointment at being left out of the hit Netflix documentary series The Last Dance.

Although the scenes in the film which see Vaccaro fly to North Carolina to speak with Jordan's family are fabricated for dramatic effect, Vaccaro did speak with Jordan after arranging a meeting through his friend George Raveling (played by Marlon Wayans) and claims he was instrumental in persuading Jordan away from Addidas to sign with Nike.

Matt Damon as Sonny Vaccaro in Air
Matt Damon as Sonny Vaccaro in Air. WB

As is shown in the film, Vaccaro insisted that rather than spreading their $2 million budget around a host of different basketball players, they should give it all to Jordan in order to secure the partnership – and after delivering a speech to Jordan outlining that the company was betting everything on his success, the star agreed to sign.

Jordan, however, disputes Vaccaro's importance to the deal. Instead, he says that his mother Deloris and Raveling were the key – and insisted to Affleck that if the film was to go ahead, his only request was that his mother would be played by Viola Davis, which did indeed end up happening.

"It’s a lot of people who think they created the success of the Jordan band, which is kind of ironic in some ways," Jordan said in a previous interview with USA Today. "Sonny didn’t influence me to go to Nike. He got a deal proposed."

The fact of the matter is that we'll never really know which of these versions of events more closely measures up to reality – but the film clearly seems to have a lot of sympathy with Vaccaro's position.

Air is now showing in UK cinemas. Visit our Film hub for more news and features, and find something to watch tonight with our TV Guide and Streaming Guide.


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