Viola Davis and husband Julis Tennon, Chris Tucker, and Marlon Wayans have joined the cast of Ben Affleck and Matt Damon’s untitled Nike film. Affleck is writing the project alongside Damon and both are producing. Chris Messina, Matthew Maher, and Tom Papa have also been cast.
Affleck is directing the film which tells the story of former Nike executive Sonny Vaccaro (Damon) and his relentless quest to sign sign Michael Jordan to an endorsement deal in the 1980s. Nike was then the third-place shoe company. The 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 endorsement seemed impossible at the time but which would become the most significant relationship between an athletic brand and an athlete and launched the global, multibillion-dollar contemporary sneaker industry. Jordan will not be portrayed in the film, instead serving as a “mythic figure hovering above the movie and never seen.”
The eventual deal between NIke and Jordan launched the company into the global powerhouse that it is today after the Chicago Bulls superstar became the best player in the NBA in the late 1980s and 1990s. The Jordan Brand line of sneakers remains an iconic style, with sneakerheads clamoring to add its various iterations to their collections.
Affleck will portray Nike co-founder Phil Knight.
Davis will play Jordan’s mother, Deloris Jordan, who was an enormous influence on Michael’s Nike deal, with Tucker as Howard White, a former college basketball player at the University of Maryland. White was a junior executive at Nike’s fledgling basketball department in the early ’80s, regularly serving as the company’s day-to-day connection with its roster of NBA players, which included such notable names as Moses Malone, George Gervin and Artis Gilmore. Tennon will star as Jordan’s father James, who also influenced his decision to sign with Nike.
Wayans has been cast as college basketball trailblazer George Raveling, who was the first Black coach in two iconic conferences—the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Pacific-10. Additionally, in 1984, he was the head coach at the University of Iowa and an assistant of the gold medal-winning U.S. Men’s Olympic basketball team, where he met and befriended Michael Jordan. Raveling was a dear friend of Vaccaro’s, and with Sonny’s prodding, he first introduced the idea of signing with Nike to Michael.
Bateman will play Vaccaro’s boss, Rob Strasser, the longtime Nike executive and attorney-turned-branding-guru who oversaw the company’s marketing and messaging across all sports. Strasser was an instrumental figure in Nike’s efforts to sign (and later promote) Jordan.
Messina has been tapped to play Jordan’s original agent, David Falk, who had represented several prominent NBA players prior to signing Michael, including a pair of No. 1 overall NBA draft picks—James Worthy (Michael’s former teammate at University of North Carolina) and Mark Aguirre. Falk is often credited with coming up with the name “Air Jordan.” Maher will play Peter Moore, the legendary designer for Nike (and later Adidas) who created the designs for the first Air Jordan sneakers, in addition to the iconic “Wings” and “Jumpman” logos for the Air Jordan brand.
Papa is playing Stu Inman, the former Portland Trail Blazers executive, who famously selected oft-injured center Sam Bowie ahead of Jordan in the 1984 NBA Draft.
Alex Convery penned the original script, titled Air Jordan, which was named to the 2021 Black List of the best unproduced screenplays. Mandalay brought it to Skydance Sports President Jon Weinbach, who then secured Vaccarro’s life rights. Affleck and Damon did a subsequent pass on the script and are producing alongside Peter Guber, Jason Michael Berman, Jeff Robinov, Madison Ainley, and David Ellison. Executive producers include Jon Weinbach, Jesse Sisgold, Dana Goldberg, and Don Granger, Kevin Halloran, Michael Joe, John Graham, Drew Vinton, Jordan Moldo and Peter E. Strauss. The film will ultimately premiere on Prime Video in more than 240 countries and territories worldwide.