In the movie “Air,” the original plan was to show how Michael Jordan’s unprecedented Nike deal was him simply getting what he deserved as a great basketball player with tremendous promise. But his story, like so many other successful tales, was fueled by family and an unshakeable mother’s love.
In the coming days and weeks, you’ll see and read a lot about the movie Air and its all-star cast which lays out in great detail the Michael Jordan/Nike union, one of the greatest against-the-odds business deals ever.
But in telling the tale of MJ’s unprecedented deal with Nike, the movie is full of meaningful life lessons that help shape in better context Michael Jordan’s ascension into being such an iconic, larger-than-life figure.
Among the most notable lessons is the importance of understanding your value, and aligning one’s self with those who appreciate it beyond lip service.
That is why this movie will resonate with more than the usual run-of-the-mill sports enthusiasts.
While Michael Jordan may be a central figure in the movie, Air gets a major lift from a character whose role in MJ’s life doesn’t get nearly as much credit as it should. This movie is a step in the right direction providing some much-needed context to the impact Deloris Jordan, MJ’s mom, had on his life on and off the basketball court.
Award-winning producer Ben Affleck knew Deloris Jordan would have a role in the movie. But it wasn’t until he talked with Michael Jordan did Affleck start to realize how impactful her role would be in the telling of this story.
“My father (James Jordan) had the best personality out of anyone I knew,” Affleck, in an interview with EBONY, recalled MJ telling him. “And my mother ran (bleep).”
Affleck added, “When I saw what this person meant to him, Mrs. Jordan, and then imagined what so many mothers must have meant to their sons in so many positions similar to this, across sports, entertainment and how significant this deal was in a ripple effect way, this is a much deeper, more powerful story than I understood.”
And so Affleck enhanced the role of MJ’s mother, making it a role far more appealing to MJ’s choice to play the role of his mother—Viola Davis, whom Affleck acknowledged he has long wanted to work with on a project.
But getting her for this project, he knew was not going to be easy.
He likened Michael Jordan’s request for Davis akin to trying to put a basketball team together with the only ask being you have Michael Jordan on the team.
“But not surprising, Michael would ask for the very best person in the world to play his mom,” Affleck said. “Once I realized that, it just changed the whole story. That was the catalyst making the movie as special as it was and getting these other voices and experiences and lives [to] contribute to it. It made it much bigger than my view or vision and I’m grateful.”
Davis’ portrayal of Deloris Jordan was indeed one of the more impactful, game-changing aspects of the film.
“There are changemakers who we don’t necessarily see and don’t necessarily know,” shared Davis . “We only know Deloris predominantly through Michael Jordan, but she was someone who was able to create tremendous change in the space she was in. I think the inspiration to be found in the entire movie is ... you don’t know whose life you’re going to touch; you don’t know whose life you’re going to change, but your job is to plant the seed. You don’t know how it’s going to grow, but you have to plant it no matter who you are. If there is one thing you could take from this movie, it’s that everybody had a great idea, but you didn’t see how it was going to grow.
Davis added, “And now, here we are in 2023 and we’ve seen the unbelievable growth from all these ideas that came from people who were just following their hearts. That’s all they were doing. I think that’s a larger message for people in general, that you don’t have to have a million dollars, you don’t have to have a Ph.D. You just have to have a vision, a purpose, a heart, and a huge amount of courage.”
And with that, a desire to surround yourself with people who understand and appreciate your value, and a momma like Delores Jordan to remind those that don’t know what that value looks like.