The Greatest Shoe Story Since Cinderella

17th Dallas International Film Festival

By Daniel R. Durrett

When I was in high school which was in the late 80s and Michael Jordan was already the superstar you think of him today. But, where I went to school at Skyline High School in Dallas TX we had our superstar, Larry “Grandmaw-maw” Johnson. Who was on the greatest college basketball team of ALL-TIME! UNLV 1990 Runnin’ Rebels you got, YouTube look it up!?

Anywho- Johnson was such a badass, that when the Bulls played the Mavericks in the Spring of ’87, Jordan visited our High School just to check Johnson out! There was a mass of students plied in on the closed gym doors trying to capture just one glance of the superstar. They were all run off by the assistant coaches.

After the period change ended the students were cleared out to head to their respective classes and only due to my returning to the locker room for a required piece of equipment oddly enough to grab my track spikes as a shoe my coach said I needed to practice in to get the feel. I preferred my Nike Air Max Pegasus running shoes. Once I had my spikes in hand I headed back to the track, but as I exited the locker room the entourage was leaving with Jordan at the lead. Stunned I stopped in my tracks, “Have a good workout” he said to me, a flabbergast and meek “thanks” was all I could muster in response staring as the group exited the building and entered the cars that were parked in the service area speeding off.

Jordan was larger than life his gameplay had lifted him above the sport the played, and he was iconic.

We learn that the story of when Jordan signed with Nike after being drafted by the Chicago Bulls, his story may have been significantly different, had the Nike basketball division not felt the way they did about creating the legendary player’s shoe.

Air only shows Jordan in a second thought process this is not “The Last Dance” the documentary of the championship games of the Chicago Bulls, this is a story of the creation of the world-changing shoe, whose effects on the game and fashion are still felt today.

The first film produced under the Artists Equity production company was founded in part by Matt Damon (The Martian, Good Will Hunting) and Ben Affleck (Argo, Gone Girl).

Damon portrays Sonny Vaccaro Nike’s basketball specialist who believes that Jordan is the future star of the NBA. Held back from spending a competing budget with basketball leaders Converse and Jordan’s favorite Adidas. Sonny works the system to give Nike every chance to sign Jordan.


A company he has no interest in signing with due to the company’s lack of a cool factor with the current youth of America. Jordan’s mother played by Viola Davis (Fences, The Help) is the one that must be approached just to get Nike included in the negotiation and just have an opportunity to pitch their shoe to the future superstar.

Requiring Sonny to circumvent the player’s agent David Falk portrayed by Chris Messina (The Newsroom, Argo), and endangering Sonny’s job at Nike.

Following the story of the shoe’s creation and the pitch to the Jordans was developed by the head of Nike Basketball Howard White played by Chris Tucker (Silver Linings Playbook, Rush Hour) and Rob Strasser portrayed by Jason Bateman (Arrested Development, Game Night).

It was White who suggested that you needed the mother to support Nike if they had any chance to sign Jordan along with Strasser who developed the marketing plan for the famous shoe which included the pitch that they design the shoe with more red and black (Bull’s colors) more color than the 51% white of which was the league’s requirement.

There are many adjustments to this origin story from the real-life activity that surrounds this story, but it has been told with a masterful perspective as a film.

Though it’s not directly about a game or specific play within a player’s career, it is one of the greatest stories in sports history if nothing else for the landmark change in the royalties that Jordan received for the merchandise bearing his name or likeness.

15th Dallas International Film Festival