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Air: Ben Affleck Loves That The Movie Is Definitely Not About Michael Jordan

From "The Pride of the Yankees" to "Ali" to "I, Tonya," sports biopics look at the inner workings of history's most gifted and idiosyncratic athletes. In the upcoming Amazon Prime film "Air," director Ben Affleck asks, what if you removed the star athlete from the equation altogether? "Air" chronicles Nike's development of the world-famous Air Jordan sneaker in 1984, with Affleck and Matt Damon starring as former Nike CEO Phil Knight and executive Sonny Vaccaro, respectively. The shoe's namesake, Michael Jordan, doesn't actually appear in the film, save for some footage and images.

That omission was by design. "We felt a more interesting way to tell the story would be for him to exist in the ether of the movie," Affleck told Bally Sports. "To be talked about by everyone but not seen is really analogous to the experience of celebrities and sports stars in modern life." "Air" may have some sports biopic in its DNA, but it's more a tale about business and innovation. For Affleck, Jordan serves as a sort of MacGuffin, which is to say that "Air" isn't about the player at all.

Deloris Jordan is the true protagonist of Air

"Air" may be about Michael Jordan's game-changing shoe, but Jordan himself is at the periphery of the film. One reason why is Ben Affleck didn't want to attempt to replicate an athlete of such mythical proportions. It's also because Jordan was still a nascent star in 1984. "Remember, Michael was a 22-year-old kid," Affleck said in an appearance on "Good Morning America." "There was somebody who was really making sure that he was protected and taken care of. What I love about this movie is you think it's about Michael Jordan, and then you find out it's about somebody else."

It took speaking to Jordan directly for Affleck to realize that the real protagonist is Jordan's mother, Deloris, played in "Air" by Viola Davis. "He actually talked about his mom, who wasn't really in the script," Affleck recalled to The Hollywood Reporter. "That's when I understood what the movie was. Talking to him about his mom was incredibly moving, and I realized, 'Oh, this isn't about Nike.'" Deloris was instrumental in her son signing with Nike, and years later the company returned the favor by designing the "Dear Deloris" Jordan Series .02. If that isn't sequel fodder we don't know what is.