Starring Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Viola Davis, “Air” tells the story of how Nike wooed Michael Jordan into signing a sneaker deal, producing the Air Jordan line of sneakers (and making David Falk look like a madman in the process).

The movie was released to critical acclaim — but it was noticeably absent its critically acclaimed subject.

Michael Jordan was portrayed in the movie, but Michael Jordan wasn’t actually in the movie. In fact, not as much as a facial shot of the actor who portrayed Jordan was taken, and the only footage of Jordan in the flick was in archival footage of some of his greatest moments on the court.

Here’s why Jordan didn’t find his way to the silver screen:

Why is Michael Jordan not in the movie ‘Air’?
Jordan’s absence wasn’t a stupidly obvious omission, but rather a “deliberate choice” by the makers of the movie. Simply put, Affleck felt Jordan was too big for the movie and would overshadow it.

That, coupled with the idea that Affleck felt that someone like Jordan is too iconic to portray on screen, meant that Jordan was not going to be in the movie.

Affleck, who also directed “Air,” explained why he His Airness wasn’t in the film (via The Hollywood Reporter):

… There is no way I was ever going to ask an audience to believe that anybody other than Michael Jordan was Michael Jordan. Which was also out of my own naked self interest, frankly, because I knew it would destroy the movie. You will see him [in archival clips] in the movie, but you will see Michael Jordan as he truly is in his authentic masterful genius which exists for all of us to see. It was a deliberate choice. I thought he was too majestic to have anyone impersonate him and — as I told him — ‘You’re too old to play the part.’”

Affleck explained further in a press release surrounding the movie:

Michael Jordan is so famous that I truly felt if we ever saw an actor playing it would be hard to get the audience to suspend their disbelief, because, in my opinion, there’s no convincing anybody that someone who isn’t Michael Jordan is Michael Jordan.
Jordan still had a major hand to play behind the scenes. He consulted Affleck on the film, and made sure that certain individuals were properly represented, including his mother Deloris and Nike executive Howard White. Both had smaller roles in the original script.

Jordan also pushed for Academy Award-winner Viola Davis to play his mother Deloris in the film, according to Affleck.

“He said, ‘None of this would have ever happened without my mother.’ I said, ‘Who would you like to play your mom?’ He said, ‘Well, it has to be Viola Davis.’”

(It was a good decision, Michael.)

Who plays Michael Jordan in ‘Air’?
Jordan is in the movie, and he’s portrayed by Damian Delano Young, who has only a handful of lines throughout the flick. Somewhat ironically, he’s more of a background figure.

“Air” is Young’s feature-film debut — but it’s not much of a debut. Young’s silhouette is mainly used, and his face is never seen. The focus of the film is on Jordan’s parents, Deloris and James, and the Nike executives in their pursuit of Jordan to represent their basketball division.

‘Air’ movie cast
“Air” features an ensemble cast that is sure to get a lot of love come awards season later in 2023.

Here’s the top-billed cast for the flick:

Matt Damon as Sonny Vaccaro, Nike’s basketball talent scout;
Ben Affleck as Phil Knight, Nike co-founder and CEO;
Viola Davis as Deloris Jordan, Jordan’s mother;
Jason Bateman as Rob Strasser, Nike marketing VP;
Marlon Wayans as George Raveling, former Team USA assistant coach;
Chris Messina as David Falk, Jordan’s agent;
Chris Tucker as Howard White, Nike executive;
Damian Delano Young as Michael Jordan;
Julius Tennon as James R. Jordan Sr., Jordan’s father;

Matthew Maher as Peter Moore, Nike designer and creative director;

How to watch ‘Air’ movie

Live stream: Amazon Prime Video

With “Air” exiting theaters, you can now live stream it on Amazon Prime Video. Prime Video is included in an Amazon Prime membership, and also offers a free trial.

Amazon Prime is $14.99 per month, or $139 for the year. For those who just want an Amazon Prime Video subscription, the cost is $8.99 per month.

‘Air’ movie reviews
Currently on Rotten Tomatoes, “Air” holds a 92 percent “Fresh” score based on 303 reviews.

The site’s consensus review: “A fact-based drama that no one will dunk on, ‘Air’ aims to dramatize events that changed the sports world forever — and hits almost nothing but net.”

CinemaScore also gives the movie positive reviews, with audiences giving the film an “A” on an A through F scale.

For comparison, “Space Jam: A New Legacy” starring LeBron James currently has a 25 percent “Rotten” score on Rotten Tomatoes. Debate that, nerds.