Air: The Soaring Journey of Nike and the Air Jordan Legacy

By on October 28th, 2023 in news, Usage

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Air Jordan shoes [Source: Pexels]

Charles R. Goulding and Leah Nabangi examine the captivating origin story of the Air Jordan shoe and Nike’s implementation of 3D printing in recent years.

Air on Prime Video is a recent addition to the movie lineup, offering a compelling glimpse into the origin story of the iconic Air Jordan shoe, which was initially introduced in 1985 and has since grown into a global sneaker phenomenon. The movie features a talented cast that brings the story of Nike’s partnership with basketball legend Michael Jordan to life.

Matt Damon takes on the role of Sonny Vaccaro, a passionate high school basketball recruiter and shoe salesman at Nike, who proposed the allocation of the entire basketball budget towards Michael Jordan to convince him to sign a deal with Nike instead of his favored brands, Adidas, and Converse.

Ben Affleck plays Phil Knight, the visionary entrepreneur and Nike co-founder. Knight seems mystical and disconnected but then evidences the commitment that fueled Nike’s ascent to greatness.

Jason Bateman stars as Rob Strasser, Sonny’s Boss who has some complicated family dynamics but puts his career on the line by supporting Sonny’s vision. Viola Davis portrays Deloris Jordan, Michael Jordan’s steadfast mother whose profound influence on Jordan’s life is evident throughout the deal negotiations with Nike. Chris Messina rounds out the cast as David Falk, the agent instrumental in Michael Jordan’s career. With “Air,” viewers are in for a captivating journey through the events that united Michael Jordan and Nike in a groundbreaking collaboration that has gone on to revolutionize the world of sports and footwear.

Air movie poster

Air isn’t just about basketball; it delves deeper into themes of passion, perseverance, human connections, risk, and business, revealing the intricate web of challenges, innovations, and emotions that accompanied the creation and rise of the Air Jordan brand. The movie masterfully highlights the complex interaction of business and human dynamics which ultimately contributed to the global phenomenon that is Nike today. As of 2023, the company employs over 83,000 individuals, maintains approximately 1032 retail outlets across the world, and reports a staggering annual revenue of US$51.22 billion.

At the center of Nike’s model is the need to meet the evolving demands of consumers. The COVID-19 pandemic played a pivotal role in accelerating the company’s shift to a direct-to-consumer model due to the widespread closure of physical stores worldwide. Nike has since been working on integrating a hybrid online and retail distribution model into its business strategy. At the heart of this transformation lies Nike Direct, which includes the company’s owned digital and physical operations. Within this hybrid model, Nike has pioneered flexible shopping options, including convenient curbside pickup and the seamless blending of online and in-store experiences.

Nike & 3D Printing

Nike has been experimenting with 3D printing technology to create innovative products and prototypes. The company utilized 3D printing in the production of sports footwear for the first time in 2013 with the production of Nike Vapor Laser Talon, the first football cleats to be equipped with a 3D printed sole created by the Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) technology, a 3D printing technology that uses lasers to melt materials into shape.

Nike Vapor Laser Talon [Source: Nike]

The Nike Vapor HyperAgility also uses SLS for its plate. Its plate is designed to provide optimal traction and support for soccer players.

Nike introduced Nike Flyprint in 2018 in collaboration with Eliud Kipchoge, a Kenyan world-renowned marathon runner, making it the first performance footwear featuring a 3D printed textile upper. Nike used the solid deposit modeling (SDM) 3D printing process as a method to 3D print the upper shoe textile. This method allows customization of the shoe’s upper to an athlete’s foot shape and performance needs. Notably, Eliud Kipchoge achieved the remarkable two-hour marathon milestone while wearing the Nike Zoom Vaporfly, another groundbreaking Nike technology that revolutionized the shoe industry.

Nike Flyprint [Source: Nike]


Air unveils the inspiring story that propelled Nike into a global brand with many stores worldwide. This engaging story, compellingly told through engaging acting illustrates the determination and innovation required to disrupt an established market. The utilization of 3D printing in its manufacturing shows Nike’s commitment to cutting-edge technology and customized solutions.

By Charles Goulding

Charles Goulding is the Founder and President of R&D Tax Savers, a New York-based firm dedicated to providing clients with quality R&D tax credits available to them. 3D printing carries business implications for companies working in the industry, for which R&D tax credits may be applicable.

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