One of Tinseltown’s most popular bromances is back. They’re telling the story of how one of history’s greatest sports icons catapulted a struggling footwear company to eventually become the No. 1 apparel company in the world. According to an exclusive from The Hollywood Reporter, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck are working on a movie about Sonny Vaccaro and how the retired sports marketing executive lured Michael Jordan to Nike.
Affleck will allegedly play Nike co-founder Phil Knight, and Damon is slated to co-star alongside his buddy as Vaccaro. Both men will also co-produce and co-write the story, but Affleck will handle the production duties himself. The film will also involve the joint efforts of Skydance Sports and Amazon Studios, and Mandalay Pictures will produce the flick with the guys as well.
“The story will focus on Vaccaro’s relentless quest to sign Jordan to what was then the third-place shoe company,” the article from THR reads. It will supposedly look at some of the key people that made the 6x NBA champ who he was: his parents James and Deloris, his UNC coach Dean Smith, and other advisors who counseled him along the way. “Jordan will be a mythic figure hovering above the movie and never seen, even as Vaccaro tries to reach him by gaining access to those close to him and around him,” continues the synopsis.
The source material is apparently being drawn from Sole Man, the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary, which aired in 2015. Affleck and Damon are said to be amending the story for the movie.
Jordan’s impact on the Swoosh is unquestionable, and Vaccaro’s role in that deal has been covered in a number of works about MJ. One of the better-known tales comes from Ronald Lazenby’s 2014 biography about His Airness, Michael Jordan: The Life.
“The first time Nike’s lawyers met Sonny Vaccaro, they wondered if he belonged to the mob. Certainly, his look was misleading, as was his name, accent, his extravagant way to do and, above all, that look on his face, as if he knew secrets and things normal people couldn’t have possibly known,” Lazenby wrote.
“Michael Jordan had the same feeling when he first sat down at a table with that dumpy Italian-American with those hangdog eyes,” he continued. “‘I’m not sure I want to have anything to do with such a shady guy,’ admitted Jordan. He liked the idea that people thought he had connections: in business, everything can be useful.”
But for someone who was reputedly so integral to Jordan’s success, some basketball fans wondered why so little was said about Vaccaro in the successful ESPN docuseries The Last Dance. Two years ago, shortly after the project was released, the 82-year-old Pennsylvania native sat with The PM Team from 93.7 The Fan and said his absence from The Last Dance was “revisionist history.”
Vaccaro made sure to say that he respects Jordan and that Knight was the true final decision-maker, but he was the guy who made it all happen. According to him, he bluntly told the Nike execs, “Give the kid all the money.”
“Without me, [Jordan] doesn’t sign,” Vaccaro continued to tell The PM Team. “We don’t go through all those romantic stories about Adidas and no one was paying him. That doesn’t happen. There’s no Air Jordan.”