“Air,” the story of Michael Jordan’s game-changing collaboration with Nike directed by Ben Affleck, will receive the Gotham Visionary Icon & Creator Tribute at the 33rd annual Gotham Awards Ceremony, the Gotham Film & Media Institute announced on Monday. The in-person event will take place on November 27, 2023 at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City. Nominees for the Gotham Awards will be announced on Tuesday, October 24th.
According to the Gotham Film & Media Institute, the Icon & Creator Tribute was developed for the 2023 Gotham Awards to “recognize cultural icons and the filmmakers responsible for bringing that icon’s story to life.” In this case, the recognition goes to both Jordan and Affleck. The Gotham Film & Media Institute had previously announced that George C. Wolfe’s upcoming Rustin would be the recipient of the Icon & Creator Tribute for Social Justice at this year’s ceremony.
In a statement, Jeffrey Sharp, Executive Director of The Gotham Film & Media Institute, said, “Both gripping and hilarious, ‘Air’ is a deeply refreshing reminder to the film industry that audiences respond to smart, original narratives. By capturing the dramatic story behind the most monumental partnership in the history of sports marketing, the film highlights the power of knowing your worth and using that knowledge to take the right risks. We are privileged to honor both the story behind a legend and the ‘Air’ team who brought that story to life with the Visionary Icon & Creator Tribute.”
“Air” tells the story of how a rookie named Michael Jordan struck a deal with Nike in 1984 that would change the sportswear industry forever. With the birth of the Air Jordan brand, Jordan set a precedent for athletes receiving points on each item sold. The brand’s debut basketball sneakers, Air Jordan 1, sold 1.5 million pairs in the first six weeks. At the time of the deal, Nike was struggling to develop its basketball division. When Jordan retired in 1998, Nike accounted for 40% of sneaker sales in the U.S., according to the Gotham Institute.
In the film, Affleck plays Nike co-founder Phil Knight, who tasked the company’s talent scout Sonny Vaccaro (Matt Damon) with finding a new spokesperson for the brand’s basketball shoes. The cast also includes Jason Bateman, Chris Messina, Marlon Wayans, Chris Tucker, Julius Tennon and Viola Davis. (Damian Young appears briefly as Jordan.) “Air” was released last April and is now available on Prime Video.