Michael Jordan personally selected Viola Davis to play his mom in ‘Air,’ and it blew her away

The mother of the NBA icon played a pivotal role in building up the Air Jordan brand.

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Viola Davis’ latest role is playing the mother of NBA icon Michael Jordan in the Ben Affleck-directed film “Air.”

As PEOPLE reports, Jordan personally selected Davis to play his mother, Deloris Jordan. Based on a true story, the drama centers on Deloris’ pivotal role in her son’s game-changing Nike deal in 1984 when Jordan was a rookie. The partnership between Jordan and Nike “revolutionized the world of sports and contemporary culture with the Air Jordan brand,” per the official synopsis.

Viola Davis to play Jordan's mother in 'Air' movie
(Left to right) Michael Jordan being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom during a ceremony on Nov. 22, 2016, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C; Viola Davis attends the Public Counsel’s Annual William O. Douglas Award Dinner on Dec. 11, 2022, at The Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California. (Composite Credit: Getty)

Affleck revealed at the film’s South by Southwest premiere in Austin, Texas, that Jordan had one demand when it came to telling this story, Affleck had to cast Davis as Deloris. Davis later told PEOPLE on the red carpet that she was “flattered” after learning this for the first time during the event. 

“I’m just hearing about it now,” the Academy Award winner said while her husband, Julius Tennon, accompanied her on the red carpet. “So yeah, so it blew my mind. I’m glad I didn’t know about it before.”

“It’s pretty awesome that he wanted her to play his mom,” said Tennon, who plays Jordan’s father, James Jordan, in the film. 

“Air” stars Matt Damon as Nike executive Sonny Vaccaro, who worked with signing Jordan, and Affleck as Nike co-founder Phil Knight. Chris Tucker plays the vice president of the Jordan Brand, Howard White. Tucker used the opportunity to play his friend White to make his big screen return after a seven-year hiatus, PEOPLE reports.

Davis prepared for the role by watching old videos of Deloris, 81, who convinced her son to take a meeting with Nike while he insisted on inking a deal with Adidas. Jordan ultimately accepted Nike’s deal that included his now-iconic signature shoe as well as $250,000.

“I use the term zen neutrality with her. Someone who just moves calmly through life, making major decisions, slaying dragons, making dreams come true. But doing it calmly and succinctly. Yeah, that’s not me,” Davis said of Jordan’s mother. 

Jordan was immortalized with her own Air Jordans called Dear Deloris which debuted in 2021 as part of the Jordan Series, according to PEOPLE.

“Air” arrives exclusively in theaters on April 5.

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