‘Air’: Why Michael Jordan can fly — and hem pants too

Early in his NBA career, Michael Jordan sat down with Diane Sawyer for “60 Minutes,” and she arrived at his townhouse to find the Chicago Bull vacuuming.

Off-camera, Sawyer marveled that a young, rich superstar cleaned his own home. The 1987 segment featured footage of him doing myriad domestic chores, including scrubbing dishes and folding laundry.

“These are things that I did because we had chores to do at home,” he told Sawyer. “And I had grown accustomed to doing them at home … I don’t mind doing it.”

According to his mother, Deloris Jordan, her son wasn’t sprucing up for the television crew.

Rather, it was “because he wanted to have everything looking nice before his mother arrived for a visit later that afternoon,” Deloris wrote in her 1996 parenting book, “Family First: Winning the Parenting Game.”

Michael Jordan flexes his vacuuming skills as his mother Deloris relaxes.
Michael Jordan flexes his vacuuming skills as his mother Deloris relaxes.
Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images

Michael Jordan could soar through the air — but he could also hem pants, dust and cook. Life skills were “a result of such parental expectations,” she wrote.

The mother of five, now 81, ran a tight ship. And even after her son hit the big time, she still wielded great influence over him.

That bond is seen in “Air,” a new Ben Affleck-directed film opening Wednesday. In the movie, Matt Damon portrays Sonny Vaccaro, the trailblazer executive who, against all odds, signed Jordan to Nike, snatching him from the clutches of Converse and turning the upstart brand into a basketball powerhouse.

Michael Jordan poses with his mother in 1988.
Michael Jordan poses with his mother in 1988.
Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images

But while most of the action centers on Vaccaro, Deloris — played by Viola Davis at Jordan’s personal request — emerges as the quiet but powerful force behind the superstar. Jordan (Damian Delano Young) is only ever seen from behind as a background presence in the story.

In the movie, his mother not only convinced him to sign with Nike but also negotiated the deal that would give the then-rookie a percentage of the profits from shoe sales.

Viola Davis with Matt Damon in a scene from "Air."
Viola Davis plays Deloris Jordan in “Air” which was directed by Ben Affleck and also stars Matt Damon.
Amazon Studios / Avalon

But in reality, his agent, David Falk, unsuccessfully tried to get Michael, now 60, to take a meeting with Nike, so he enlisted Deloris’ help.

“My mother said, ‘You’re gonna go listen. You may not like it, but you’re gonna go listen.’ She made me get on that plane and go listen,” Jordan said in the 2020 docuseries “The Last Dance.”

And thus the Jordan brand was born. He went on to win six NBA championships, and Deloris became a legend in her own right.

Jordan celebrates with his mother in 1991 after winning the NBA championship.
Jordan celebrates with his mother in 1991 after winning the NBA championship.
NBAE via Getty Images

According to David Halberstam’s 1999 book on Michael Jordan, “Playing for Keeps,” his mother’s reputation was well-earned. She was described as the “real driving force of the family.

“She was the parent who kept raising her expectations for her children, letting them know in different ways that the more that was given to them, then the more that was expected from them,” he wrote.

The North Carolina native met her husband, James “Ray” Jordan, who was murdered in 1993 in a carjacking, at a high school basketball game in 1954. They started dating, but he went off to the Air Force, while she moved to Alabama for school.

Deloris Jordan in a 1988 portrait.
Deloris Jordan in a 1988 portrait.
Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images

They eventually married, settled back in North Carolina and started a family. She worked at a Corning Glass Works plant and later as a bank teller. Her husband became a mechanic.

In her book, Deloris identified her pillars of parenthood: perseverance, faith, integrity and having a strong identity.

Discipline was up there, too. She admitted to “physically punishing” all five kids. When Jordan was 13, he was suspended from school, so she took him to work with her.

“He had to spend the entire day sitting and studying in my car. And I parked where I could regularly look out the window to check on him, and make sure he was there working on his studies,” she wrote. He was never suspended again, she noted.

Viola Davis plays Deloris Jordan in "Air."
Viola Davis plays Deloris Jordan in “Air.”
Ana Carballosa/Prime

While she was strict, she and her husband were also hyper-involved and loving — and Jordan reciprocated.

When Michael was playing at the University of North Carolina, she and her late husband saw every home and away game, traveling as far as Hawaii and Greece. She missed exactly one game, and only because she was sick with the flu. When his father got word to his son that she was ill, Michael called home to check on her as soon as the game ended.

“I found it reassuring that my All-American son seemed so concerned when I wasn’t able to be there for one of his college games,” she wrote.

An original pair of Air Jordans.
With Deloris’ influence, Michael Jordan signed with Nike.
Heritage Images via Getty Images

When he went to the pros, he was only 19, so she saw to it that either she or her husband were at every home game, as they felt he was too young to be out on his own.

“I never regretted the effort our family made to be there for Michael his rookie season,” she wrote. In 1989, she and her son co-founded the Michael Jordan Foundation to raise money for disadvantaged children. And she continues to live in Chicago, where she moved in 1995.

Deloris Jordan's 1996 parenting book.
Deloris Jordan’s 1996 parenting book.

Jordan still listens to his mother.

During the filming of “The Last Dance,” his cigars vanished after the first episode, director Jason Hehir told ESPN’s “Jalen & Jacoby.”

“He said, ‘I can’t have the cigar today because my mom got mad at me because she saw me smoking a cigar.’”

source: nypost.com