Among basketball star Michael Jordan’s various requests for the film “Air,” director Ben Affleck revealed the sports legend’s big ask: Viola Davis had to play his mother. 

“[Michael Jordan] said, ‘None of this would have ever happened without my mother.’ I said, ‘Who would you like to play your mom?’ He said, ‘Well, it has to be Viola Davis,” Affleck revealed during the film’s premiere at South by Southwest Film & TV Festival in Austin, Texas, on Saturday.

“That’s like saying, ‘Can I play basketball on your court?’ ‘Yeah, if you get Michael Jordan.’ “Viola Davis is the best actor I’ve ever seen,” Affleck said. 

Affleck stated that if he ever became a director after his decades-long career as an actor, he would want to cast Davis in one of his films. 

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Viola Davis on stage for the introduction of the Closing Night Special Screening World Premiere of “Air” at the 2023 SXSW Conference and Festivals at The Paramount Theater on March 18, 2023 in Austin, Texas. (Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for SXSW)

“[T]hat would really be something. That would mean the world to me. And it does,” Affleck said. 

“This is the best night of my professional life, and I want to welcome the best actor in the world,” Affleck said as he wrapped up his comments at the premiere, before bringing Davis onstage. 

Ben Affleck and Matt Damon attend the "Air" world premiere during the 2023 SXSW Conference and Festivals at The Paramount Theater on March 18, 2023, in Austin, Texas.

Ben Affleck and Matt Damon attend the “Air” world premiere during the 2023 SXSW Conference and Festivals at The Paramount Theater on March 18, 2023, in Austin, Texas. (Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for SXSW)

Affleck also stated Jordan requested Howard White, vice president of the Jordan brand, be included in the film. Affleck said he saw this as an opportunity to work with Chris Tucker, with whom he had wanted to work with for years.  

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Audiences got their first looks at the film shortly after the cast’s onstage appearances. 

Jordan Moldo, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Alex Convery, Chris Tucker, Viola Davis, Julius Tennon, Chris Messina, Jason Bateman, Sue Kroll, Jeff Robinov, Jon Weinbach attend the "AIR" world premiere during the 2023 SXSW Conference and Festivals at The Paramount Theater on March 18, 2023 in Austin, Texas. 

Jordan Moldo, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Alex Convery, Chris Tucker, Viola Davis, Julius Tennon, Chris Messina, Jason Bateman, Sue Kroll, Jeff Robinov, Jon Weinbach attend the “AIR” world premiere during the 2023 SXSW Conference and Festivals at The Paramount Theater on March 18, 2023 in Austin, Texas.  (Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for SXSW)

“Air”, directed by Affleck, stars Matt Damon as Sonny Vaccaro as the Nike employee who convinced Jordan (played by Damian Young) to sign the deal that would eventually lead to the creation of the iconic Air Jordan shoe line. 

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Affleck also stars in the film alongside Davis, Jason Bateman, Marlon Wayans, Chris Tucker and others. 

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