Twenty-two years ago today Allen Iverson was selected number 1 overall by the Philadelphia 76ers. Today in Sneaker History Philly took a risk on a young man labeled as a ‘thung’ by the media – a young man who was fighting for his freedom against systemic racism. Luckily, Allen Iverson is a thoroughbred warrior with the heart of a lion. Philadelphia saw his heart and passion above his (small) size. The high school football stud and Georgetown Basketball star has a strength about him that outweighed his stature; I’d argue that Iverson took more physical contact than anyone in league history (Shaq is like 1B in this argument) and yet he still averaged 26.7 ppg for his career. Pound for pound AI could hold his own against any NBA player, ever.
The Answer’s (his nickname) rookie season served as a fitting introduction for one of the most dynamic scorers ever. In his league debut versus the Milwaukee Bucks Iverson put up 30 points (12-17 shooting) against fellow rookie Ray Allen. Confusingly Iverson didn’t make the Eastern Conference All-Star team (but an old Joe Dumars and Christian Laettner did?) but he won MVP of the Rookie Challenge game along with the league Rookie of the Year Award. Hardware would have been impressive enough, but Iverson’s defining moment of his rookie year came against the Chicago Bulls. AI’s handles, namely his crossovers, are among the best in league history and he used them to put Michael Jordan on skates. I dare you to find a better “I’m out here” moment… legend status. Stylistically Allen’s game lives on through players like Kyrie Irving and Russell Westbrook- his impact on basketball is matched only by his cultural impact. From the tattoos to the cornrows, Kids growing up in the early 2000s idolized AI. LeBron James said growing up he didn’t want to be Michael Jordan, he wanted to be Allen Iverson.
From a sneaker history standpoint ‘The Crossover’ is an classic footwear moment. Micheal Jordan in his Air Jordan 12’s stood as the pinnacle of basketball footwear. Twelve years into the league MJ and Nike had established themselves as the blueprint for what an endorsement partnership (deal) could be. Reebok took a risk on Iverson hoping they would feature the next premier signature athlete… that could move units. With no clear answer, Reebok dropped the Question. Iverson’s first shoe released in 1996 and evolved into an all-time shoe. Similarities can be seen between it and the Air Jordan 11 but the Reebok Question was something new and different in all the best ways.
Probably the most defining characteristic of the Question is the Hexalite cushioning system. The units feature a honeycomb like pattern that adds to the shoe’s relatively straight forward leather upper. A clear outsole added a nice touch and housed cleverly hidden branding. Reebok left the toebox open to customization with materials like patent leather, leather and suede being used. Over the years artists and other collaborators would remix the upper with everything from snake skin to diamonds. AI wore white based Questions with either red or blue toe boxes, pulling out whichever pair matched better with his uniform. Other hints of color can be found on the heel and eyelids too. The Answer rocked the ‘red toe’ Questions during the MJ crossover, and in his debut against the Bucks.
The Question continues to be retro’ed and it laid the ground work for the Answer line to flourish as Iverson continued through his NBA journey. Without a doubt the Iverson line is the most successful signature series from Reebok. Emotional ties run deep with the Question with devout followers that are ‘sneakerheads’ and causal shoe fans alike. AI’s shoes will live on in their own lane forever with the Questions specifically aging with grace. Check out some pictures of Iverson from his rookie season below and be sure to tune back in to Sneaker History all week for more shoe debuts!