Ask Allen Iverson why he thinks the Reebok Question is iconic and he’ll tell you he has no idea. That’s up to the fans. But I think anyone with any type of history in the culture will tell you it came down to a few obvious things.
First, the shoe performed well. Super comfortable. Unique shape and look. Hexalite honeycombs. But, more importantly, Iverson elevated the shoe to another level because of who he was: arguably the most charismatic superstar in NBA history outside of Michael Jordan.
Iverson was a cult figure, the ultimate rebel, and his rise to prominence was almost unparalleled. (Think Stephen Curry, only 15 years earlier.) Whatever was associated with him instantly became cool, and upon its release in 1996, the original Reebok Question ascended to a status very few sneakers reach. Now in 2016, to celebrate the shoe’s 20th anniversary, Reebok is re-releasing the original colorway as part of a storyline that’ll continue throughout the year.
Along with Shaquille O’Neal, Iverson made the trip to Toronto this weekend for NBA All-Star to celebrate not just his nomination as a Hall of Fame finalist but to also bask in old memories. The 2001 NBA Finals that pitted Shaq’s unstoppable Lakers team against Iverson’s ragtag lineup from Philly; Iverson’s iconic step-over of Tyronn Lue; his crossover on MJ…listening to O’Neal and Iverson go back and forth could make you feel like time just stopped, like all those moments just happened yesterday.
The Question will be coming back in the original red toe colorway–still Iverson’s favorite because it was the first–but we’ll also see the original yellow and purple “Unworn” version. Reebok originally produced this colorway for AI in the 2000 NBA All-Star Game, but Iverson revolted at the last second because the pressure of wearing a futuristic colorway was too much.
“In that All-Star Game, my teammates was joking me,” Iverson remembers. “That was back when matching was the s***, the style. Now, dudes come out there and have a blue uniform on and have pink shoes on. That’s how they rock out now. Back then, I was like ‘Yo, this don’t match the uniform.’ You look like you play, that’s how I used to think. I used to try to dress up like a superhero, man, look like an action figure. Not matching wasn’t cool. I had to match my joints up so when they did that I waited until the last minute to where I went out there and played in what I played in.”
Though it’s been almost six years to the day since Iverson last played an NBA game–his final performance came in a blowout loss to the Chicago Bulls on February 20, 2010–and 16 years since that particular All-Star Game, you can see his relevancy hasn’t faded. NBA style wouldn’t be where it is today without Iverson, who almost single-handedly caused the league dress code, which in turn inspired the evolution of NBA fashion. On the court, his signature crossover and gunner mentality still shine through in every Russell Westbrook coast-to-coast drive, in every Kyrie Irving shake move. The players of today’s game don’t even need to say it–they all grew up watching the Answer. It speaks to evolution.
“That’s how I created my game,” Iverson says. “I wanted to jump like Mike, shoot like Bird, rebound like Barkley, pass like Magic. Every time somebody says this person is the greatest player ever to play the game, life’s gonna keep going on and things are gonna keep changing. You got Michael Jordan and then all of a sudden Kobe Bryant comes and then LeBron comes. It’s gonna keep evolving and getting better and better as the years go by. Just like we’re saying Steph Curry is the greatest shooter to ever play the game, there’s another little dude out there saying, ‘I beg to differ.’ He’s gonna come around and we’ll be comparing him to Steph. It’s gonna keep getting better.”
As much truth as AI preaches, some things always stay the same. In this case, it’s the sneakers.
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Style changes all the time, but your sneakers have remained relevant. Why?
I think it’s just a cool-looking shoe. I guess you think if a Jordan comes out, everybody will buy them because they’re Jordans…just because they’re the newest Jordans. I don’t think I have that legacy as far as if a shoe comes out with my name on it everybody is going to want it. I just think it’s a cool-looking shoe.
What would you want your legacy in the sneaker game to be?
My legacy stands for what it already is. I’m second behind Mike. I’ll always be cemented in the history of the sneaker game because the numbers don’t lie. I’m so proud of that. I’m so happy that myself and Reebok could have the relationship that we have.
When you first put out this shoe back in the day, was there anything specific that you were looking for in it?
Man, you know what? They could’ve gave me a flip-flop. (Laughs) Honestly. And put my name on it and they would’ve been cool to me. It was a dream come true. It didn’t matter. And then as time went by, then I was able to get in there in the board meetings and say, “Nah, I don’t like that right there. Take that out. Put this there.” But in the beginning, it didn’t even matter to me. They could’ve brought me anything. “Oh, that’s my shoe? Okay. I’m cool with it.”
You still remember the first time they showed you the shoe? What was that like?
Yeah. I don’t have no words. As a kid, having that dream and then it finally comes true…I don’t know, man. You know what I’m saying? I was just happy. I was just extremely happy.
How does this shoe represent your personality, your style?
I don’t think so. I think so because of the plainness of it, the red toe. The plainness of it I think represents my style. I don’t get too exotic. Everything is usually just plain. I’m doing some different s*** with this right here [points to distressed denim]. I don’t go too overboard.