SNEAKERS & FASHION

How Allen Iverson’s Signature Style Created the Reebok Answer IV Retro

The return of the Answer IV — first famous for A.I.’s MVP season and the infamous Stepover — features a Philadelphia Eagles colorway honoring Iverson’s tunnel entry style.

At the press conference just after his instant classic 48-point performance at Game 1 of the 2001 NBA Finals, Allen Iverson was asked to measure his level of fatigue after playing 52 of the overtime game’s 53 minutes.

“I’m not thinking about fatigue,” the 76ers superstar fired back. “Fatigues are army clothes.”

While he wasn’t wearing camo on that night, his memorable tunnel entry fit set the stage for A.I.’s approach and the fearlessness that we’d see throughout his groundbreaking performance against Shaq, Kobe, and the heavily favored Los Angeles Lakers, who had swept every team they’d faced on the way to hosting the Finals. 

Allen Iverson and Gary Moore arrive for Game 1 of the 2001 NBA Finals

“I remember walking into the Staples Center for Game 1, and he had on a No. 3 Eagles football jersey and was just full of confidence,” recalls Gary Moore, Iverson’s longtime business manager. “He was going to war.”

After pouring in points from all over the court, Philadelphia’s upset win was punctuated by “The Stepover,” Iverson’s game-sealing baseline jumper and triumphant strut over a fallen Tyronn Lue that silenced a stunned Staples crowd.

It became one of the most memorable moments in Finals history, and he did it all in the Reebok Answer IV.

“The Answer IV is one of our most exciting shoes that we’re most proud of,” Reebok VP Todd Krinsky said ahead of Iverson’s 40th birthday in 2015. “He was really involved in the design of that shoe, and we were really excited when that launched. It also was one of those shoes that had a very iconic pattern to it and design, and it really showed up well on-court. That was the year that he really hit his stride.”

Building off of the model’s 20th anniversary last year, Reebok is continuing a batch of Retro releases in 2022 for the zip-shrouded shoe worn during Iverson’s 2000-01 MVP season. Along with bringing back each of the OG editions, Xavier Jones, then Reebok’s Footwear Designer II, was tasked in 2018 with connecting and creating new stories and themes to life to celebrate the iconic sneaker. 

“The Stepover” at the 2001 NBA Finals in Los Angeles

“The [20th] anniversary was coming up, so I was on marketing’s head big time, saying, ‘Yo, we gotta do something for this!’” he explained. “That’s my all-time favorite shoe. I was eight years old, turning nine when Iverson won MVP, and I just remember the energy around it.”

The Answer IVs worn on that opening night of the Finals had a fully black toe panel. Reebok had decided to bring all seven original colorways of the shoe back for the 20th anniversary, leading Jones to also look elsewhere for additional storytelling inspiration.

“That’s the tough part. I think the defining moment of that shoe is the stepover with Tyronn Lue, but it’s about trying to find little things around that. As synonymous as that moment is with the A.I. line, what were the stories around the game? What happened after?” he said.

Naturally, the brand has re-released the black-toed pair over the years, but Jones wanted to veer away from that element of the night.

“That moment means a lot,” he said. ” But it’s funny, cause A.I. hates that moment. He said, ‘Tyronn is my man. I love Ty Lue.’ It’s cool to bring a new aspect from that Game 1 of the Finals.” 

Notorious for only wanting sneakers that matched his team uniforms, Iverson’s rotation of Answer IVs for the 2000-01 season were tame by today’s multi-colored and mismatched standards. Long before the league loosened and then ditched its footwear color guidelines, A.I. laced up pairs in black and silver, red and white, royal and white, all white, and in three different black and white executions. 

The Question is understandably Allen’s favorite shoe from his series, but the Answer IV is right behind it based on all that he achieved throughout that season.

“That’s my playoff shoe. That’s my MVP shoe,” Iverson proudly told Jones when they met for a brainstorm session on his signature series.  

“He’s usually also like, ‘Yo, we need more flavors,’” joked Jones.  

Xavier Jones’ colorway CAD of the Tunnel Fit Answer IV Retro

Given the traditional color approach that the OGs took, the possibilities for new expressions were endless. 

“Before the [marketing team] even asked for it, I had six or seven stories that I thought would resonate. The tunnel colorway was the first one,” he said. “Everybody is talking about the tunnel walk now and the fashion that guys are breaking out now, but A.I. kinda started that. He came in with the du-rag, the jersey on, and I just said, This was a moment that we need to tell.’” 

Drafting off of the colorblock of the white, red, and silver Answer IV — arguably the most identifiable court look of the model — Jones began by splashing deep teal atop the forefoot rand that extends and dips down through the heel and into the collar. 

“That color is synonymous with the Philadelphia area, and I thought it was dope that it ties back to what he was wearing that day,” he added. 

While the sharp shade tells most of the story in one glance, it’s the added details throughout that Jones stressed to get just right. When the brand brought the Answer IV back in 2016 ahead of Iverson’s Hall of Fame induction, many of the signature details and design nuances weren’t correctly layered in for the Retro.  

“I had to re-draw all of that stuff, because we didn’t have those original files,” said Jones. “Everything down to his face on the [heel] pod. Finding an OG, looking at it for countless hours and photographing it, then re-drawing that stuff. The tattoo on the sockliner, we missed back in 2016 when I got there.”

In addition to recreating the shoe’s original graphics throughout, Jones also knew he wanted to layer in one of the most recognizable elements of AI’s entry fit – the all-over print I3 logo du-rag. Initially, he wanted to recreate the exact du-rag for its own retail release, although that idea didn’t advance beyond the exploratory phase.  

“I did packaging and everything,” smiled Jones. “I’m like a lowkey du-rag collector. I’ve got Bape du-rags, the OVO joints and a couple of the OG Iverson ones.” 

In order to draw out a graphic print for the collar lining, Jones grabbed his own “I3” logo printed du-rag from his collection, and spec’d out the proportions and sizing from it.   

“As a kid, I couldn’t find ’em,” he reflected. “It’s always dope when you get a little paper, to go back and find that stuff. I referenced it and everything. The size, scale of the I3 and everything. I had to end up shrinking it down a little bit.”

While the Lakers went on win the 2001 Finals, that singular first game set the stage for Allen Iverson’s ascension from NBA star and cultural figure to a global icon at the height of his career — and one that Reebok wanted to lock in for life. 

“After he went to the Finals and had an amazing run in those Answer IVs, we started thinking more about the future and his family’s future,” explained Gary Moore. “We just felt like Reebok would always be there for him and he would always be there for them. We were looking at building his brand and building the legacy of the brand, and we knew that it was time to talk about a lifetime deal. It wasn’t so much about the money, it was tying them together for life.”

Even two decades later, Iverson remains the key pillar of Reebok’s Retro basketball business, with Questions and Answers re-releasing globally ever since. 

When product shots of this pair leaked at the start of the month, the response was immediate. Philly fans loved the unique twist and attention to detail, while also connecting one of Iverson’s greatest games to the sports-crazed region’s other beloved franchise.

Initially slated for a Jan. 21 release date, the Eagles tunnel fit-inspired Answer IVs are unfortunately now delayed until April due to ongoing factory stalls that every brand has been dealing with for the last six months. 

But for Jones, now 30 years old and working on retro-inspired basketball products at Adidas, the two-year path to creating a series of Iverson themes at Reebok has been a career highlight.

“I’ve been so lucky and blessed to be able to work on the Iverson franchise,” he added. “The Answer IV, I remember getting that shoe for Christmas. Now, to be the guy to influence a decent part of that range and the colorways on the bring-back… it was super surreal. It’s my all-time favorite shoe.”

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