Bringing Prizm parallel inspiration to sneaker culture, learn how this A.I. Reebok Question crossover collaboration came to be — and when you can get your hands on it.
On Jun. 26, 1996, Allen Iverson’s life changed forever.
Selected first overall by the Philadelphia 76ers in 1996, the Georgetown talent hugged his mother, kissed his daughter, and embraced his boys with a hug and a dap. The quick guard grabbed his draft cap, taking the stage for his first public interaction with a man he would grow to know all too well.
NBA Commissioner David Stern shook the smiling superstar’s hand, pulling him in for an embrace and conversation while handing him his home Sixers tank. At the moment of meeting, both Iverson and Stern wore short hair and tailored suits. Iverson’s formal fit at Draft Night was captured by photographers, appearing on an array of overprinted rookie cards.
In only a matter of months, Iverson’s aesthetic shifted significantly, sending shockwaves through the league, the country, and the world.
On May 1, 1997, he’d take home Rookie of the Year honors in a skull cap and gold chain, eventually altering style beyond basketball.
Collaborating on a collection of Reebok Question colorways and adjacent Panini Prizm trading cards inspiration, cultures collide in a manner that takes the hobby from the sleeve to the sidewalk.
So, how did basketball’s best-dressed icon become the focal point of a partnership straight from collector cloud nine? Boardroom caught up with the power players on both sides to find out.
When the world was put on pause in 2020, the brains behind Panini had to make the most of quarantine times to not just keep the hobby alive but also keep the creative juices flowing.
“We started this conversation during the pandemic,” Jason Howarth, VP of Marketing at Panini America, told Boardroom.
The idea at Panini was to bring their popular Prizm card parallels to life in a new dimension. If they could transform their insanely coveted cards into a wearable expression, the hobby community could expand even more once everyone was back outside.
With collectors cramped up inside, Howarth and his team talked endlessly on Zoom, ideating concepts and examining past partnerships.
To take the hobby to new spaces, the most meaningful crossover was footwear.
Quickly, connections in said space came to mind.
“I’ve known John Lynch, who used to be at Reebok, for 20 years,” Howarth said. “He happened to be talking to his team about ideas. He said he knew a guy at Panini and John reached out to me. From that point on, we just started concepting different ideas.”
Not long into Panini’s talks with Reebok, Allen Iverson became the subject of discussion. A.I., ranking amongst the most revered icons in sport, had cachet in the card space and everywhere else.
Still, just how were they going to pull this off?
“As we started to lean in on Allen, the question was do we put him in a uniform or in what he represents?” Howarth said. “We both felt like it was all about Allen and the culture. That really resonated with me.”
To truly do something new and collaborative, Panini and Reebok agreed to represent Prizm’s and Iverson’s common cross-cultural impact – beyond the cardboard and basketball court – on both the Question sneaker and adjacent run of trading cards.
Over the course of his career, Iverson graced collectibles in Sixers tanks of all eras as well as game shots tied to his days in Denver, Detroit, and Memphis. As alluded, he had also popped up on a range of rookie cards sporting a grey suit — the same one he wore when shaking hands with David Stern.
But to rise to the level of signature Iverson, he needed to be depicted wearing what he wore when he shook up the league.
On the court, Allen Iverson wore his heart on his sleeve.
Off the court, he wore mink coats, oversized football jerseys, and enough ice to end global warming.
“Stuff that he wore at his press conferences? His tunnel outfits? He was the first guy,” Rich DiLando, Reebok’s Global Director of Product Management for Street Culture and Energy Collaborations, told Boardroom.
When working with Reebok on his prized Panini collaboration, all parties felt it right to represent Allen as a baller in all arenas. Rather than rely simply on hardwood heroics or team-issued memorabilia, the card manufacturer leaned into the lifestyle looks Reebok released alongside his signature shoes, showcasing imagery shot by Gary Land that spoke to Iverson’s imprint on the culture.
“He’s the godfather of bringing fashion into the NBA,” Howarth said. “He transformed it because he was authentic to himself.”
To tell the story of Allen’s off-court impact on culture through both their platforms, Panini printed up Prizm-inspired parallels composed of iconic imagery from revered Reebok campaigns.
“There’s a million Iverson cards that have him on-court,” DiLando said. “To be able to take that off-the-court impact and package it within the trading card community is something we found super compelling. It was a unique take.”
From football jersey cut-out cards to shots in sleeveless tees, the Prizm-inspired parallels took on Iverson’s influence in fashion with his signature sneaker taking on the appeal of the collectible company.
In total, four Reebok Question collabs were crafted in homage to the hobby and its unique branding, with three set to release at retail in tiered allocations, plus one select style only gifted to friends and family.
“When we launch these three sneakers, people are going to go crazy for them,” Howarth said.
Next month, the chase begins.
On Nov. 4, collectors of kicks and cards will congregate at select shoe stores looking to hit on a pair of Questions and pull a prized Prizm-inspired parallel.
For those in the collectibles space, it’ll be a unique chance to wear the hobby.
For those true to the sneaker game, it’ll provide the entryway into one of fandom’s most distinct arenas.
“You put a pack of cards in someone’s hands, it doesn’t matter how old they are, they just want to open it up and see what’s inside,” Howarth said. “If they pull a hot rookie or one of their favorite players, they’re ecstatic.”
In conversation, Howarth hints that there’s a 1-of-1 card floating around, alluding to it like a golden ticket. And while that’s enough to make hobbyists buy boxes on boxes, it brings additional wow-factor for fans more geared toward footwear.
“There’s a ton of crossover in the sneaker culture and trading card culture,” Howarth said. “When Allen walks into a room, everyone notices. I expect the same thing when people rock these sneakers.”
For the first time ever, card collectors will be able to wear their fandom on their feet as a means of expression and pride. While sneakerheads and hobbyists may appear to occupy opposing sides of the consumption conversation, they often find themselves chasing collectibles within increasingly similar spaces.
“Panini’s Prizm brand has really taken on that sneaker culture element,” DiLando said. “You can get boxes of Prizm on StockX now no different than sneakers. The hype and instant sellouts that Prizm products have made it a natural fit.”
Before any boxes end up on StockX — to be fair, some already have — the Reebok Question x Panini Prizm collection is set to launch globally on Nov. 4 alongside apparel online at Reebok. As noted, each Question colorway will be packaged with limited-edition Panini Prizm-inspired trading cards. Buyers will have the chance to pull Iverson autographs, Prizm-inspired patch parallels, and more.
The tiered release range begins with the widely available “Tiger Prizm” Question Mid in adult and youth sizes, followed by the “Rookie Signature Prizm” Question Low in limited quantities. Heading the launches in exclusivity, the “Black Bulsar Prizm” Reebok Question Mid serves as the rarest of the retail releases — mirroring the collectible it corresponds to.
Using Iverson as a litmus test, it’s a full-circle moment for the man that brought hip-hop fashion to the NBA. Using Panini as a doorway into the trading space, his same signature style is now being celebrated on both kicks and collectibles.
“There’s a story to every sneaker, just like there’s a story to every card,” Howarth said.
- Spotify Wrapped 2022: It’s a Bad Bunny Three-peat
- The ETCs: Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, & the Future of the NFL
- The Black Digital Art Collective: New Initiative Led By a16z’s Cultural Leadership Fund
- Making Sense of Deshaun Watson’s Return to the Browns
- Women’s College Basketball Deserves to Demand More