BEYOND QUESTION: The Legacy of Allen Iverson

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THE LEGACY OF ALLEN IVERSON


— Q U IL LE M O N S , P H

O TO G R A P H ER


—CYDENI, 21, PHOENIX, AZ

—JO

ARDSO SH RICH

N, P

PHIA 7 HILADEL

6ERS


THIS IS THE STORY OF PERSEVERANCE, DETERMINATION, SACRIFICE AND GRIT. IT’S THE STORY OF ALLEN IVERSON. Against the odds, A.I. made a revolutionary impact not only on the

who were there from the start. They also spoke with creatives

game of basketball but on culture itself, and inspired generations

in fashion, photography, media and hair, who were inspired

of people to be themselves no matter what. A.I.’s legacy has led

by A.I., as well as a dozen Gen Zs who are continuing A.I.’s

us to where we are today: celebrating the 25th anniversary of the

legacy in their own lives, both on and off the court. Finally, they

Reebok Question Mid—reissued as the Question OG Red Toe—

interviewed “The Answer” himself.

one of the most beloved silhouettes in sneaker history and a flagship symbol of basketball heritage.

To Allen Iverson, his hometown of Newport News, VA, and to Black communities everywhere: “Thank you” for continuing to

In these pages, A.I.’s story is told collectively by eight Generation Z

animate change across sports, courts and culture. Without you,

writers, photographers, illustrators, designers, makers and

there is no vibrant sports culture and there is no Reebok; the

thinkers. They interviewed dozens of folks around the country—

pages of this magazine are blank. A.I.’s story continues to inspire

from A.I.’s childhood coach and longtime mentor, Gary Moore,

all of us here at Reebok to stay hungry, humble and real, and to

to legendary shoe designer Scott Hewett; from NBA player

always—always—leave it all out on the court.

Montrezl Harrell to Reebok executives, including Todd Krinsky,

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

05

13

BUBBA C H UC K

THE Q UE STI O N O G RE D TO E

Before the nationally televised games and practices—yes,

A.I.’s first signature shoe, the original Reebok Question Mid—

we’re talking about practice—Newport News, VA, taught

reissued as the Question OG Red Toe—was born before A.I.

Allen Iverson how to survive.

even set foot in the NBA.

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27

DA RE TO B E

GE N E RATI O N A . I .

As much swagger as A.I. brought to the basketball court, it

With his legacy in motion both on the court and off, A.I.

was who he was off the court that propelled the intersection

continues to inspire a new generation in profound ways.

of basketball and culture.

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FEATURED

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ALLEN I VER SON Basketball icon

STEPHA NI E SCHA F F Reebok, Senior Archive Specialist

G ARY M OOR E Manager & mentor

SCOTT HEWETT Artist & shoe designer

ALLEN BR OWN Reebok, Global Sports Partnerships

M ONTR EZL HA R R EL L Los Angeles Clippers

TODD KR I NSKY Reebok, Senior Vice President, Product

JOSH R I CHA R DSON Philadelphia 76ers

N IC O BONO Reebok, Classics Men’s Product Marketing

R OBERT M A R SHA L L Streetwear reporter

ERIN NA R LOCH Reebok, Senior Archive Manager

GUI NGUI Hairstylist

H OLLY R OBER GE Reebok, Senior Archive Specialist

ER I C EM A NUEL Fashion designer

MA ARTEN WA R NI NG Reebok, Communication and Content Manager Archive

QUI L L EM ONS Photographer


CONTRIBUTORS

A J W I LE Y, 2 2 LI N C O LN , N E

ALLISON MINA PARK, 21 WAS HI N GTO N , D.C.

AJ Wiley is a graphic designer and illustrator

Allison Mina Park is a northern Virginia native

who specializes in outdoor and sports design. His

and covers stories at the intersection of politics

business, AJ Wiley Design, creates merchandise

and race. She is a rising senior at Yale University,

to raise money toward humanitarian and

where she studies political science and performs

environmental efforts. He also creates commission

with Low Strung, a 12-person, all-cello rock band.

work for small and large brands.

CO RIN NE D OR SEY, 19 DA L L AS , T X

@AJWiley4

@AllisonMinaPark

@AJWiley.Design

@allisonminapark

JO RDY N BE N N E TT, 2 5 C HE STE R, PA

JO S H HO E P N E R, 24 K A N SAS C I TY, MO

Corinne Dorsey is a sophomore journalism

Currently pursuing his master’s in sports media and

Josh Hoepner is a designer who recently

major at Howard University. She is a multimedia

storytelling at Wake Forest University, Jordyn Bennett

graduated from college with a fine arts degree

journalist and freelance writer for The Grio,

is a print and video journalist and documentary

in graphic design and sculpture. He collects

and a contributing writer for The Hilltop, Her

filmmaker who focuses on depicting different aspects

sneakers and enjoys traveling. Next stop:

Campus and Teen Graffiti. Alongside her

of culture through the lens of sports. He graduated

Tokyo, Japan.

editorial work, Corinne is an on-air host on

from Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania with his

WHBC radio station.

bachelor’s in journalism and philosophy. He’s received numerous journalism awards, and his work has been published in national outlets, including USA Today.

@corinne_dorsey

@j_bennett_live

@joshoepner

@corinne.alecia

@j.bennett.live

@joshoepner

LUIS TOR RES, 22 PHO EN IX, AZ

RA LP H RO ME O, 24 S E ATTLE , WA

A LLI E LA I N G, 2 3 LI N C O LN , N E

Luis Torres is a recent graduate from the

With a passion for design, sneakers, fashion

Allie Laing is a graphic designer who’s

Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State

and sports, Ralph Romeo specializes in sneaker

motivated by social change, positivity and

University. He’s written about sneakers for the

and streetwear content. Ralph grew up playing

equality. Her passion lies with creating work

past three years, mainly covering basketball and

basketball, and despite not having an NBA team in

for businesses with huge creative visions. She’s

performance running shoes.

his hometown, he still actively keeps up with the

the founder of The Cold Hearted Co., a brand

league. (Bring back our Sonics!)

dedicated to embracing rebellious design.

@LTOnDaTrack

@rvlphromeo

@allielaing_

@LTOnDaTrack

@ralphromeo

@thecoldheartedco 04


BUBBA CHUCK


THE “HAVES” AND “HAVE-NOTS” From the start, the kid known as Bubba Chuck was surrounded by a loving

At the time, Moore had ambitions for A.I. that went beyond simply

community of friends, family, confidantes, protectors and mentors—which

winning games: “I was really serious about teaching kids how to live

is what you need to survive the projects, according to Gary Moore, Allen

through football. I taught self-responsibility, accountability, team play.

Iverson’s youth league coach and longtime mentor. “You have the ‘haves’

Those things were important, especially in a young Black kid’s life.”

and you have the ‘have-nots.’ We’re called the ‘have nots,’” Moore said. “But

To this day, A.I. credits the fields of Newport News with teaching him

what we did have was an abundance of love and concern for one another.”

determination and tenacity. “You need all of that right there when it comes to surviving in life,” he said.

When it came to sports, Iverson wasn’t a “have” or “have-not”: he had it. A.I. had something else, too, that you can’t teach any young kid: Moore worked at a warehouse with A.I.’s mother, Ann, and ran a youth

self-confidence. “He had more than most,” said Moore. It would serve

football league, which Ann thought would be good for young Chuck.

Bubba Chuck well.

Moore remembers his first glimpse of the then-9-year-old A.I. playing pickup football with his friends in the Stuart Gardens projects. “He wanted to do everything,” Moore recalled. “He wanted to play everything. He wanted to be there long after the game was over.”

06


WIN AT ALL COSTS Early on, A.I. had no desire to play any sport other than football; to this day, he calls it his first love. “I thought basketball was soft,” A.I. remembered, laughing. That changed after his mom dragged him “screaming and kicking out the door” to basketball practice. When he got there, he saw his

“ YOU CAN’T REACH THE GOALS

football teammates trying out and decided to give

THAT I’VE REACHED, AND BE IN

it a try. “After that, it’s history,” said A.I. “I’ve loved

THE HALL OF FAME, BY YOURSELF.

basketball since then.”

THERE’S NO WAY. AND I’M NOT JUST TALKING ABOUT MY

He threw touchdowns in the fall and dunked in the

BASKETBALL TEAM; I’M TALKING

winter. No matter the season, there was one thing

ABOUT MY FAMILY, MY FRIENDS,

A.I. had a burning desire for: winning. By the age

MY TEACHERS, MY PROFESSORS.

of 13, he was playing basketball with guys twice

WHEN I BECAME AN NBA HALL OF

his age. “People called him a freak of nature,”

FAMER, THEY BECAME HALL OF

Moore said. “Nah, I just think he was a very gifted

FAMERS BECAUSE THEY HELPED ME

young man who wanted to win at all costs.”

GET THERE.”

As a high school athlete, A.I. would prove how bad he wanted to win. He set out on a quest to win state titles in both sports (which he did). He was in the national news, and recruiters from colleges across the country were in the stands. But, amidst his winning streak, an incident during a night out with friends threatened Iverson’s chances of ever winning another championship.

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–A LLEN I VER SON


H I S JUN I OR Y EA R OF H I G H S CH OOL Iverson won state titles in both football and basketball, catching the attention of recruiters from around the country.


THE FIRST QUESTION On Valentine’s Day in 1993, during his junior year basketball

that he was going through and to come out of it never having a

season, A.I. was involved in a bowling alley brawl that would

bitter bone in his body… I don’t know a lot of kids who could’ve

lead to his arrest. At 18 years old, A.I. was sentenced to 15 years

survived what he had gone through.”

in prison. It seemed for a moment that he would become the greatest thing that never was.

After serving four months of his time, A.I. was granted clemency. However, he’d missed his senior sports seasons,

A.I. tapped into that never-give-up mentality that he’d learned

and there was not a coach in either football or basketball that

in youth football. “I was taught so early that ‘this too shall pass,’

wanted to be connected to a good player with a bad rap. But

and I’ve lived it to believe it,” he said. “When they locked me

A.I. refused to give up. “I still believed that the opportunity

up, took my freedom away and had no business doing it, I still

would still be there,” he said. “I remember [Moore] saying, ‘All

believed that the dream would come true.”

we need is one coach.’”

Gary Moore recalled having conversations with A.I. in prison about what they’d do when he got out. “As long as you could breathe, you always had a chance to win,” Moore remembers them saying to each other. “I think that it’s those types of beliefs that Allen had embodied that helped him overcome the mess

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HOYA CHOIR BOY That one coach showed up in the form of legendary Georgetown University Men’s Basketball Head Coach John Thompson. After an emotional conversation with A.I.’s mom, Thompson signed Iverson to continue his basketball career for the Hoyas. Moore was happy to hand his protégé over to who he felt was the pinnacle of coaching.

A.I.—ready to make sure that Thompson’s leap of faith didn’t go to waste—adopted what he calls a “choir boy” persona. “Coach Thompson saved my life,” he said. “So I wanted to make sure that I did everything right. I wanted to be worth it for him.” Most importantly, A.I. wanted to prove himself to Thompson on the basketball court. He approached every basketball game as if it was the last he would ever play—a reality he’d only recently left behind. Describing his mindset at the time, A.I. puts it succinctly: “Everybody was dinner, and I’m starving.”

“ FROM 8 YEARS OLD ON, CHUC K ALWAYS HAD A PASS BUT WHEN ION FOR W HE WAS AB INNING. LE TO LEAR N TH E PSYCHO HOW IT W LOGY OF W AS MIND O INNING— VER MAT TE R—YOU HAD THE CHECK TO GO AH BECAUSE H EAD AND W E WAS GOIN RITE G TO CASH IT IN.” FORMER

COACH

GARY M OORE AND LIFE LONG M ENTOR


RHINO SKIN After a rusty first game, A.I. quickly became the focal point of his

Perhaps even more heartbreaking than the taunts was the fact that

college basketball program for all the right reasons—but he was

becoming a college basketball star meant A.I. had to give up his

still forced to swallow the burdens of his past. His earlier conviction

first love: football. He changed his walking route to the gym so he

made him a target for fans, media and hecklers. Opponents’ fans

wouldn’t have to pass the football fields, because it would make

would show up in the stands dressed in orange prison jumpsuits and

him “emotionally lose it.” Finally, he asked Coach Thompson if he’d

hold up signs that mocked him. When A.I. had the ball, none of this

consider letting him return to playing both sports. “I don’t think I can

seemed to phase him; but when the final buzzer sounded, the pain

say exactly what he said, but I never thought about playing football

took over. “Every time I’m at the free-throw line, the whole crowd’s

again after that,” A.I. laughed.

screaming, ‘JAILBIRD,’” A.I. said. “I acted like it didn’t bother me. But I remember going back to my dorm and crying, like, ‘Why do these

“ I’M AN EMOTIONAL DUDE. I GET HURT.

people think that I’m this type of person? And I’m not.’” He had to

THAT’S MY DNA. BUT YOU’VE GOT TO

develop what he calls “rhino skin.”

GET UP WHEN YOU HURT, AND YOU’VE GOT TO GET UP WHEN YOU’RE SICK. IN THOSE TOUGH MOMENTS, I’M NOT GOING TO LET THESE PEOPLE WIN. THERE’S NOTHING WORSE THAN WASTED TALENT.”

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–A LLEN I VER SON


CROSSOVER The Hoya hardwood is where A.I. developed

practice. I put my ego to the side and I was like, ‘You

his soon-to-be-signature move: the crossover, a

got to teach me that.’”

hesitation with a subtle head fake which sends the defender flying to the left while the player

As a college rookie, A.I. was named Freshman of the

with the ball zips to the right and finesses their

Year. Soon enough, there was buzz about A.I. turning

way to the basket. Before A.I. made it one of the

pro and debate about whether he would be the No. 1

most lethal moves in pro ball, it was a move that

draft pick (spoiler: he would be in 1996). While playing

humbled him when employed by a walk-on player on

against his idols in the big leagues was enticing, it was a

Georgetown’s practice courts. “His shit was vicious,”

greater calling that motivated him to forgo his last two

A.I. said. “What I was doing to dudes when I was

years at college to join the NBA. “The responsibility is

in the league, that’s what he used to do to me in

on me to take care of my family,” A.I. said. “It was a job.”


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THE QUESTION OG RED TOE

WHAT IF? In the early ‘90s, Todd Krinsky and Que

the cost of signing A.I., but Krinsky and Gaskins

Gaskins, two young members of the Reebok

convinced them all that Allen Iverson didn’t just

team, were in search of a star to spearhead their

walk the walk—he made it his own.

reintegration to basketball footwear. Krinsky and Gaskins were just two of the many basketball

Krinsky, Gaskins and Reebok designer Scott

fanatics with their eyes on the outsized aura of a

Hewett created a shrine to A.I. in Hewett’s

certain 6-foot sophomore guard.

small house in Quincy, MA. They collected every newspaper clipping and magazine article

After watching a college game where A.I. dunked

they could find about A.I. and (to the dismay of

on a player nearly a foot taller than him, Krinsky and

Hewett’s wife) covered the living room walls to

Gaskins returned to headquarters adamant that

get into the mind of this young player. They got

Iverson was a once-in-a-generation player. They

to work designing “The Prototype,” which would

had a now-famous “what if?” conversation about

become the Reebok Question Mid—a fitting

what it would mean for the brand to sign him. Some

shoe for the player who had come to be known

executives within Reebok were concerned about

as “The Answer.” 14


1

1. HEEL Originally, a “?” was set on the back of the Question Mid, to represent all of the questions surrounding A.I., his career and whether or not he would actually go pro. A.I. requested a “real logo” on the back, which resulted in the stitched Q with the Reebok Vector embedded.

2. TOE BOX

4. HEXALITE

The colored toe is reminiscent of how A.I. used to tape

Essentially a sheet of thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU),

(or spat) up his football cleats, so the shoe’s color only

Hexalite technology works as a light and supportive form of

appeared on the toe. The original sample of the shoe

shock absorption. Hexalite had historically been hidden but—

came in a red and black pattern that the designers

in an era where visible technology was catching its stride—the

wanted to keep, however the design team had to keep

honeycomb design and lateral panels on the Question revealed

the toe box simple to comply with the NBA’s standards.

its distinctive aesthetic.

The original red suede toe gave the shoe a sophisticated look, but the suede bled so badly it made Iverson’s feet look like they were bleeding after games—so the

5. SOLE

suede was swapped out for a pearlized red leather toe after the first run of 5,000. “The color pops on the toe

The Question merges two different concepts and colors for

and heel worked so well for a player like A.I., who sped

an attention-catching aesthetic: The upper sole has a simple,

up and down the court,” said Krinsky.

clean look, while the translucent iced-out bottom sole stands out from a style perspective.

3. MIDSOLE The midsole was engineered for A.I.’s signature crossover move. Although the midsole had a bulky look to it, Iverson’s speed turned the Question into a speed bullet.

6. GHILLIE LACING SYSTEM The ghillie lacing system allows the laces to zip through the loops and stands out aesthetically from typical eyelets. A Reebok logo adorns the lace system—a detail A.I. calls “icing on the cake.”

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5


6

3

2

4

16


“ I REMEMBER THE DAY THAT A.I. HAD THE QUESTIONS ON FOR THE FIRST TIME ON-COURT. IT STOOD OUT LIKE NO OTHER SHOE. HE WAS MOVING AND RUNNING WITH THEM ON, AND JUST BLOWING BY PEOPLE. IT WAS INDESCRIBABLE.”

—SCOTT HEWETT, SHOE DESIGNER


FROM THEN

TO NOW

SUPERHERO COLORS A.I. liked his shoes to always match his

laughed. Reebok would have to fly someone

uniform. “When I was coming up, I always

to China to have the shoe produced in time

thought basketball players looked like

for the game. Other times, A.I. would refuse

superheroes,” he said. “I always thought,

to wear a new color. “Allen was superstitious,”

‘Superheroes stick to their colors: red, blue and

explained Krinsky. “If he played well in a

yellow, or black and gold. Their boots aren’t

certain colorway, he didn’t want to switch to

going to be a different color.’” Iverson became

a different one, even though that new color

infamous for requesting new colorways, which

was arriving at stores and needed support.”

he’d need delivered in just a couple of days.

All the efforts were well worth it when A.I.’s

“I’d call up Reebok damn near every other

superstitions paid off. Regardless of what

day—for the playoffs, for big games,

colors he was wearing, A.I.’s heart and mind

TV games. I was just crazy with it,” A.I.

were always in the game.

21


ROOKIE REVOLUTION The Reebok Question arrived in 1996 at the heart of a revolution within

Reebok’s pitch was about even more than the shoe itself. It was about

basketball footwear. As an incoming rookie, it seemed unlikely that A.I.

their commitment to A.I. and his electric personality. The shoe was the

would be offered his own shoe before proving himself at the pro level.

platform for a bigger dream. Right out of the gate, Reebok ensured that A.I. would be the face of the brand rather than another roster filler. The

Reebok brought their Prototype sneaker to their very first meeting

best part? They didn’t want to change anything about him.

with A.I. Seeing it for the first time, Iverson was in awe. “It was a dream come true,” he said. “It was close to the same feeling of when you get

“ IT

WAS

drafted. Only a certain amount of people have their own signature

F EELI N G

shoe; that really means you’re special. And for it to happen to me, it

DRAFTED.

was just a beautiful thing.” A.I. gave a couple minor fit tweaks before The Prototype became the first version of the Question Mid. Though, in some ways, it was enough just to have his own shoe—any shoe. “You

C LOS E OF

TO

THE

WHEN

ONLY

A

YOU

SAM E GET

CERTAIN

AMOUNT OF PEOPLE HAVE THEIR OWN

SIGNATURE

SHOE;

THAT

could have got me a pair of boots and put a Reebok sign on them and I

REALLY MEANS YOU’RE SPECIAL.

would have played in them,” said A.I.

AND FOR IT TO HAPPEN TO ME, IT WA S J U S T A B E A U T I F U L T H I N G .”

—ALLEN IVERSON

19


“ It was special for Reebok to just let me continue to go my way, not try to make me out to be nobody else,” said A.I. “Market and promote me for who I am. That was special.” At the end of the day though, A.I. said the deal ultimately came down to one big thing: “[Reebok] put up the numbers.”

A.I.’s impact on Reebok as a brand was revolutionary. Allen Brown, a Reebok exec who works closely with Iverson, has one word about where the brand would be without A.I.: “Nowhere.” As Brown puts it, A.I. sparked a shift within Reebok as the brand aligned itself with A.I.’s culture. “He inspired everybody inside Reebok… I was born and raised in the hood too, and having that mindset in corporate America—if he can do that then I can do that too,” said Brown. The partnership has proven to be mutually beneficial. “For us to still be here with each other decades and decades later, you know it was authentic from the beginning,” A.I. said. “Reebok has just been loyal as hell to me from day one, and it just never changed.”


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STYLE & SWAGGER By 1999, A.I. was stepping into who he really was and where he was from. While the previous era’s players wore designer suits to games, A.I. became known for rocking 4XL white tees and jeans. His smile was nearly outshined by the jewelry draped from his ears, neck and wrists. A.I.’s first tattoo—a bulldog representing his alma mater, Georgetown—evolved into a mural across his body; his cornrows remained tight and crisp; and a single sleeve worn on his right arm to help with a nagging injury turned into an in-game fashion statement that has branched out to multiple sports.

A.I. decided not to change his style or who he was—and to just take the bad press. “I knew I wasn’t the guy that they were

Not everyone was happy about his renegade form of self-expression.

trying to make me out to be: this rebel, this thug, this out-of-

The NBA instituted a “business casual” dress code for all players,

control animal,” he said. “I would be lying if I said a lot of those

which many saw as a direct attack on A.I. But Iverson said he

articles didn’t hurt, but just like in school [at Georgetown] when

was never trying to make a statement with his style—he was

they were screaming stuff while I was on the court, I didn’t let

just being himself. “I was a 21-year-old guy that never had money

it show that it was really bothering me. My whole thing was,

before fulfilling my dreams. I would have had more tattoos in

‘Every time I look in the mirror, I don’t see that person anyway.’”

college if I could afford them,” he said. His style reflected the way

A new generation of fans and players saw themselves in A.I.’s

guys back home in Newport News, VA, dressed; wearing a suit to

independent spirit and in his message: If the rules don’t work,

a basketball game made no sense.

make new ones.

22


IVERSON BRAIDS Bronx-based hairstylist and specialized braider Guingui was

And he wasn’t… You ask yourself, ‘What happens if I’m like

a teenager in Puerto Rico when Iverson was first drafted.

that? What happens if I dare to be like that?’ I’m going to try a

Her mom often had NBA games playing on TV, and Guingui

little bit today. And then tomorrow a little bit more, to see if I

remembers the first time she saw A.I.’s now-iconic braids. “I

get away with it.’ And I still get away with it today.” To this day,

was blown away,” she exclaimed. “I had never seen anybody in

Guingui sees A.I.’s cultural impact continue to walk through her

the NBA with braids like Iverson’s,” where intricate styles were

barbershop doors. Recently, a 12-year-old came in with a picture

literally drawn into the scalp. Guingui and her friends would

of the braids that he wanted and she knew right away—he

watch basketball for hours—not for the games, but for the hair.

wanted the Iversons.

Guingui became good at emulating what she saw and soon became a neighborhood celebrity for the braids she did on her friends (and even teachers).

Beyond hair, Guingui credits A.I. with inspiring in her a sense of rebellion and creativity: “A lot of us would be on our best behavior if we got accepted into something as big as the NBA.

—GUINGUI, HAIRSTYLIST


ONE OF US A.I. quickly became “the people’s champ” for a new generation. Robert Marshall, a lifestyle streetwear reporter, remembers feeling like A.I. was someone he and his friends could relate to. “He’s one of us,” Marshall said. “He listened to hip-hop, he wore baggy clothes, streetwear and all the hip-hop culture brands that were around at that time.” Even before A.I. dabbled in making his own music—his 2000 single “40 Bars” prompted the NBA to threaten to disqualify players who engaged in “inappropriate speech”—he brought hip-hop culture into living rooms across the country. He became a symbol for the hip-hop community that you can be your true self within any space.

TUNNEL ‘FITS According to streetwear designer Eric Emanuel,

culture to tunnel ‘fits. “The NBA tunnel would not

“Without A.I., there wouldn’t be a me. Period.”

look the way it does now if it wasn’t for A.I.,” he

Emanuel, who runs a basketball apparel-inspired

said. Even beyond the stadium, Emanuel credits

label by the same name, remembers begging his

Iverson with transforming the sportswear industry:

parents for a pair of Questions when he was in

“A.I. made sportswear a fashion item more than a

elementary school. He didn’t get the kicks until

fan item.” Over the years, jersey silhouettes have

years later, when he’d saved up his own money;

gotten tighter and sneakers have been updated with

ironically, he’s partnered with Reebok to design his

pops of color (Emanuel is partial to hot pink), but he

own spin on the yellow and navy Questions that

believes A.I.’s style will continue to be relevant. “His

he coveted back in the day. Emanuel credits A.I.

style has lived through today, and it’ll live forever,”

with changing the look of the NBA, from courtside

said Emanuel. 24


PHOTOGRAPHER Most inspiring thing about A.I. is his: Leadership On how A.I. leads: A.I. had so many people behind him and he changed so much. On not conforming: The generations that came before us had to conform so much just for survival. And I feel like anybody born between probably the later ‘80s and onward were just like, “I’m not doing this shit. I’m not doing this whole buttoning everything up.” Especially with what’s going on in the world right now, we don’t have to keep playing these games anymore. On changing the NBA: All these basketball players show up now with tattoos, and all these companies understand that we need to dress our basketball players in the latest fashions. A lot of basketball players are able to express their full personalities on and off the court. A.I. was a part of that change. American beauty: As a basketball player with full-on tattoos, A.I. was showing the mundane, and that an everyday Black man with tattoos is just as beautiful as anything else—and just as palatable as anything else in the world. On how A.I. inspires a new generation: They want you to bend as a Black man. I think A.I. was like, “I don’t give a fuck about any of this. I didn’t come here to play this whole game of the social politics of it all.” My generation has learned that.


PHILLY GRIT Philadelphia holds a view of itself as a gritty, blue-collar underdog,

I’m just like, ‘But that’s not me,’” Lemons explained. “Staying true to

and fans easily embraced A.I. as an adopted son of the city.

myself is something I’ve taken from watching A.I.” Lemons said he still

“Everyone’s always like, ‘New York! LA!’ No one’s like, ‘Oh my God,

sees Iverson as Philly’s biggest role model: “Even if he wasn’t always

let’s go to Philly,’ but we have so much culture,” said 23-year-old Philly

properly celebrated, A.I. is relevant to the streets and to our people.

native Quil Lemons. “Perseverance, resilience and grit are three things

No matter what, that No. 3 jersey is immortalized.”

that you get growing up here, and he had that.” Attending basketball camps as a child, Lemons remembers seeing how inspiring A.I. was to his community. “Young, Black kids are really good at a lot of sports, and it’s natural for them to want to connect to those things that they see people winning in,” he said.

GONE GLOBAL Iverson nurtured a global impact as well, thanks to his playing days

Today, Lemons is a photographer focused on Blackness and

overseas. His resonance with people around the world was tied to the

masculinity, and A.I. continues to inspire the way Lemons navigates

fact that everyone wanted to be like A.I., a sentiment that stretched

his own creative expression. “In my career, people are always telling

well beyond the game of basketball. “No one around the world had

me, ‘Oh, you need to be shooting this, and you need to be doing that.’

seen anyone in the game really play the way A.I. did. It touches human nature,” said Nico Bono, a Reebok product marketer, who sees Iverson’s appeal span across performance and lifestyle. “Fans want to cross opponents up on the court, and they also want to be cool and be their own person off the court.”

A.I.’s impact is particularly strong in China. “He’s a rock star,” said Reebok’s Allen Brown, remembering trips with A.I. to Asia. “We get off baggage claim, and you have lines of people. I see people faint. We have 30 security guards. People are trying to grab him. I’ve learned to really appreciate what he went through and what he sacrificed to be that person.” To this day, A.I. travels to China every year to show his fans love.

—JOSH RICHARDSON, PHILADELPHIA 76ERS

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GENERATION A.I.

—MICAH, 22, LOS ANGELES, CA

With A.I.’s induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2016, any

Off the court, new generations continue to learn about A.I. from their

final questions about his impact on the sport of basketball have been

parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and siblings. “Being a fan of A.I.

answered. Look no further than NBA courts (and tunnel walks) around

is generational,” according to streetwear reporter Robert Marshall.

the country to see his legacy in motion. Montrezl Harrell, of the Los

“He was so many people’s favorite and especially people that are

Angeles Clippers, grew up watching A.I. play. “I see myself now just like

embedded in basketball and street culture. So they’ve passed down

I saw him back then,” Harrell said. And according to 26-year-old Josh

these stories of, like, ‘This is what this guy did.’”

Richardson, who joined the Philadelphia 76ers in 2019, “The confidence and the grit that Iverson always played with, I try to carry that with me.”

The underdog from Newport News, VA—who became one of the best basketball players of all time—continues to inspire a new generation in

A.I.’s highlight reels now spark inspiration in a new generation of players, and his killer crossover is required curriculum. 27

profound ways.


“ WHEN I WAS YOUNG, I LOOKED UP TO IVERSON AS SOMEONE WHO ALWAYS STAYED TRUE TO HIMSELF.” —MONTREZL HARRELL, LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS

—ETHAN, 11, NEW YORK, NY

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21, PHOENIX, AZ Most inspiring thing about A.I. is his: Tenacity Family affair: My dad loves basketball too; it was always our thing. I was sitting on the couch watching games with him by the time I was 7 so that’s probably when he introduced me to Iverson. My dad still wears his jerseys. On giving it your all: You can tell by how many shots A.I. took in games that he wanted to win. He’d throw his body on the line just to draw a foul and make the other team turn the ball over. He went hard in every single game, and there was no doubting he wasn’t doing the best he could in every play. Small stature, big heart: A.I. made me feel that as a little Black girl I was able to go out on the court and dunk on every single person out there. I was only 11 years old by the time he played his last game in the NBA, but I had already made my mind up that I was going to be that speedy, relentless player. I was absolutely sure I was going to dunk by my senior year because that’s the mentality Iverson had; if it’s something you want to do, just do it. On A.I.’s legacy continuing in the next generation: Now more than ever, you see young people speaking their minds and letting the world know that we are fed up with certain things. We’re protesting in the streets and trying to get our message across, no matter the repercussions. Iverson always did that, no matter how people viewed him.


12, PHILADELPHIA, PA Most inspiring thing about A.I. is his: Heart On-court inspiration: I practice A.I.’s moves and use them in basketball games, and they help me get space and win games. Off-court inspiration: A.I. has a heart for helping the community. I’m inspired by the way he travels all over the world and plays ball with the youth. I know we have a lot in common because I have a big heart for helping others too. How he’s continuing A.I.’s legacy: When I grow up, I want somebody to look up to me. I want to leave my own legacy like A.I. Remembering what he has accomplished will help my friends and I keep the torch lit to make the world a better place.

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