For everyone outside of Philadelphia, the Question was whether or not Allen Iverson would become the NBA’s shortest Rookie of the Year ever. For everyone who lived in or around The City of Brotherly Love, we already knew the Answer.
It was the Reebok Answer 1 which first donned Allen’s signature logo, the “I3” that would eventually be seen on everything from t-shirts and headbands to five-star notebooks and trapper-keepers. In Philly it was sort of our own gang sign in the way that it was who we represented, and more importantly, who represented us.
The iconic Answer 1 symbolized everything for the Philadelphia 76ers at the time. We just didn’t know it yet.
Along with Iverson’s personal logo, the sneaker was the first to have Iverson’s name on it, right down the tongue. The DMX 10 Technology had not previously been seen before in a sneaker, and it was a hit for ballers who mimicked Allen’s fearless style. Perhaps the most important caveat is the initial colorway the sneaker was released in, the same colorway that will be flying off of shelves today.
The black/white/gold colorway of the Answer 1 symbolized more than what meets the eye. The kicks matched Allen and the 76ers’ new uniforms, which may not sound like much, when really: it was historic.
The Sixers strayed away from their historical red, white and blue uniforms for the first time in franchise history. If you’re not from around here, that may not seem like such a big deal. Think about the Los Angeles Lakers switching from the purple and gold or the Boston Celtics doing away with the green and white. It’s unimaginable. That is the essentially what the 76ers were doing; the unimaginable.
With it came a brand new era in Philadelphia 76ers history, and the team itself was making major changes as well.
Larry Brown, the team’s new head coach, traded away Iverson’s backcourt running mate, Jerry Stackhouse, for several players, two of which would become integral parts of the future success, Aaron McKie and Theo Ratliff. He also traded the Sixers second-round pick in the upcoming draft to the Seattle Supersonics for a guard named Eric Snow.
Perhaps the biggest move, one that doesn’t go unnoticed, was the shift he made when he starting toying with the idea of playing the 6-0 Allen Iverson at the shooting guard position.
Brown knew what he was doing all along. He acquired two guards whose size at the point guard position would make up for Iverson’s lack of size at the shooting guard position. The move, though initially criticized, worked to everyone’s advantage.
Brown was able to use Allen Iverson in ways that previous coach Johnny Davis, or anyone else for that matter, never envisioned. He frequently ran Iverson off of screens, allowing him better looks at the basket, making him harder to double-team and making his quickness that much harder to engage, since the defender was usually already off-balance trying to keep up with him. In hindsight, it was brilliant.
The 1997-98 season was an adjustment for the entire team, especially Iverson. He saw his scoring drop (22 points per game) and his assists numbers go down as well (6.2 assists per game), the latter a given due to playing the off-guard position. Most importantly, however, and certainly in Brown’s eyes, Iverson became much more efficient. His shooting percentage went up four points from his rookie year, he cut his turnovers by nearly 1.5 a game and most importantly, his team improved their record by nine games.
We all know what followed with AI and this team: the All-Star appearances, the MVP, the thrilling 2000-01 season and NBA Finals appearance. For the kid from Newport News, the accolades are aplenty, but as Iverson will tell you, he never forgets his roots, where having a sneaker deal seemed out of this world. Today we look back at the player, and the sneaker that launched a fashion statement for years to come.