Reebok VP Todd Krinsky has been with the company for two decades, his official title has him in charge of Classics, Entertainment and Basketball. But for much of those two decades, he was basically VP in charge of Allen Iverson. Which basically meant missing holidays, weekends, and countless hours of sleep. As one of the first people at Reebok to believe in AI, he's been a member of the inner circle since the beginning. So as Iverson's products go from performance to Classics, there is no better person alive to manage the transition. And he's got stories, too.
What do you remember from that first campaign?
The thing for me, I was new to it, I’d only been with the company for a few years, the company in general wasn’t used to this, the signature business in general. We didn’t have a lot of athletes, this was our first real guy. Shaq never really was like — we had a lot of shoes, but they were never really huge commercial successes. AI was the first one, we didn’t really know how to react to like 5,000 kids from different urban areas just buying the shoe. We didn’t know. And we didn’t really know how to ramp up for it. So then after the first 5,000, then we started to make the mass one to go all over the country. It was really new for the company. What I remember it was just a totally new experience — we hadn’t really reached that consumer in the past, AI was really the first time we reached that urban consumer. And they were buying the shoe, people really liked the style of the shoe and obviously the excitement of AI. But it was one of those moments that you can only recreate probably a couple times in your career.
I remember the first meeting, Allen came in, there was kind of like an aura to him.
Were you involved with the first meetings with AI?
The first meeting was — the first first first time we ever met him, I’ll never forget, he was wearing this grey linen suit. Chuck, the first time we ever met him, down in D.C., David Falk’s office. He’s like an hour and a half late, to the first first meeting. We were waiting on him, waiting on him. We had something like that [points to Question prototype, see last image] already going, so we kind of told him “when you were a sophomore at Georgetown we were developing this shoe for you, we want to show it to you,” we didn’t show it to him at the first meeting, we showed it to him the second meeting, but I remember the first meeting, he came in, there was kind of like an aura to him. He had a presence. He walked into the room and it was like he had this swagger and he had this cachet right away. It wasn’t something he tried. He’s got this thing, you know? You could tell right away. That was the first meeting, the second meeting we showed him the prototype, he really liked it, we made some changes to it. But there was so much craziness around him in the beginning because there was so much anticipation, it was Philly, and it was like so much controversy over the pick. There was so much going on — and there was the crew, the excitement of being from VA and playing in D.C. and going to Philly. That doesn’t happen a lot. And then his size. All those things made him this incredible cultural phenomenon before he even played.
Why bring back the shoe now?
I think one of the main reasons, as you guys know — you’re one of the reasons for it probably — ‘90s sport is just trending so incredibly high with kids, everyone’s talking about what shoes to bring back. We’ve brought this back a couple times, but we’ve never really brought it back with him involved, and bringing Swizz in, and bringing you guys in to talk about it, talk about discussions of what it represents to a new generation of kids. The timing is really right to do it, and…
It’s the first time we’ve done it in this kind of capacity, and obviously there’s some other stuff coming out around the shoes. But I think the timing, to do it in the way we’re doing it, in the original colorways, with him involved — he’s a lot more engaged now, a lot more understanding of his legacy now than he was. If we had said “hey, we’re bringing back the Question” three or four years ago he probably would have been like, “all right, cool.” Now he wants to talk about it, he wants to know are we doing a girls colorway, he wants to be involved more, he wants to know what the plans are. Are we selling it outside the U.S.? He’s more aware of his legacy in the shoe game than he was when he was playing. And I think that also helps because him being here today, he likes to talk about the stuff, he likes to hang out and just talk.