This is a warning. A cautionary reminder to live in the moment. It's a call to celebrate technology when it's fresh.
Sneaker nostalgia rarely involves a mustache. Yet, the specter of a magnificent push broom looms today with the re-release of the Reebok Answer 1 and reminds of my biggest mistake as a collector. I recall Allen Iverson spinning and putting the ball behind his back while a narrator — looking like a failed scientist turned high school teacher — says, "DMX cushions and stabilizes every step." Iverson states simply, "I wonder what they'll say about this one."
As a teen, I was in awe of the television spot advertising the Answer. Iverson performed the trick over a massive glass platform, we saw it from all angles but still coulnd't quite put a finger on how it was done. Hours I should have spent exploiting the potential of a new(ish) technology — email — to score loose chicks from my high school, I spent trying to perfect that impossible behind-the-back dribble. It was the genesis of epic schoolyard failure.
I haphazardly become a Sixer fan in the early '90s after watching Charles Barkley knock the Bullets' mascot, Hoops, to the ground at the Capitol Center in Landover, MD. I was roughly 10 years old and Barkley was the coolest man I'd ever seen. Soon after, Allen Iverson became my hoop hero. The Virginia Beach-born point guard landed at my father's alma mater, so support was naturally instantaneous. With Pat Croce pumping his fists at the '96 draft lottery, I knew the stars were aligning.
When AI signed a sneaker deal, I resolved to collect each and every one of his shoes. The Question dropped and I suffered my first setback: the original blue toe model sold out instantly. I failed again when the red version hit shelves, finally landing the less-coveted all-black model. It wasn't the best, but I was still one step toward fulfilling a dream complete and a single colorway was all I needed.
The Answer 1 heralded the true beginning of the I3 franchise for Reebok. Questions (pun intended) had been answered during a sterling rookie campaign. And '97 marked a new era in Philadelphia 76ers history. The logo changed for the first time since 1963 and the away color scheme shifted to black. Accordingly, the Answer 1 was dressed in colorways to match. The inspiration of the I3 aesthetic came directly from this radical change in uniform design. Iverson was a true star, the potential of his signature series seemed limitless.
The closest I got to an original pair of Answers was entering a sweepstakes via postcard pulled from The Source. A few weeks later, a package from Reebok arrived at my suburban Connecticut home. No sneaker in sight. Instead, the box contained a VHS cassette complete with footage of Iverson at home with his young children and in conversation with his high school football coach. In retrospect, it was a charming consolation prize. At the time, it was a stinging reminder that I'd lost an opportunity for free shoes.
I didn't buy the Answer in 1997. The exact rationale escapes, but initial disappointment led to questioning the shoe's aesthetic. Could I wear it? What would DMX do for me? Should someone with no competitive basketball experience even own top-flight hoop shoes? Though the impressively mustachioed man sold the technology's virtue well, applying it to my life seemed impossible. I was embroiled in a sneaker dilemma: Should I have them if I wasn't going to rock them?
I lacked gumption. I lacked resolve. Most of all, I lacked commitment to both my favorite player and my ambitions as a sneakerhead. Self doubt destroyed the potential of a collection. I opted for a closet full of safer, more casual options… shoes that had already been cosigned and deemed "classics." I missed out on the stepping stones to a unique, cohesive cache of footwear.
Almost every morning I receive an email from my cousin. He's seventeen. More often than not, it's about a sneaker. He wants to know if I like what he's considering. I usually urge him to look at and embrace what's current, what's new RIGHT NOW. I urge him to do what I didn't — be bold and celebrate the glory of the present.
To answer Allen's question, "I wonder what they'll say about this one?" You never know how a sneaker will age. Take risks, only time can dictate a sneaker's ultimate legacy.
Images courtesy of Reebok's original Answer advertising campaign.