Rain is pelting the window of my home in Southern New Jersey. I'm on the other side of a Zoom call waiting for the man of the hour, Allen Iverson, the same man who I grew up idolizing and watching on television every night in this same home as a fan of the Philadelphia 76ers. After a minute or so, the Answer arrives with a smile and a classic Yankees fitted cap on his head. He notices the red Phillies cap I'm wearing, one he probably wore hundreds of times during his years spent in Philly as a Sixer, the franchise he still proudly supports to this day.
The occasion: discussing Reebok's latest take on his iconic signature sneaker, the Question Mid. The "OG Meets OG" colorway, set to release on Aug. 7 for $150, is a unique partnership that sees Reebok and Adidas once again come together as collaborators. This time it is to fuse AI's first signature shoe with the first signature of current superstar James Harden, the Adidas Harden Vol. 1.
"It's an honor because I'm a big James Harden fan. I love watching him play," Iverson says. "It was an honor for me. And then me being an old head, in my mind I'm thinking that, well, hopefully he thinks it's cool to collab with me and have his logo on my shoe. That's the hype that I got from it, just being a big fan and being honored like that. I thought that was dope for him to want to do something with me."
Two things become abundantly clear. Iverson is comfortable with his current status as the NBA's resident "old head" who has transitioned into a mentor to the new generation of players after a 14-season Hall of Fame career. And he also loves basketball. A lot. As big of a fan of the game as he is, the conversation quickly shifts to include more than just his latest sneaker project. He touches on the players he considers basketball royalty, the NBA bubble in Orlando, and even ESPN's The Last Dance documentary.
Check out the full conversation with Iverson below.
You have a new project coming out with James Harden. What are your thoughts on seeing projects like this able to happen? Until recently, it wasn't typical to see Reebok and Adidas to join together like this.
Evolving, evolving, evolving. I think it's kind of like showing your love to the people that care about that type of stuff, exciting people for something new, especially if you're an Allen Iverson or James Harden fan. I just think it's so dope. With Reebok, when they come to me they always start out of the box, and try great things for the culture. So I just think that's cool.
Speaking of being a fan, what is it about Harden and his game that you're a fan of? I know you still love the game and follow it.
Killer. Killer mentality. Mamba mentality.
Do you see yourself in elements of him in any way? You guys both have that killer scoring mentality, but I'm curious if you see anything else specific when you look at his game.
Yeah. I mean, one thing about me, and not in no way, shape, or form in an arrogant way—I see me in a lot of guys. Just like the guys that I looked up to and took things from their game, they can see it in mine. I just tried to put it all together. All of the guys that I thought were great and did spectacular things on the basketball court, I tried to implement it into my game. I even took stuff from Shaq's game, you know what I mean? For real. But I had to deal with me being six feet tall, trying to do it. I took a lot from John Stockton. I tried to watch his highlights and tried to do things that he did on the court, thinking wise, trying to master the game on that level. He wasn't the greatest athlete in the world, but he could out-think his opponents and destroy them. Those were things that I took from John's game.
You were known for the crossover back in your playing days. Is there a move that you would steal from Harden's arsenal, like his step back three, to add to your game back in the day when you were in the league?
I already had a step back. James got that from me [laughs]. He just took it to another level. That's all.
Speaking on the shoe, one of the things that's interesting is Harden's logo actually appears on the heel of it. Obviously it's your shoe, though. Was it weird for you to see another player's logo on the shoe that you debuted in the league?
Oh man, I thought it was dope. It's an honor because I'm a big James Harden fan. I love watching him play. It was an honor for me. And then me being an old head, in my mind I'm thinking that, well, hopefully he thinks it's cool to collab with me and have his logo on my shoe. That's the hype that I got from it, just being a big fan and being honored like that. I thought that was dope for him to want to do something with me. He might've grew up off of me, but he made me a big-ass fan. The fact that I can just watch them dudes get down, I love it man. I love it. I love being a fan because I was before I even got to the league. I love the barbershop conversations. I love me and my homeboys talking about who's the shit—all the same stuff that all the other fans talk about, day in and day out, I love that part of retiring.
I have to bring this up now because you mentioned that barbershop talk; so Kenny Smith came on the Complex Load Management podcast and they were talking about their best players of all the time and he caught a lot of flack. He said LeBron is 10th all the time for him. And then he said Kobe was, like, number 11. Kobe wasn't even in his top 10.
Hold on, Kenny.
He had guys like Nate Archibald top 10, Oscar Robertson top 10, and said it's easier to score in the modern era and that kind of informed why he felt that way. I guess your reaction says it all, but what are your thoughts on that take?
I love Kenny Smith, but I don't know about that one, buddy. Bean was Black Mamba, man. He's automatically top five. Automatically, when it comes to me. Like, I ain't never seen nothing, besides Black Jesus [Michael Jordan], amen, I ain't never seen nothing like it. When people talk about how he basically copied Mike, I mean, why would you copy anybody else? If I was 6'6...I tried to copy Mike, but I'm just six feet. I tried the best that I could to emulate that guy, man, because that was the greatest that I've ever seen in my life. That's why I love The Last Dance. I get to brag. While everybody was watching The Last Dance, I was able to say, "See, I told y'all." I even saw stuff that I didn't know, obviously. But it was a great moment for me after it was all over, and I was able to say, "See, I told you that he's the best ever."
As great as Kobe is, great as LeBron is, [Jordan is] Black Jesus, man. I love some goddamn LeBron James to death. I got a different type of love for LeBron, because I know him in person. He's a better person than he is a basketball player. I know him, his family, his homeboys, all great dudes. I love Kobe. I didn't know Kobe like that, but as a basketball player, Kobe was the most vicious. Those three guys, along with Shaq, are like basketball royalty to me.
To touch on Kobe for a second, he was one of the guys that actually rocked the Questions back in the day. Reebok was supposed to release a colorway to commemorate that moment during All Star weekend in Chicago, and then obviously with the tragic passing that kind of got scrapped. What are your thoughts on that shoe? Do you hope to one day see it released to the public to honor his legacy in your own way?
Yeah, I want to see it released. But I respect Reebok for their decision of not putting it out when they were going to put it out. I thought that was genuine. I thought it was dope. That was real cool. But yeah, you know, just me being a fan and me having something to do with something like that and my name being attached to it, I would love that. I would love it for the culture, too. For me and Kobe to have a shoe out like that, I think that'd be dope. Because you know, at a point in our careers, like it was me and him. It was all about me and him. I just think that'd be cool, man.
The Question has been popular with plenty of players. It's remained popular since it debuted in '96. You being someone who's still involved in the game, a lot of the guys now watched you growing up, looked up to you. I'm just curious if in talks with any of these younger guys, do they express to you how much they wanted your shoes growing up, if they played in them? Does that come up?
Yeah. And it never gets old. I'm not a cocky motherfucker. Like, I'm not arrogant. I'm just a confident dude. I feel like in life, whatever you do, you got to believe in you. You got to believe in yourself. I don't care what you do. When you hear those things, it never gets old. Like, the next little guy that tells you something like that, I never feel like, "Man, I heard that shit before." I never feel like that. Cause it's an honor. It's an honor for someone to look up to you. With the way I think that I do, I try to do God's deed all the time, whatever he asks me to do. That's just my personal relationship with Him. But it's like, I think if you inspire or you change one person's life, you did what God asked you to do. Just one person. And then better yet, a whole culture or millions of people. Just being an icon, obviously you get to influence a whole lot of people. I just want to be the best me, and not try to be someone else.
I'm cool with the guy that makes mistakes, and the guy that's supposed to be one of the greatest athletes in the world who walks in a room and stumbles. Or whatever, man. I'm cool with being imperfect. I love me being me. That's why I think I'm relatable to a lot of people because when they look at me they see just someone that fulfilled his dream. It's the same guy making mistakes, and going through life and not making all the best decisions or whatever, and just trying to make it in this hard ass world like everybody else is. I think people look at me, and I think they see themselves.
Circling back on the whole Harden project real quick, I know it's about you guys coming together and collaborating, but I kind of have to ask; you in your prime versus him in his, game to 11. How do you see that going? One-on-one, you and Harden.
And he can't post up on me? Because I know I can't guard him. I know I can't guard him, but he can't guard me either. I think it's going to depend on who's hot, because with his handles, I wouldn't press up on him at all. So if he making his jumper, I'm in trouble. Same thing with me. I don't know. It just depends. I think it depends on who's jumper is on. Because I know he's going to back up on me. And then his handle's so vicious. I wouldn't even be trying to press him on him to get clowned like that. Wouldn't happen.
That's a humble answer. You're not picking yourself?
I'm definitely picking myself [laughs], but the respect that I have for him, it can go either way.
With the playoffs starting back up, obviously you're a big fan of the game. How excited are you to see basketball finally being brought back to the fans? Who are you excited to see? What team do you think could kind of make noise in this format?
I'm excited. It's been hard without basketball. Obviously I'm a Sixer. I roll with the guys. I'm always thinking that we are going to win anyway. That's just our Sixers fan thing. I'm not just cheering with my pom-poms on. I really think we're going to win it. But I'm excited about seeing all the guys. I love the show. When I was growing up, I didn't even like to play in the park if one of the girls wasn't around [laughs]. I used to put on a show. We got so much talent in our league. It's a bad motherfucker on every team, man. Obviously, we want to see LeBron every night, but you got so many other dudes. You want to see KD every night. You want to see Steph. I watch Westbrook. Like, I got to see it. I have to see it every night. I look at the schedule like, Westbrook plays at what time? I love it.
Do you think you could have been part of the bubble? It's a weird format. Do you think you would have been able to thrive, or would it have been tricky for you?
Listen, I was a basketball player. Just throw the ball up. Now, The Answer has gone to heaven, but back then you would've got The Answer. That's why I don't like when people talk about eras, and, "Could you play in this era?" Man, what's the rules? You got the same basketball. You got basketball rules, right? So, let's play. It's whatever. You got to deal with the same rules I got to deal with. I could adjust to anything because I love playing so much.
Any final thoughts on the Harden project?
I just think it's a gift to the fans. I think it's a gift to the people that support Reebok and people that support Adidas. I just think it's going to be legendary. It's going to be game changing all over again. And I'm just looking forward to the response.