Sustaining a signature sneaker line’s popularity through different eras isn’t easy. Consumers are trained to want the newest and trendiest styles, and what’s hot today may not hold the same weight a few years from now. There’s only an elite handful of athletes with namesake lines that have maintained interest over the span of decades. Think about it: You can probably count them all on one hand. One such player is Allen Iverson, whose second Reebok shoe, the Answer DMX, celebrates its silver anniversary this year.
Last available in 2018, the Answer DMX was Reebok’s follow-up to Iverson’s rookie-year model, the Question. Designed by Scott Hewett (who also designed the Question), the on-the-nose “Answer” model name was inspired by a nickname Iverson had prior to signing with Reebok.
If there was any doubt over whether A.I. would live up to his hype in the NBA, his Rookie of the Year–winning first season was enough both to silence critics and give Reebok a built-in marketing plan. From that crossover to his pregame style before tunnel fits were even a thing, Iverson represented a shakeup in the league, bringing a new, youthful energy both on and off the court.
The Answer DMX itself was a shift in Iverson’s signature line, moving away from the somewhat simplistic toe-capped construction of the Question to a far more intricate build. Gone were the honeycomb-like Hexalite pods and in their place, an internal moving air cushioning setup known as DMX that would ultimately be used in the majority of Iverson’s sneakers. Meanwhile, patent leather details and glittery gold kept things aesthetically in tune with late 1990s footwear design language.
The enduring appeal of Iverson’s signature shoes can be chalked up to a few factors. The most apparent is Iverson himself, who was one of the game’s most influential players of all time and had people copying his dribble moves, cornrows, and—of course—sneakers. Hewitt’s designs, which span from the Question through the Answer 7, also play a key role, as they managed to not only debut in a massive way but were able to re-create magic time and time again.
The last, and perhaps most crucial, element is the way Iverson’s line has been handled now that his playing days are done. Matt O’Brien, director of product storytelling and marketing at Reebok, says Iverson is still involved in the process, working with the brand on product, communication strategies, seasonal launch plans, and brand activations.
“Anniversaries have been a big part of validating why we’re rereleasing a product,” O’Brien says. “They can help OG consumers connect with nostalgic feelings while educating new consumers and offering them a piece of history. We also build our release strategies around market trends, global cultural events, and on-court moments. That last pillar has been especially important to our retro-centric release strategy—meaningful moments in sport and sneakers with which Reebok is authentically connected help to validate the product.”
With the Answer DMX ($170) back in stores now for the first time in four years and the “Blue Toe” Question Mid ($160) returning this weekend, we caught up with Iverson over email to talk about his sneaker legacy, the ‘90s, and the evolution of his personal style.
Coming from the simpler design of the Question, the Answer DMX had a lot more going on as far as details and technology. What were your thoughts about that jump design-wise when you first saw the Answer 1 and started playing in it?
I thought it was cool. I was starting to get more involved with my sneaker designs when it came to the Answer. It looked and felt way different than the Question, and I really liked how it matched the new jerseys. It was good to see Reebok taking risks with this shoe. I could tell they really wanted to give me something that matched who I was and how I played—fast, fearless, different.
Which Answer colorway is your favorite? Are you choosing one of the originals or a newer version?
The OG white will always be my favorite. Just like with the Question, all the other colorways are cool, but nothing can beat that first shoe. It’s the one that started it all. Other than that, the black one is dope. It’s got attitude. If I was wearing those joints, you knew I was gonna be a problem on the court that night.
Thinking back to 1997, obviously you’re coming off a huge rookie season and starting to make a name for yourself in the league. Any other memories from that era? What kind of music or movies do you remember being into back then?
In those days I listened to a lot of Biggie, Redman, Tupac, and The Lox. And was watching movies like Hoodlum, Donnie Brasco, Nothing to Lose—stuff like that. That was a great era for music and films. A simpler time for sure.
Between high school, college, and your first decade in the NBA, you spent a lot of your formative years on the East Coast. How do you think that influenced your overall style?
I was just being me. And over time I started to feel a lot more comfortable with who I was. By the time I got to the pros, it didn’t matter [about] all the lights and fans—it was more of a reason to be me and represent who Allen Iverson is. I think that more so influenced others, and left a mark on what people wore and how they saw themselves as individuals.
Along with the Answer DMX, Reebok is bringing back the “Blue Toe” Question Mid, another one of your most iconic shoes. There aren’t many athletes with retro lines that are able to consistently keep people interested. How does it feel to still have people chasing your shoes 25 years later?
It’s surreal. It was surreal to see people wearing the shoe back in ’96, and it’s surreal to see people wearing it today. That feeling hasn’t changed. And it’s kids and OGs and everyone. I give props to Reebok for always supporting me and telling my story to the next generation coming up. As for the ‘Blue Toe,’ that’s such a smooth shoe. It’s almost like the ‘Red Toe’s’ alter ego—the other side of a super hero’s uniform. It looks really good, and shoes like that last forever.
Is there one shoe Reebok hasn’t brought back that you’d like to see return?
I’d love to see them all come back, to be honest. As much as I love my line, those other dudes like Shaq and Shawn (Kemp) and Nick (Van Exel) have some really dope kicks. But it’s all in due time, and I know Reebok has the right plans in place.