Few professional athletes in recent memory have had a more iconic look than Allen Iverson’s Reebok headband, cornrows and shoes.
In an era when the best players in the game, including Michael Jordan, wore Nike, Iverson went his own way and helped turn Reebok into a shoe powerhouse. The inner story of how he did it is fascinating, and it includes his unwitting help.
Reebok wanted Allen Iverson to become his version of Michael Jordan
In the 1990s, everyone apparently wanted to be like Mike and wear Jordan shoes. It actually worked to Reebok’s advantage.
When GQ profiled Iverson in 2007, former Reebok executive Henry “Que” Gaskins remembered preparing to negotiate a shoe deal with the best draft prospect of the time. Gaskins explained that at the time, Reebok primarily attracted white women, especially those who participated in aerobics.
Someone like Iverson, who raps in his spare time and openly gets tattoos on display, could – and would – change the demographics in a major way.
“We felt the AI could help us. The kids were fed up with being told, “Be like Mike. They wanted someone they could relate to, not worship. Allen Iverson was the most authentic athlete of his time. We designed a shoe for him, without even knowing if he was leaving school. It was the only chance we had to have the shoe ready at the start of the season.
Henry “That” Gaskins
The rest is history. The Philadelphia 76ers selected Iverson as No. 1 in the 1996 NBA Draft, and he signed a shoe deal with Reebok.
“It has always been a dream of mine to have my own sneaker,” Iverson told GQ. “It didn’t matter what it looked like; this sneaker was going to look good to me. It was my first basketball. It was perfect. It was mine. “
Iverson helped Reebook become a basketball shoe powerhouse
When Iverson debuted in the fall of 1996, the modern Internet as we know it was in its infancy. There was no viral clip on Twitter of him crossing Jordan or setting a defense for 30 points.
It didn’t matter. Iverson took home Rookie of the Year honors, and everyone knew his name as his highlights aired on Sports center each night. This included potential shoe buyers, who jumped at the chance to wear the star guard’s signature sneaker.
When speaking with GQ, Gaskins said the company had “gone from zero to over $ 200 million” in two years because of Iverson.
“For the first five years there was no one on the planet, maybe other than the president, who wouldn’t take my phone call,” Gaskins said. “Everyone just wanted to be around [Iverson]. “
Reebok hasn’t had a superstar running the company since Iverson retired
Although Iverson continues to represent Reebok in 2021, he also hasn’t played an NBA game since February 2010. And, given that he entered the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2016, it shouldn’t be. ‘expect that to change anytime soon.
Boston Celtics goalie Josh Richardson, Los Angeles Lakers big man Montrezl Harrell and WNBA forward Tamera Young are the current faces of Reebok. Reebok aptly brought back the Answer 4 sneakers from Iverson earlier this year to celebrate the 20th anniversary of when he crossed paths with famed Los Angeles Lakers goaltender Tyronn Lue in the 2001 NBA Finals.
Maybe history repeats itself. Many people still buy Jordan sneakers because of the six-time NBA champion. What prevents basketball fans from doing the same with Iverson and Reebok? Outside of those who argue that $ 130 is too much for a pair of sneakers, of course.
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