The second of three available covers for KICKS 8, AI was a forward-thinking 30-year-old in 2005. Sometime that summer, AI opened up to Nima, discussing playing until he couldn’t, RBK’s rise in the sneak game and the fish he’d catch once he hung up his Questions. Almost four years later, AI is still balling—at least on game days, when he signs with a team. Talks of retirment, however, are nearer and realer now. When AI does hang ‘em up, the game will miss him…dearly. Check out what AI had to say about life-after-ball in KICKS 8. And remember, KICKS 12 is right around the corner.— Tzvi Twersky
by Nima Zarrabi
10 years. Ten! Allen Iverson has been doing his one-of-a-kind thing for a dime now, which is as hard to believe as it is impressive. Ever his own man, ever hater-proof, AI’s relevance and MVP-caliber skills show no signs of slowing. Nor does his love of the shoe game. A career’s worth of unique, signature Reeboks—some more memorable than others, but all undeniably his own—continues with the Answer IX, a Pump-infused update on his long-running line.
We caught up with AI over the summer in L.A., the same week he got Punk’d by Ashton and his crew and just a few days before his 30th birthday. The topics: His favorite shoes, why he’s been down with Rbk since day one, and his future career as a…professional fisherman? Yup. Check the answers with the Answer.
KICKS: It’s been 10 years for you now with Reebok. Do you still get excited when your new joints come out?
AI: Absolutely. I was real excited about this one. I always see them beforehand, but I was really excited about this one because of the material on them. I feel like they really put a lot of effort into them. They only showed me the shoe one time and I made some small adjustments.
KICKS: What in particular did you want to put on this shoe?
AI: Just small stuff. Make this suede right here [grabbing at the toe of the shoe on
his foot]. Put this strap here. I’m going to have them change the “Rbk” on the tongue to “AI” for me. You know what I’m saying? Small stuff. We just work together, man. I love Reebok so much because they let me be me. They let me take stuff away, add things. What more could you want when you gotta wear a shoe and can give all the input in the world?
KICKS: Have you always had input on your shoes in terms of design?
AI: Always. They always let me know what’s what. They want my input because they know that ultimately I’m the one who has to wear it. But they take it to retail and other groups of people, too. Then they’ll show me three or four pair of shoes and be like, “Well, all the kids love this one right here.”
KICKS: How much does it influence you when they tell you that the kids are feelin’ a particular shoe?
AI: A lot. That’s who you want to buy them. That’s who’s into it the most.
KICKS: Looking back, do you have a favorite among your signature kicks?
AI: The Question, my first one. It was my very first one, and the way they looked—the style with them, you could wear them with anything. You could play basketball in them, you could chill in them. It was a shoe that everybody wore—a cool shoe. A lot of times people don’t wear basketball shoes to chill in unless they Jordans. See, people wear Jordans with anything. And that’s how I always want my sneakers. I want to be like, OK, I can play in these, but I’ll wear these, too.
KICKS: Many prominent players have gone through a few shoe companies throughout their careers, but you’ve been with Reebok from the jump. What do you think that says about you?
AI: Hopefully it says a lot about my loyalty. And I hope it says a lot about loyalty that
others have for me.
KICKS: One of the things that stands out about your relationship with Reebok is that it’s seemed authentic from the beginning.
AI: That’s the main reason I signed a lifetime deal with Reebok. They’ve been supportive of me through everything in my life—my ups and my downs.
KICKS: On the flip, it seems like you brought credibility to Reebok. They probably would have never signed 50 or Jay if it wasn’t for you. Are you proud of that?
AI: I’m definitely proud of that. Because of the fact that they let people be themselves—“I am what I am.” Whatever you are, be satisfied with that. Be cool with who you are as a person. All you try to do is get better as a person, man. Regardless of what type of person you are, you work every day to try to become better in your life and make good decisions and do what’s right. Do something meaningful in life. I’m able to open the door for guys to come in and have their own sneaker by being rappers. It makes me feel good. But it says a lot about Reebok as well. That they’re willing to let people come in and widen their horizons.
KICKS: Why do you think our generation is so obsessed with sneaks?
AI: I don’t know. It’s always just been like that for me. Since I was a little kid, it always
mattered. Just having a new shoe—having the new Jordan, having the new Barkley, anything that came out. Always wanting that. First day of school, as long as I had a new pair
of sneakers, I didn’t care about what kind of clothes I had on. As long as I had some new sneakers I felt like I was doing something.
KICKS: You turn 30 in a couple days. How much longer do you want to play?
AI: As long as God lets me. I’m not going to put no limit on how long I can play basketball. God gave me this. So when he ready to take it away, then I’m ready to give it up. Once he lets my body know that I can’t do it anymore, then I won’t attempt to do it. Last thing I want to do is be on a team and not be the main focus. When I’m not the main focus on the team anymore, then I feel like it’s time for me to go. Not saying that if we get a great big man on our team or anything for us to throw the ball into and he’s an unstoppable force—I would love it, for that part of my career. Like, I wouldn’t have to assert myself as much as I did on the offensive end. I can just concentrate on defense or other parts of my game, getting people involved.
KICKS: Do you have any thoughts on what you might do when you’re done playing?
AI: Man, listen. I honestly think in my life I can make enough money in basketball. Basketball is going to take care of me forever until I die—my kids and everybody else. I just want to do other things, go into other venues. And I’m open-minded about it. I got my own record label. I’ve made enough money to where after I’m done I can just chill out for a couple years and not have to go into another occupation. I just want to fish. When I’m done, I want to be a professional fisherman. Everybody want to be this and want to be that when they’re through playing. I don’t want to just fish when it’s over, I want to be a pro at it. I want you to see me on ESPN like, really doing it. That’s what I’m going to concentrate on. This whole thing right now is about making money, making money. When my career is over, I don’t want to be concerned about making money. As far as going into another occupation or breaking my back 9-to-5 everyday, I’d be lying if I said I’d be doing that after I’m done. I don’t care if I play only one more year, that’s just not something I want to do.