Allen Iverson on the NBA Bubble, Vince Carter's Secret Talent, and His New James Harden Collab

Yang-Yi Goh

Allen Iverson still knows how to make an entrance. A minute or so into our scheduled Zoom call, while I’m still exchanging pleasantries with his team of managers and PR handlers, A.I. saunters into frame crooning a Motown soul song. He plunks down in front of his computer looking relaxed and at ease in a crisp Yankees fitted, and then issues me a direct challenge like I’m trying to guard him in crunch time. “I don’t want to do this shit unless it’s gonna be fun,” he says, smirking.

He still knows his way around a hot sneaker, too. Back in his playing days, Iverson was famously hands-on with his era-defining sneaker line at Reebok—it was his idea, he says, to add the iconic red and blue toe caps to The Question, his first and still best signature shoe. The latest addition to that legacy is a new collaboration with James Harden, whom Iverson first met through their mutual friend Meek Mill. The Question Mid “OG Meets OG” is the rare sneaker mashup that actually works, borrowing the black-and-red colorway and a handful of design elements from Harden’s first Adidas model in 2016. (Adidas acquired Reebok back in 2005, in case you’re wondering how this rare cross-brand linkup was allowed to transpire.) It’s a fittingly mean shoe for two of the meanest, most relentless scorers to ever play the game.

Ahead of the “OG Meets OG” drop on August 7, the Hall of Famer sat down with GQ to talk about Harden, the NBA restart, why Vince Carter needs a TikTok, and—hopefully—have a little fun along the way.

GQ: How did this collaboration come about? Why was James Harden someone you wanted to work with, specifically?

Allen Iverson: Why not? He’s an assassin, a killer on the basketball court. And I like to think my name would come up when it comes to that, too. I'm a big fan. James is going to be legendary. Definitely going to be a Hall of Famer. Hopefully he'll win a title. So honestly, it's just an honor, you know what I mean?

Do you see him as a kindred spirit in the way he carries himself off the court, too? The swagger, the way he dresses, all of that?

That too. And then, just his mentality of, "I'm me, and this is what you get. All I can be is me, and all I want to be is me." I love that about him. I love that he's comfortable in his own skin.

Back in the day, you had a lot of input and say on the design of your Reebok line. Is that something you still get involved with? Do you still like to get in the lab and tinker?

Absolutely. At the same time, though, I trust the people doing the design. Sometimes you don’t need input when the finished product is great. You look at it, and you know that it’s dope. And then it’s just like, let’s rock out. That’s what it was like with this collaboration. I didn’t have nothing to say. I looked at them like, “Oh yeah, this is what we going to do.”

<cite class="credit">Mark Naradowski / Courtesy of Reebok</cite>
Mark Naradowski / Courtesy of Reebok
<cite class="credit">Mark Naradowski / Courtesy of Reebok</cite>
Mark Naradowski / Courtesy of Reebok

I saw this video recently where you whipped up this incredible caricature on a chalkboard. You’re obviously a creative person, you’ve dabbled in music, but I had no idea you could draw like that.

Yeah, I mean, I’m good. But my 14-year-old daughter? She’s incredible. Way crazier than me. Literally, she’s going to be legendary with it. I can’t wait for the world to get a chance to see her talents.

That’s awesome. You mentioned in that video that you used to draw your teammates before games back in the day.

Well, it was rare that I got [to the locker room] before everybody. [Laughs.] But if I did, I’d get in there and put something on the chalkboard just to lighten everybody up. Just to get them in that comfortable mode before we go to war.

Who would you draw?

Anybody. I don’t think I ever did Coach Brown, but all of the guys on my squad. It was just to lighten the mood, especially if it was a tense situation—like a playoff game, something like that.

So the NBA is moving ahead with its restart in a few weeks. How are you feeling about that whole situation? Do you think it’s the right move to go ahead and start playing again after all these months off? 

Don't matter what I think. It is what it is. If I had to deal with it, I would want to play. But to each his own. I understand why some guys don't want to play. I don't do a whole bunch of judging. All of us make decisions. You go with the decision, you trust it, you believe in it, you honor it. And that's that, you know what I mean? So I ain't mad at the guys that's playing. I ain't mad at the guys that’s not playing.

You played in a couple of lockout-shortened seasons, where there was a more truncated time to get back into game shape. Do you think that’s something the guys in the bubble right now are going to be struggling with at all?

We hoopers, man. We just hoop. It’s like: throw the ball up, man. Let’s go. That’s my mentality, That’s how I’ve always been. Let’s go.

So not having crowds, living in this weird situationnone of that matters at the end of the day.

Nah man, what you making excuses for? Basketball is basketball. Play. That’s what it is. We all love to perform in front of people, but even if no one’s in the stands, you still know everybody’s watching.

Right. No asterisk necessary on this season for you.

Man, it all counts. Everything. All of it is legit. I don’t think you should take away from someone’s accomplishment. Everybody is dealing with the same scenario, everybody’s dealing with the same thing. It is what it is. Whoever win it should be rewarded as such. It’s just like any other championship to me.

One minor wrinkle in the bubble is that the NBA has officially relaxed its dress code, which was widely interpreted at the time as David Stern targeting you, specifically. Are you happy to see it gone, even temporarily?

Man, I think guys are supposed to dress the way they want to dress. I don’t have no problem with a guy dressing the way that makes him comfortable, that makes that person feel like themselves. I think that’s cool. I don’t think you should tell someone how to dress.

Do you feel like the way you dressed back then opened the door for the NBA style we see today, with guys really showing out in the tunnel before games? Was style a really important mode of expression for you back then?

I never assessed it like that. I just dressed the way I dress.

Vince Carter just retired after 22 seasons in the league. You guys had some great battles back in the day.

Some of them, I was on the bad end of them. [Laughs.] We had so many battles, but I just love Vince Carter—the person, even more than the basketball player. Just a great talent, a great gift to the world, a blessing to the fans. It was an honor to be able to compete with him and to know him off the court.

When you think of those off-the-court moments, does anything stick out?

Yeah. That he can dance his ass off. [Laughs.]

Really?

Yes. I mean, he's like super incredible. I don’t know if too many people know it, but the guys and the females that know Vince—know him personally—know that he’s like a top-five dancer in the whole world.

What kind of moves are we talking about here?

Dude. Any dance in any style, he can do it. Whatever the young kids can do, whatever the fad is, Vince can do it.

So we gotta get Vince on TikTok, then.

Oh yeah, I’m telling you, man. This ain’t no bullshit. He’s incredible.

Originally Appeared on GQ

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