Most people tend to remember the Reebok Answer IV primarily for what Allen Iverson did while wearing them, namely willing an otherwise underwhelming Sixers team to the 2001 NBA Finals. The zenith of that miraculous run was when Iverson scored 48 points in a Game 1 victory over the powerhouse Lakers, punctuating his performance with an exaggerated, defiant step over a fallen Tyronn Lue. (That said, it was Tyronn Lue. Had Iverson tried that with Kobe, he might have had his leg bitten off.)
As an NBA-crazy 21-year-old, I loved that Sixers team and its counterculture protagonist as much as anyone, but more so, I loved them in the context of a special time in my life. I had just graduated from Duke, two months after their basketball team had won a national title. I returned home to New Jersey uneasy but optimistic: I had no real conception of what I should do next, but I had the particular brand of youthful vigor that made truly anything seem possible.
It was the perfect time for me to watch a 6-foot-nothing sprite try to take down a nearly unassailable juggernaut that would finish 15-1 in the playoffs. That the Sixers didn’t win another game after Game 1 didn’t take away the memory of those euphoric couple of days when logic be damned, you thought, “Just maybe…”
The good times kept rolling that summer, as just like “Drops of Jupiter,” Iverson was inescapable. Go to Foot Locker or open an Eastbay mailer, and you saw Answer IVs in every color of the rainbow. One particular trip to Six Flags stands out, when I couldn’t walk 10 feet without seeing a pair of Answer IVs paired with a Sixers swingman jersey. The Lakers might have been the ultimate victors, but Iverson was unmistakably the people’s champion.
When Reebok re-retroed the Answer IV this past year, I decided I needed a pair; I remembered them feeling great on and off the court, but more so, I wanted them out of sheer nostalgia. I gravitated toward the navy and grey “Georgetown” IVs that dropped this past March, an original colorway that evokes the supremely cool college-era iteration of AI.
When it comes to the sneakers we grew up with, change is for the most part taboo; so much bulletin-board bandwidth is devoted to obsessing over slight alterations to the shape of the toebox and such. But then, to dwell on the absence of the stellar DMX I-Pak cushioning system in the new Answer IV – it was replaced by a layer of still-cushy DMX foam – is to roundly miss the point.
For one, not all changes are for the worse. The oval visage of Iverson embedded in the sole was changed from aluminum to rubber, which meant it was no longer a magnet for dents and dings. And the Velcro clasp at the top of the zipper wasn’t on the original general release, but it had been a feature on Iverson’s PE models. Damn cool, if you ask me.
Besides, the primary reason I tend to buy retro sneakers is for their time-traveling ability. When I cut open the box from Packer Shoes, it instantly hit me: The Answer IVs are about as faithful to the look, feel and leathery aroma of the OGs as anyone could have hoped. And when the sun hits the reflective midsole just right, I can sort of feel what it was like waiting on line for Nitro a dozen years ago, not sure exactly where I was headed, but somehow convinced I was going to get there.
What do you think?
Follow Bryan on Twitter at @SportsAngle.
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.