Do Remember When Allen Iverson & Jadakiss Had The Answer For Bball + Hip-Hop
Fresh off his MVP run to the NBA Finals in 2000-2001, the Answer V commercial featuring Allen Iverson and Jadakiss, was a fitting segue from perhaps the most popular release of the “Answer” series. Not to be confused with Bubba Chuck’s most popular and iconic shoe ever released – the original Question in 1996 – The A5 offered a revamped look, inspired by the A4.
The reigning MVP remained a hot commodity in 2001, earning more fans, more clout in the shoe game and the awesome responsibility of infusing the NBA with Hip-Hop since the mid-’90s.
Iverson is often credited with incorporating Hip-Hop culture and attitude into the NBA locker room. If it wasn’t his “brash” behavior (in the eyes of some), it was his nontraditional sense of style. While most NBA players were expected to wear formal attire that included designer suits and shoes, Iverson’s preference was sweatsuits, tennis shoes (Questions and Answers), cornrows and do-rags. He was covered in tattoos, not unlike Tupac, and wore sunglasses indoors, not unlike Biggie Smalls. A.I.’s defiance of the League’s dress code is thought to have inspired other players to do the same and coincidentally embrace the culture.
Based on appearance alone, and ultimately his infamous “posse,” all that was left, was to drop an album.
The Hampton, Virginia born superstar attempted to do just that a year before his commercial alongside The LOX MC. In the case of the iconic video, he let Jada’ spit the bars, and A.I. demonstrated his handle right beside him. “He’s the answer, and the problem / You don’t want it with the way that boy go to the hole and take punishment / The young boss of the cross for four quarters / And from three-point land he’s all water / Matter of fact, call him the king / The way he breaks down the defense, like he’s got the ball on a string / And he will blow by you fast / Penetrate and dish it off, or go high off the glass,” spit the Yonkers MC the same year he released his solo debut, Kiss Tha Game Goodbye.
Iverson’s playing style, off the court influence, and this commercial are a strong focus of Episode 2 of Lebron James’ Shut Up And Dribble Showtime docu-series. With a host of NBA greats, Hip-Hop stars and personalities, agents, league execs, and others commenting, A.I.’s playing style is discussed. The first overall pick brought a Rucker Park attitude to major arenas. He dominated, with flare—evidenced in the famed “step-over” of Los Angeles Laker Tyronn Lue in the 2001 finals. Iverson refused to appease others who wanted a safer image, as described in his hairstyle debut an All-Star game. While Sway Calloway says he had the same braids at the time, Kendrick Lamar recalls likening A.I. to some of his friends in Compton. What made Iverson so different to some audiences, made him so much relatable to basketball fans longing for that a new kind of authenticity. “I’d rather not be in the NBA [than be fake],” he told Stephen A. Smith in one clip. “Allen Iverson was to basketball what Tupac was to Rap,” Sway says in another excerpt, having known both men.
That said, the marriage between Iverson and Jadakiss was majestic only a year later. Iverson’s gritty brand of basketball was the perfect complement to Kiss’ raspy delivery, and their onscreen pairing was proof positive. Albeit his obvious love affair with the art-form, Iverson left the rhyming up to ‘Kiss – arguably the hottest rapper in the industry at the time. Branding executive Steve Stoute recalls the one-minute ad spot gaining so much popularity that DJs played it on radio around the country.
While rhyming effortlessly over a Trackmasters arrangement, which incorporated bouncing balls, swishes and a bevy of shoe squeaks, Kiss lures in the listener/viewer. All the while, Iverson’s seamless ball handling ability provides the necessary balance to score a win for the brand and its co-stars.
Allen Iverson had the skills to pay the bills, and he never was willing to pinch his personality, style, or flare to get a check. Just like defenders, the NBA and Reebok had no choice but to accept him. They could airbrush his tattoos, label him a “thug,” but they could not stop him from making indelible impact. Times show the error in the judgemental powers that be. Perhaps it’s why this simple ad still sounds great nearly 20 years later.
Last week, A.I. listed his Top 5 MCs.
#BonusBeat: The A6 ad, featuring some “Jewelz” bars too:
Additional Reporting by Jake Paine.