Allen Iverson has disappeared from the NBA, and with him an iconic look and generation has passed. But Reebok, smartly, has decided to re-release some of the more popular and well-performing models from his line, like the Answer IV. Do they still hold up, or is it time for them to retire?
I LOVED most of the Answer line from Reebok. I had them all through the V, skipped the VI, and picked back up for the VII through XIII. I loved the bold looks, his bold play, and the fact neither he nor Reebok gave an Eff what the establishment thought. And even though the IV was not my favorite (I liked the III, V and IX better, in that order), I fully recognize its greatness. Time to see what chops this shoe has in 2012 form.
Let’s start with introductory details. You don’t see materials like these anymore. Complete full-grain leather, top to bottom, inside and out. Built before lightweight took over, this shoe is about sturdy support and lasting construction. I love it. The shoe creases along the toe box, midfoot, and everywhere – just like a GOOD shoe made from leather should do (so sick of whining about creasing. Sorry). I also see the DMX on the sole, which fooled me last time. DMX I-Pak, for those of you too young to have ever experienced it, was one of the most unique cushioning systems around. Built around two air pods in the midsole connected by a midfoot bridge, the air moved from heel to toe as your foot went through a step. Unfortunately, they fooled me again – no I-Pak here, either. There is DMX Foam, instead, and it in no way deserves the DMX label. Also missing is the Shock Pad insole from the original. I loved that insole, so much that once I trashed the shoes I kept the insole to put in other Answers. But honestly, that is the only real difference. So let’s get these on the court and see if my running floater and old crossover deserve the shoe.
The Zipper. One of the most easily identifiable shoe details ever. To me, right up there with the patent on the XI, the Tai Chi half colors, the Y-Bar on the Weapons. Completely unneeded, it comes back to the audacity of Reebok to do what they want. Too bad the Glove came out first, because the Answer owns the look. I had problems with the zipper staying up on the original. Part of the problem is solved on the 2012 retro with the Velcro tab at the top, keeping the zipper down and locked. Fit on the shoe is generous – it wouldn’t hurt at all to drop a half size. I went true to size in a 10.5 and the length was a bit much. Laced tight, however, the fit in the midfoot and heel was locked. The ankle is filled with thick foam and forms nicely around the ankle, filling in voids and wrapping the rear tight. One thing almost all Iversons excelled at was forefoot fit, and these are no different. The I3 inserts along both sides of the foot work to add an extra layer of support and keep the foot firmly over the footbed. Surprisingly, the shroud does nothing to help fit. Actually, it is a hindrance when the shoe is laced up tight. It buckles and gaps and gives the shoe a bulky look where it should be sleek.
Traction and transition are what still keep the shoe in the top performance level. A very non-traditional traction pattern includes sideways herringbone on the medial and lateral forefoot and a wave pattern dead down the center. Just from looks it would lend to sliding, but not the case at all. I squeaked and grabbed on all surfaces, including an outdoor court I was sliding on just the week before in the Air Max Dominate from Nike, a shoe built for outdoors. Reebok figured out early that you could cut away large portions of the outsole in the heel and see no difference and it works here. Originally housing the DMX bubble, the hole is used to show the extremely cool graphic of Iverson’s face and to reduce weight. Transition in the Answer line was iffy at best, sometimes downright bad (Question, Answer I, Answer VI). This shoe was built for speed and it carries over to the retro. The midfoot is supported by a plastic shank formed to fit from arch to outside. Again, originally built to house the DMX transition chamber, it serves no purpose here but to keep your foot from twisting, and trust, there is no danger of that. I also found myself constantly on my toes and ready to run. The heel is built up and keeps you forward and moving. There was no slap-slap as I ran down the floor, and moving from defense to offense was easy and quick.
Cushioning. Again, too bad. The original DMX 10 was very difficult to translate to basketball as it didn’t really account for lateral movement of the air. The I-Pak was better suited for the movements of basketball and just fit Iverson’s game. It moved from front to back, like Iverson moving from still to full-speed in an instant. When Reebok basketball dropped off around 2003, DMX became non-existent unless you were a mall walker. The foam version appeared in running shoes first, and it may work there, but this shoe NEEDS I-Pak. Hear me, Reebok? The foam does have some suitable properties, and I felt cushioned on landings, but it ain’t the same. There was just not a noticeable “bounce” or feel like the new adidas foam or Micro G, much less Zoom.
Comfort. The shoe rules here. One of the most comfortable in 2001, and still hitting all points. No chafing, no hot spots, no lace pressure. The ankle lining is leather and seems to get hot, but nothing to complain about. Again, the padding around the ankle is thick, so it forms up around the ankle bone. The foot just feels protected.
Finally, a plea with Reebok. Keep them coming. You had one of the all-time most polarizing figures in the NBA, or any sport for that matter, and you have sat on his shoes for years. The public is drooling over your back catalog – Iversons, Kemps, Shaqs. The bold designs and advertising were pure ’90s and the shoe game needs some of that brought back. The world was a better place when The Answer was crossing up the NBA and the Vector was crossing up the sneaker business. I won’t say the Answer IV outperforms every shoe on the market today, but it is better than 80% of what you will find on the wall at Foot Locker in the basketball section. Definitely grab these if you remember when tats and ‘rows were controversial. Don’t get them to rock with that Lue home jersey.