Could you tell fight away how good he was? What struck you most, besides the speed, of course?
"In a crazy way, the beginning might have been the best time to see him. He would try anything. Fearless. Everywhere. Offense and defense. When he got the ball, you said to yourself, Pay attention—anything can happen. Anything could happen. He was always going 100 miles an how; pell-mell. You watched and knew he would get better... but more conservative at the same time. Maybe injuries would give him caution, because he was such a little guy at 6 feet, 165 pounds. In the beginning, though, he was a crazy wind, just blowing down the floor every time he had the ball."
A representative from Reebok sits on the new file cabinet in the back of the small, new office. The representative, Que Gaskins, travels with Iverson most of the time. Que is young and cool, a hip adviser in this new land of commercial and social Oz. Reebok is putting out an Iverson sneaker called the Question, because his nickname is the Answer. The ad campaign and the sneaker are in production. An early start to the push is a 40-foot-tall mural of Iverson that has been painted on the side of a building on Columbus Boulevard near Spring Garden Street in Philadelphia. Iverson signed the mural only Monday. He was lifted up in a fire department cherry picker.
"Is that the Question?" I ask Que, pointing at the shoes on Iverson's feet.
"No, that's a Shaq sneaker," Que replies. "The Iverson shoe has red on it. He wore a pair in the game last night. That's a special first edition. It's only going to be sold in Philadelphia and Washington. People are coming here from other cities to try to get a pair. It's pretty much sold out already. The national sneaker will have blue instead of red, and then a black one will be ready for the spring. Hopefully the Sixers will make the playoffs."
The theme for the promotion is speed. Iverson's agent, David Falk, is at the Reebok offices near Boston at this very moment, tossing around ideas with the shoe company's people. All of the ideas involve speed. The Sixers already show a video on the scoreboard with Iverson and the cartoon character Speed Racer sharing the screen.
"He's as quick with the ball as anyone in the history of the league," says Philadelphia coach Johnny Davis. "He's a combination of Isiah Thomas and Tiny Archibald. Fast guys in this league, he makes them look as if they're slow. He has a level beyond their quickness."
"Allen reminds me of Isiah, because he can take over a game," says Sixers assistant coach Maurice Cheeks, like Davis a former championship-winning NBA point guard, who works with Iverson daily in explaining the nuances of NBA life. "He also reminds me of Gus Williams, although Allen is probably quicker than Gus was. You can put Tiny in there too. Allen's ability to beat people off the dribble is going to bring [defenders] to him. He's starting now to make the extra pass, and his assist total is starting to rise."
The other daily travelers with Iverson, besides Que and the coaches, are his three friends from home in Newport News, Va. They live with him now in the suburban Philadelphia apartment that formerly was rented by Sharone Wright, who is now with the Toronto Raptors. They are kids. Iverson is a kid. They duck their heads into the office to see what is happening—one of them, Arthur, delivers a steak-and-cheese hoagie for lunch—and to share in the great adventure.