The question of whom to pair with the Answer wasn't easy. The 76ers tried Jerry Stack-house, then Jimmy Jackson, then Aaron McKie—all talented two guards who seemed to be good complements to the 6-foot Allen Iverson. None of them fit. In fact, the bigger the scorer, the more Iverson's game suffered. When things looked bleakest, along came point guard Eric Snow. "I love playing with Allen," says the 6'3", 204-pound Snow. "The only problem is that I catch myself watching him sometimes. I can't help it."
Watching has always been a useful habit for Snow. As a freshman at Michigan State in 1991-92 he learned decision-making from senior teammate Mark Montgomery. As a Sonics rookie in 1995-96 he studied the moves of Gary Payton and soaked up advice from veteran Nate McMillan. Ever since he was a kid in Canton, Ohio, Snow has been the one who didn't say much but was always there, listening, observing, trying to get better. "Eric used to follow me wherever I went," says the eldest of Snow's three brothers, Patrick, 38, who played basketball in junior college. "When I put on my sneakers, he'd put his on, and when we got home from the park, he wouldn't take his off until I did."
Eric chose not to follow the most athletically talented of his six siblings. When he was a seventh-grader, his brother Percy was named Ohio's defensive player of the year as a McKinley High linebacker. He would go on to win the Lombardi Award at Michigan State and to be the Chiefs' No. 1 choice in the '90 draft. Eric was a Pop Warner standout, but he shocked coaches at McKinley, a football powerhouse, by not going out for the team. "I was big into football then, no question," says Snow. "But there was so much pressure because of Percy, I think it pushed me to basketball."
After starring in hoops at McKinley, Eric did follow Percy to East Lansing, where he finished second in career assists. The football staff let it be known that Percy's little brother might be able to stick around and play defensive back as a fifth-year senior, but Snow demurred, and he was selected in the second round of the '95 NBA draft. "I really had to move on," he says. "It was time to make my own name."
When Philadelphia acquired him from Seattle for a second-round choice in January 1998, Snow was hardly a hot property, having averaged just 9.8 minutes a game in his career. But before last season Sixers coach Larry Brown switched Iverson to shooting guard and made Snow a starter. Just as the steadiness of Joe Dumars enhanced the creativity of Isiah Thomas on the great Pistons teams, the rock-solid Snow has freed up Iverson, who last season led the NBA in scoring and at week's end was pouring in a league-best 31.3 points a game. Through Sunday's games Snow was averaging 7.3 points, 6.8 assists and just 1.8 turnovers while playing defense with the toughness and anticipation of a strong safety. "When Eric's not on the floor, it can get rough for me," says the Answer. "He always puts the ball where you want it."
From Kansas City, where he is now a construction worker, Percy keeps close tabs on Eric. "No doubt he could have been a great football player," Percy says. "But I think he's doing all right anyway."