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Derrick Rose Channels His Inner Allen Iverson for Adidas

Barry JanoffCorrespondent IMay 24, 2011

Derrick Rose in his new commercial for adidas, looking a lot like Allen Iverson.
Derrick Rose in his new commercial for adidas, looking a lot like Allen Iverson.

A young man wearing a hooded sweatshirt is seen moving through neighborhood streets, sharing images from his past and present in a moody, sometimes dark spot intended to sell basketball shoes.

In 2003, that would have been Allen Iverson on the streets of Philadelphia in a commercial for Reebok's The Answer 7 basketball shoes.

In 2011, it's Derrick Rose on the streets of Chicago in a commercial for adidas' adiZero Crazy Light basketball shoes.

Not by coincidence, Reebok is a division of adidas.

The Rose spot, "What's in a Number?" broke on ESPN during the Western Conference Finals game between the Dallas Mavericks and Oklahoma City Thunder on May 23.

It will air again on TNT on May 24 during the Eastern Conference Finals game between the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat and continue through the NBA Finals on TNT, ESPN and ABC. 

In "What's in a Number?" shots of Rose making plays for the Chicago Bulls are interspersed with him making his way through the Englewood section of Chicago where he grew up.

We see locations from Rose's youth, including the El train, the Chicago Park District's Murray Playground and the It's Yours barber shop.

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"Remember this number: 9.8," Rose says in voiceover. That number appears in several locations as he traverses the streets, including a bank sign displaying interest rates and on the barber shop window.

However, Rose continues, "That's not the time on the shot clock. Or the seconds left in the game. It's not the number of times I will light you up. Nine-point-eight isn't any of that."

As we get a shot Rose of holding the new signature adiZero Crazy Light, he says, "It's ounces. And that makes this the lightest shoe ever."

In his Reebok spot eight years ago, Iverson also is consumed by numbers.

The commercial opens with Iverson, then with the Philadelphia 76ers, purposely missing a free throw, getting the rebound, but then unable to take a shot as time expires in a 114-112 defeat to the New York Knicks.

The next day, Iverson is up at 5 AM, his head covered by the hood of his sweatshirt, running and dribbling a ball through the streets of Philadelphia.

He makes his way past people and local landmarks, ultimately ending up recreating the scene from Rocky in which Sylvester Stallone runs up the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum. Like Stallone, Iverson looks back at the city and raises his arms in victory.

A closing shot shows Iverson holding his signature The Answer 7 shoe.

In their respective commercials, the outright and subliminal comparisons are striking. But the links between Rose and Iverson extend much deeper.

Rose is a 6'3" guard who played one year at Memphis before declaring himself eligible for the NBA draft.

He was selected No. 1 overall by the Chicago Bulls in 2008.

He was Rookie of the Year 2008-09 and NBA MVP 2010-11.

Iverson is a 6'0" guard who played two years at Georgetown before declaring himself eligible for the NBA draft.

He was selected No. 1 overall by the Philadelphia 76ers in 1996.

He was Rookie of the Year 1996-97 and MVP in 2000-01.

He currently plays for Besiktas Cola Turka in the Turkish Basketball League.

As Rose seems to be doing more and more, Iverson spent most of his NBA career defending his public image. His situation was probably best summed up in a 2005 commercial that was part of Reebok's "I Am Who I Am" campaign.

In that commercial, Iverson is seen not on a basketball court, but shooting pool.

"People have so many perceptions of me," he says. "Some of them think I'm always trying to be on the tough side. I'm not a gangsta. I'm not a thug. On a basketball court, I'm hard. I'm tough. But off the court, that ain't who I want my kids to feel like that's who their daddy is."

Iverson continues, "Because I look the way I look, I act the way I act, I dress the way I dress, people think I'm trying to be tough. That's just my environment. That's where I came from. I can't be somebody else. All I can be is the best Allen Iverson that I can be."

Nearly a decade later, adidas may have Derrick Rose walking the same path.


Barry Janoff is Executive Editor at NYSportsJournalism.com.

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