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Allen Iverson’s iconic ‘Slam’ magazine cover still resonates 20 years later — The Undefeated

Allen Iverson’s iconic ‘Slam’ magazine cover still resonates 20 years later — The Undefeated

Allen Iverson on the cover of ‘SLAM Magazine’

Courtesy of SLAM Magazine

A classroom at New York’s Faculty of Visual Arts might sound a uncommon place for Allen Iverson to pop up, however that’s what happened eight years ago when a magazine cover picture of the Hall of Fame guard flashed on the display during an editorial images session. As Clay Patrick McBride showed his class the image of Iverson, the 1999 Slam magazine shot featuring Iverson with full ‘fro in impact, a scholar jumped to his ft.

“ ‘Oh, s—, you shot that picture? I had that on my wall in my bedroom,’ ” McBride recalled the scholar saying as he interrupted the category.

It’s the type of reaction McBride stated he will get every time he brings up the cover.

That cover picture of Philadelphia 76ers star Iverson sporting a Mitchell & Ness throwback jersey alongside the caption “Allen Iverson is Soul on Ice” celebrates its 20th anniversary this month. It was situation No. 32 for Slam, the bimonthly publication launched in 1994 that offered a lens into the lives of up-and-coming and established basketball stars that few publications might match.

Most of the cover photographs of Slam are classics.

The March 1999 cover of Iverson is legend.

“Whenever I bring up I worked for Slam, that’s the first issue I get asked about,” stated Russ Bengtson, whose profile of Iverson for that difficulty was his first cover story for the publication. “Even if I hadn’t written that story, that’s one of my favorite covers of all time. I’m honored to be connected to such a great image.”

The picture was the thought of Tony Gervino, a present senior vice chairman at Tidal who, 20 years in the past, was the highest editor at Slam. It was shot in the course of the 1998-99 NBA lockout, and the Slam employees was involved about publishing a problem with no NBA. The employees came up with publishing a throwback concern, Gervino needed the publication to function Iverson in a pose mimicking an previous photograph of Sixers legend Julius Erving, sporting his full Afro and holding an ABA ball.

“Iverson’s hair being out was a big deal for me,” Gervino stated. “Slam always operated in opposition to what the NBA was doing. We wanted to juxtapose Iverson with a classic NBA image. And you couldn’t get more classic than the picture we found with Dr. J.”

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Though Slam was dealing with challenges getting credentialed to cover NBA games on the time, the publication was having little drawback getting access to NBA gamers.

“Hip-hop and street culture was having a progressively more dominant influence on pop culture, and people like Iverson, Stephon Marbury and the Jay-Zs of the world back then all recognized the energy we were bringing,” stated Don Morris, Slam’s artistic director. “At the time, ESPN The Magazine hadn’t modernized its look. We were on the cutting edge of pop culture, sports, visually, and the tone and character of the brand was unique and ahead of its time.”

As soon as Morris acquired the idea for the cover, he reached out to McBride for the shoot. McBride, who was 31 at the time, remembers the call from Morris and the directions he gave for his first cover task:

“ ‘Just get me some dope photos. Peace. Click.’ ”

Understanding little or no about Iverson, McBride began researching the 76ers level guard and came upon about his arrest in high school, his standout career at Georgetown and the notion of him being rebellious as soon as he reached the NBA. Whereas Iverson had yet to be named an NBA All-Star on the time of the 1999 cover, his road cred in the league was unmatched.

“He was a badass and I was a badass,” McBride stated. “I was not starstruck, and I was just there to do a job: make him look tough and cool.”

McBride’s favorite memory of the shoot?

“Him showing up,” McBride stated, laughing.

The shoot, scheduled for midday stored getting pushed again, and for each hour that passed the photographer was involved about whether Iverson would seem.

“When it hit 10 hours, I thought I might bounce,” McBride stated. “But because [Gervino and Morris] were there, I felt they would just sit on me until they definitely felt he wasn’t going to come.”

Morris by no means had a doubt.

“I ran Slam, XXL and Honey, and the one constant is that you wait for rappers and players — I once waited eight hours for Rakim at the Metropolitan Museum,” Morris stated. “It was my job to make sure everyone was where they needed to be. The important thing was to get Clay there and make sure he didn’t leave.”

Iverson lastly confirmed up at midnight, pulling up in a stretch Hummer with an entourage that included relations and Que Gaskins, on the time the senior director of selling at Reebok. As McBride finished the ultimate levels of his prep, Iverson took a seat on the ground in front of a chair occupied by a lady in his touring group. Her job was to take out Iverson’s braids and create a rare search for the eventual four-time NBA scoring champion.

“Iverson had never been photographed in an afro, and I wrote a pitch to Que telling him what we wanted to do,” Gervino stated. “Iverson didn’t understand why we were doing it. He just didn’t want us to clown him.”

Together with his hair out (within the Erving-like ‘fro) and his throwback 76ers jersey on (made by Mitchell & Ness—years away from mass producing throwbacks), an iced-out Iverson was led to the two units — one pink background, one white — for the collection of iconic photographs.

McBride was by no means given a time limit on his shoot, but he knew from experience not to waste any moments.

“You never know when these guys are going to peace out,” McBride stated. “I once did a shoot with [Young] Jeezy and he bounced because he wasn’t feeling the clothes. He spent more time getting a facial than time on my set.”

That wasn’t the case with Iverson, who spoke few phrases in the course of the shoot but gave McBride the whole lot he needed. In some photographs (including the cover), Iverson posed in the throwback jersey, holding an ABA-style purple, white and blue basketball. Different photographs included Iverson in his 1999 Sixers jersey making a collection of hand gestures.

After the shoot, which McBride stated lasted about 25 minutes, the Slam editors have been wanting to get again to the workplace to see what they needed to work with.

“There are times you see 20 contact sheets from a shoot and you hope there’s a shot you can use,” Bengtson stated. “With that Iverson shoot, every frame was incredible. Of all the photos we featured in the story, any of them could have been the cover.”

The shoot captured the very essence of Iverson, who, despite dealing with picture points that went back to his days in high school, all the time managed to take care of a sense of authenticity that’s troublesome to seek out in players in the present day.

Iverson and different NBA players placed their trust in Slam.

Slam, in return, delivered a slice of lifetime of the players that was real.

Dennis Paige, the proprietor of Slam who launched the magazine, stated the Iverson “Soul on Ice” cover personifies the Slam era. “We’ve had many memorable covers, but of the 270-plus covers that we’ve done, it’s the most iconic,” Paige stated. “Allen Iverson is what Slam is all about. That cover still matters. I think Iverson propelled us, and we are proud to have been a part of his entire basketball career.”

The principals from that photograph shoot are still related.

Slam is a sponsor of the Allen Iverson Roundball Basic, a high school all-star recreation that will probably be performed in Souderton, Pennsylvania, next month. One of many pictures used to advertise the basic is from the “Soul on Ice” shoot.

It’s about that point! #IversonClassic tix out there now ???

— Allen Iverson Roundball Basic (@iversonclassic) March 18, 2019

McBride will talk about the 20th anniversary of the shoot throughout an occasion on the Morrison Lodge Gallery in New York on April 13. Restricted-edition prints of the cover picture, signed by Iverson and McBride, might be bought.

“I’ve shot people like LeBron James, Kanye West and Jay-Z for publications ranging from Rolling Stone to Sports Illustrated,” McBride stated. “But that Iverson cover, my first cover for Slam, was the jump-off to my career.”

That cover was so memorable that Slam attempted to duplicate it with Joel Embiid two years in the past.

Philly’s next celebrity gained’t play once more this yr, however The Course of is simply [email protected] covers SLAM 207:

— SLAM (@SLAMonline) March 7, 2017

The Iverson shoot might have indeed accelerated McBride’s profession, but he appears back on the pictures and thinks about what he might have achieved in another way.

“I used a soft light at the time,” McBride stated. “If I were to do it all over again, I would have lit the background more and made it harder and punchier.”

McBride shot Iverson multiple occasions for Slam. And while he recollects Iverson saying little in those subsequent shoots, there’s one remark from the then-Sixers guard that vividly stands out: “He said, ‘That’s the best picture ever taken of me.’ ”


Over the course of his career, McBride has shot memorable pictures of Kobe Bryant holding a black snake (Slam) and Jay-Z as President Carter in an Oval Workplace setting, that includes Kanye West, LeBron James and Foxy Brown (XXL) and came up with the idea of Nas posing as a media assassin holding up burning books (XXL).

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Yet the Iverson “Soul on Ice” cover is still the one that resonates most with individuals.

“When I hear people acknowledge that cover, that’s special to me,” McBride stated. “We drove right down to Philadelphia for a shoot with a man that, on the time, I didn’t know quite a bit about, and now that image is widely known.

“I’m just glad I didn’t leave.”

Jerry Bembry is a senior author at The Undefeated. His bucket record gadgets embrace being serenaded by Lizz Wright, and watching the Knicks play an NBA recreation in June.

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