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October 21, 2021

Allen Iverson-inspired basketball hoop sculpture installed in East Kensington by city artist

Gianni Lee teamed up with Reebok to pay homage to the Sixers legend ahead of the release of the new Question Mid 'Class of 16'

Arts & Culture Basketball
Iverson Gianni Lee Courtesy/Kahleel Frazier

Artist Gianni Lee installed a sculpture at 2300 Frankford Ave. in East Kensington to pay tribute to Philadelphia 76ers legend Allen Iverson.

As Sixers fans watch Ben Simmons' relationship with the team and city rapidly deteriorate, it can be a healthy escape to reflect on the legacy of Allen Iverson as a reminder of what an athlete's dedication to Philadelphia looks like at its best.

Years have passed since the NBA Hall of Famer suited up for the Sixers, but one artist recently teamed up with Reebok to create a tribute in Philly to A.I.

Gianni Lee, a West Philly native, has installed a sculpture with three playable basketball nets at 2300 Frankford Ave., in East Kensington. The installation is inspired by Iverson's career and features colors from the uniforms of the various teams where he played – a list that includes the Sixers, Nuggets, Pistons and Grizzlies.

The colors also are featured on Reebok's soon-to-be-released Question Mid "Class of '16" sneakers, honoring Iverson's Hall of Fame induction in 2016.

Lee said the sculpture is inspired by the street courts he observed growing up in West Philadelphia, with hoops often constructed from easy-to-find materials like plywood and milk crates.

“I remember Iverson being a rising star at the time, and a lot of my friends had Iversons, so to be celebrating his induction into the Hall of Fame seems like a sort of homecoming," Lee said. "He has in some way impacted the lives of everyone in the city directly or indirectly. Iverson made me want to go get it. No fuss, no excuses. Just go get it.”

Gianni Lee Iverson ThreeCourtesy/Kahleel Frazier

Artist Gianni Lee works on his basketball net sculpture to honor Allen Iverson's legacy.

Iverson Frankford SculptureCourtesy/Kahleel Frazier

Gianni Lee's Allen Iverson tribute sculpture in East Kensington

A similar installation for Shaquille O'Neil had been installed in Los Angeles by artist Rick Dove. Shaq also wore Reeboks during his NBA career and, like Iverson, was a member of the 2016 class inducted into Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

After several years with Reebok, O'Neal actually walked away from a $40 million contract with the sneaker company in favor of starting his own line of sneakers sold at Walmart at affordable prices. 

The artwork in Philadelphia and Los Angeles are part of Reebok's "Courting Greatness" campaign, which features a digital tool for mobile phones that enables users to map out hypothetical nets and courts where they live.

Though there are a number of basketball courts in the area – Schissler Recreation Center, Towey Playground and Hancock Playground have some of the best nearby – the Iverson sculpture will be there for a visit to reflect on the Sixers star whose impact in Philadelphia continues to inspire kids to play hoops.

Those interested in Lee's art – a mix of influences from Jean-Michel Basquiat-style skeletons to alien beings – should check out an online gallery of his work including paintings and street art around Philadelphia.