The new Reebok commercial with Allen Iverson is the most phenomenal piece of advertising on television right now. End of discussion. (Although I guess technically it’s an RBK commercial. Apparently vowels don’t have enough street cred to be a part of Reebok’s hip-hop marketing campaign.) You guys have seen it, right? I mean, it’s just, wow. Every time I see it, I want to grab a hooded sweatshirt, run around the neighborhood dribbling my basketball off of everything in sight and then fly to the USSR to fight a steroid-taking communist because he killed Apollo Creed. That and dunk.

Who are the ad wizards that came up with this? Attention everyone in the business school, if you make commercials like this some day, I’ll buy whatever it is you are selling. At the end of the commercial, Iverson could spike one of those vacuum sealer machines – you know, the one that can turn a huge wool sweater into a vacuum-sealed plastic package the size of a rolled-up pair of socks – and I think I might buy three or four. I probably would have one already.

For a while, I thought I might be the only one obsessed with this commercial. I mean, I am from Philly, so it makes sense that I would love anything that combines The Answer and Rocky. But as I talked to people, I realized I wasn’t alone. I had Pistons fans and Celtics fans spewing praise for the sheer awesomeness of the commercial. This was a bona fide phenomenon, right up there with the way Germans love David Hasselhoff. But in trying to figure exactly what makes this commercial so good, I realized that there are some serious problems with it.

The commercial begins with a dream. Philadelphia is up by six on the Knicks late in the fourth quarter, only to choke away that lead and end up down two with Iverson on the free-throw line with only one shot left. The only thing to do is to miss and go for the rebound. Pulling down his own board with the chance to tie, Iverson mishandles the ball and loses the game.

Obviously, losing a game to the Knicks in the fourth quarter last year has haunted him to the point of nightmares. It doesn’t matter that he dropped 30. He lost. Everything makes sense so far, but this is where things begin to fall apart.

The final horn becomes the blaring buzzer of the alarm clock. It’s 5 a.m. and it’s time for practice. Here’s the first problem with the commercial. I’ve listened to enough talk radio and had enough friends hang out late at night downtown to know that Mr. Iverson is the kind of guy that usually sees 5 a.m. because he’s been up all night. I can’t really imagine him waking up before the sun comes up to work on his dribbling.

Second, this is Iverson. It’s pre-dawn and he’s practicing? We talkin’ ’bout practice? We ain’t even talkin’ ’bout the game? We talkin’ ’bout practice? Now, I can’t put my finger on it, but I think I’ve heard something about this before. I can’t remember when, but I remember him making some sort of comment about it to the media. Hmm.

Anyway, even if you move past these egregious problems, the geography of the commercial makes no sense whatsoever. Iverson lives out on the Main Line, which is west and slightly north of the city. So he wakes up out there, runs through the Italian Market and under the El in South Philly (which is, naturally, south of the city) and then all the way back up to the Art Museum? That’s like 20 miles, and he would have to directly pass the Art Museum to get to South Philly. This makes no sense.

But just when it seems like the commercial is failing, things start to come together. It’s not the practice, it’s not the unbelievable dribbling skills, it’s not the countless allusions to Rocky – it’s the look in his eyes at the top of the steps.

Drive. Intensity. Fire. Passion. Pride. That look is all of those things and so much more. It’s as if he is looking out over the skyline, daring someone to want it more than he does. It’s the ineffable look of the guy that you want to have the ball when the game is on the line. I’ve watched plenty of his games in my day, and in every single one of them he has left everything he has on the floor. All this from a guy that’s 6-0 in boots and 165 pounds soaking wet. You can say what you want about his tattoos, his cornrows or his entourage. You can even question his work ethic in practice. But you can never, ever question his desire and his commitment.

That’s why I love this commercial. And that’s why I love Iverson.

Mike Santore can be reached at LACES OUT appears every Friday.

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