John Smallwood - philadelphia daily news YO, MONEY, it's gotta be the shoes. With USA Basketball and Nike announcing yesterday that they have reached a multiyear agreement to make the footwear company a marketing partner and exclusive apparel outfitter of the national team, it's beginning to make a bit more sense as to why Allen Iverson will not be one of the 22 players invited to try out for the team that will compete at the 2006 world championships. I don't want to claim conspiracy theory, but it's mighty interesting that as soon as Nike partners with USA Basketball for the first time ever, Iverson - who just happens be the No. 1 endorser for archrival Reebok - is booted out of the U.S. Olympic loop. Nike will provide uniforms, warmups and practice gear for the team. We could it pass it off as coincidence if not for the fact that no current endorser for Reebok is among the players invited. "We're shocked [about Iverson not being selected], but we aren't thinking conspiracy theory as footwear," Reebok vice president of marketing Todd Krinsky said yesterday. USA Basketball spokesman Craig Miller also denied any connection. "Absolutely not," he said. "The integrity of the selection process and USA Basketball has never been based on our sponsorships. We've had Nike players when we were sponsored by Champion and Reebok. Allen being there in 2004 had nothing to do with Reebok being our sponsor." Given that Iverson's jersey outsells Yao Ming's in China, there is no doubt the 76ers guard would have been the center of attention at the world championships in Japan this summer and the Beijing Olympics in 2008. "We are very surprised," Krinsky said. "We feel he did everything the right way when he went to Athens to put himself in great position to be invited back. "If you look at the 2004 Olympics, he was one of the few guys who honored his commitment. He was a vocal and supportive captain. Even when they were losing, he was positive about things. He is one of the few superstars who's consistently said that he wanted to play for the United States. All those things make us scratch our head... It's just very unfortunate." It's not unfortunate for Nike, which has endorsement deals with 15 of the 22 prospective invitees, including big guns Bruce Bowen, Brad Miller and Luke Ridnour along with the likes of LeBron and Kobe. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh represent Converse, a Nike subsidiary. And adidas, which recently bought Reebok, is represented by Gilbert Arenas, Chauncey Billups, Dwight Howard, Antawn Jamison and Shane Battier. None of those guys is The Answer. So maybe it is the shoes.