Unquestionably the most popular sneaker around in the early to mid ’00s, the Nike Dunk is back at the top of every sneakerhead’s release radar thanks to a concerted effort by the Swoosh to restore the silhouette to its former greatness. It all started when Nike rehired former SB designer James Arizumi to lead its skateboarding division in late 2018. Hyped collaborations with the likes of Supreme, Diamond Supply Co., and CNCPTS followed, before Virgil Abloh and Travis Scott’s co-signing of the model helped bring it back into the spotlight.
With a new generation of sneakerhead now being exposed to the Nike Dunk, it can sometimes be hard to separate the hype of a collaboration such as Off-White™ x Nike Dunk with the essence of skate and Nike SB culture. That’s why we’ve rounded up our favorite Nike Dunks (both SB and mainline) for you below. Our selection consists of a mixture of older colorways from Nike SB’s heyday, as well as some of the newer collaborations from the past 18 months. We’ve tried to keep the selection relative wallet-friendly, with a good mix of styles so everyone can find what they like.
The Nike Dunk — as its name suggests — was once a basketball shoe before being adapted to the needs of skaters. That’s why we’re big fans of this year’s “Shadow” Dunk Low, which takes the classic Air Jordan 1 colorway and puts it on the low-top skate shoe. The original “J-Pack” Dunk Low was released in 2005, albeit with the iconic “Royal” Air Jordan 1 color scheme.
What’s there to say about Nike’s famous Viotech colorway that hasn’t already been said? Originally released as a Japan exclusive in 2002, the Viotech’s vibrant color scheme design became a big hit for sneakerheads in that era and was brought back with updated colors in 2013. Last year’s drop stayed true to the OG.
Late last year, Nike SB brought back one of the most beloved Dunks of its golden era, the “Raygun” colorway that originally dropped in 2005. The colorway returned as a tribute to the late Sandy Bodecker, the veteran Nike employee and godfather of Nike SB who passed away in 2018. The original release got its name from the Roswell Rayguns, a fictional ABA team that was the focus of a Nike ad campaign during the 2002 NBA Playoffs and shared the same color scheme.
Centered around Valentine’s Day, this collaborative Dunk Low draws from StrangeLove founder Sean Cliver’s affinity for skateboarding. It’s not the easiest to wear and is part of the newer generation of Nike SB, however, it was an instant hit upon release and we can see this pair becoming a classic in the not-too-distant future.
Dutch artist Piet Parra and Nike have a longstanding relationship, which has produced a number of beautiful and highly-collectible sneakers. That’s why it was no surprise to anyone that their collaborative Dunk Low would turn out to be one of the most popular releases of the summer in 2019. The Dunks dropped alongside a pair of Blazer Lows, which are equally as beautiful.
The “Syracuse” Dunk Low is named after the college basketball team featured in the original Be True To Your School (BTTYS) Nike Dunk pack from 1985. Unlike the original release, Nike opted for a Low version this time around. Rumor has it, that Nike will be bringing back the entire BTTYS pack in low-top versions. Kentucky Basketball alumnus Devin Booker was seen wearing a pair of “Kentucky” Nike Dunk Lows during NBA All Star weekend, though Nike has yet to confirm the rumors.
Pro skater Oskar Rozenberg-Hallberg, aka Oski, teamed up with Nike in 2019 on this Shark-Swoosh Dunk High. “I’ve always been intimidated of sharks,” said Oski of the collaboration. “They look so brutal and they move so skillfully through the water. They are the kings of their environment in my eyes. One of my favorite animals and just really iconic looking. I feel like if you can do anything as effortless as a [shark] can swim, you’re doing it right.”
As mentioned above, Virgil Abloh became the latest celebrity to cosign the Nike Dunk when he released his three-pack of collaborative Nike Dunk Lows. The sneakers, like anything Abloh touches, were immediately hyped to the heavens, however, the hiking-inspired lacing system gives enough of a intrigue that they can’t be ignored — both for their influence and their design.
Soulland, the Copenhagen, Denmark-based brand, is one of Nike’s most exciting collaborators because of its ingenuity when it comes to reimagining existing silhouettes. Dropping in December 2017, the co-branded Dunk High sees Soulland strip the model of its padding around the collar and tongue, giving the shoe a deconstructed feel. A double Swoosh on either side seals the deal as one of the best Nike Dunks in recent memory.
Inspired by man’s best friend, the Nike SB Dunk High “Dog Walker” is jam-packed with fun dog details, the most entertaining being the brown mark on the outsole to symbolize stepping on dog poop. Of course, the sneaker’s release date of 4/20 also doubles as “Weed Day.” So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that some of the details also double as weed references. The green “grass” suede is reminiscent of 2010’s “Skunk” Dunk Highs. The dog tag with “Sparky” on it could be an allusion to “sparking” up. Also the phrase “walking the dog” is slang for being somewhere or doing something you’re not exactly supposed to be doing, such as smoking weed.
On Black Friday 2012, Nike and long-time collaborator CONCEPTS dropped a highly-limited run of the “When Pigs Fly” Dunk High. The sneaker was inspired by the classic ’80s movie, Porky’s, and is still one of the most eye-catching Dunks ever made thanks to its pink upper, metallic silver Swoosh, and gum outsole.
Not only is Overkill’s 2017 Dunk Low highly-limited (only around 250 pairs were released), they are deeply inspired by Overkill founder Marc Leuschner’s childhood spent in East Berlin’s Plattenbau buildings, a hallmark of East German architecture. The sneakers are super lowkey but are packed with hidden details that include golden lace tips, special insoles, and embroidered detailing on the heels.
The Piet Mondrian-inspired Nike SB Dunk Low was released in 2008 and represents the early days of Nike SB. Its clear color blocking is a nod to Dutch painter Piet Mondrian’s instantly recognizable style and makes you feel like you’re wearing artwork on your feet.
Travis Scott is arguably today’s most famous Nike SB fan, his Instagram feed often an exhibition of some of the rarest and most expensive Dunks ever released. After much speculation, it was confirmed that he would be getting his own Dunk low, which features a removable upper around the toe and sides. Only time will tell how these will stack up to some of the classic releases, though rest assured that the hype is out of this world.