The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History

The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 1

Any definitive ranking of sneakers — let alone one of the most Zeitgeisty silhouettes ever — will be controversial. Nevertheless, we’ve taken on the daunting task of ranking the 50 most influential Nike Dunks of all time.

The Nike Dunk has been around for quite some time and is enjoying a bona fide revival right now, thanks to a combination of Nike’s concerted effort to push its SB subdivision, streetwear icons such as Travis Scott and Virgil Abloh adopting the silhouette, and – of course – the cyclical nature of fashion. The Nike Dunk debuted in 1985 and was originally a basketball shoe geared toward college athletes, but that began to change in the late ’90s and early ’00s when Nike SB adopted the silhouette and made it its own.

Releases such as Jeff Staple’s “Pigeon” Dunk Low kickstarted sneaker culture as we know it today, so it’s only right that  the Nike SB Dunk is back to its full glory over a decade later.

The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 2

Release Date: July 2004
Significance: Californian surfers were the ones that brought us skating, so it’s only right the Golden State’s flag was commemorated with a Dunk.

The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 3

Release Date: March 2003
Significance: The “Bison” was one of the first Dunks to arrive in the new silver and black box of that era. It featured an all-suede upper and rare brown/gum split sole.

The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 4

Release Date: December 2017
Significance: The second part of Soulland’s ongoing collaboration with Nike SB, this more contemporary pair featured a mini Swoosh over the regular Swoosh, as well as premium materials.

The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 5

Release Date: June 2002
Significance: This “Paul Brown” Dunk was Nike SB’s first-ever High and became a hit thanks to its muted earth tones.

The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 6

Release Date: 2004
Significance: This Dunk High was inspired by the godfather of Nike SB, Sandy Bodecker, and the washed-out sea glass he used to collect as a child on the beaches of Connecticut.

The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 7
The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 8

Release Date: November 2004 (1) and September 2005 (2)
Significance: The first “Shanghai” Dunk Low was mostly an Asian-exclusive and was inspired by the temples of Shanghai. The second colorway was inspired by a traditional bamboo steamer.

The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 9

Release Date: April 2011
Significance: This shoe, 2011’s 4/20 release, took direct inspiration from Cheech and Chong, America’s first iconic stoners.

The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 10

Release Date: February 2020
Significance: Another contemporary release, this time by way of Sean Cliver and his StrangeLove skateboarding company. This particular pair celebrated Valentine’s Day with a lot of plush pink panelling.

The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 11

Release Date: February 2020
Significance: Travis Scott is a huge fan of Nike SBs and — as Nike’s most marketable asset — finally got a chance to give the Dunk Low his own spin in 2020.

The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 12

Release Date: February 2017
Significance: It’s not often a high-end brand like COMME des GARÇONS collaborates on a Dunk, let alone swaps out the upper for a clear material, which is why this Dunk High is so significant.

The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 13

Release Date: March 2002
Significance: Richard Mulder’s “Colors By” Dunk Low was a nod to his Los Angelino roots and took on a simple white and blue colorway.

The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 14

Release Date: N/A
Significance: This pair’s color scheme was inspired by the Heaven’s Gate cult and the black and purple cloths found at the site of their mass suicide. This was found to be in bad taste by the higher-ups at Nike, and the release was scrapped, making any remaining pairs very rare.

The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 15
The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 16

Release Date: February 2005
Significance: This was the first shoe to feature the Nike SB logo on the tongue. The yin and yang colorways were created as a nod to the fictional ABA basketball team named the Roswell Rayguns, which was the protagonist of a Nike marketing campaign.

The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 17

Release Date: July 2004
Significance: This collaboration between Medicom and Nike SB was only offered to registered Medicom members and was the first Dunk SB to feature a double-layered Swoosh.

The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 18

Release Date: November 2006
Significance: This Dunk Low was the second to draw from Mexican culture as inspiration and was designed by Christian Salinas Medina.

The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 19
The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 20
The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 21

Release Date: November 2006
Significance: This pack featured a high, low, and mid that took inspiration from a fairytale most all of us know: Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 22

Release Date: 2005
Significance: Josh Franklin, aka Stash, was one of the most prominent graffiti artists. In 2003, he exhibited his work at the now defunct Parisian concept store Colette. Titled “Tools of the Trade: Product Division,” he teamed up with Nike to launch 50 pairs of stunning Dunk Lows featuring paint drip on the lateral panels and his signature tag on the heel.

The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 23

Release Date: January 2004
Significance: This pair was supposed to be released at London’s “White Dunk: Evolution of an Icon” event, though that was cancelled and the pairs were later sold through Foot Patrol. An outline of the river Thames is embroidered on the heel.

The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 24

Release Date: August 2006
Significance: This pair was designed by Singapore-based artist Mark “Sabotage” Ong, who rose to fame in the sneaker customization world.

The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 25

Release Date: January 2001
Significance: Both pairs were designed by Alyasha Owerka-Moore and only given to friends and family, as well as team members of Nike SB.

The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 26

Release Date: July 2007
Significance: Acclaimed underground rapper MF DOOM was tapped to design a high-top Dunk, which has since become one of the most coveted Highs of all time.

The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 27

Release Date: September 2006
Significance: Artist Michael Lau’s Nike collaborations are usually closer to a work of art than something you’d put on your feet, and this woodgrain Dunk Low based off of his comic strip “Gardener” is no different.

The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 28

Release Date: November 2004
Significance: HUF’s collaborative Dunk High channeled San Francisco’s free spirit with the ti-dye print, done up in the SF Giants’ orange and black color scheme.

The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 29
The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 30

Release Date: October 2005 (Low)
Significance: Both the Highs and Lows took inspiration from De La Soul’s debut album’s trippy, neo-psychedelic artwork.

The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 31
The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 32
The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 33
The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 34
The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 35

Release Date: Various
Significance: Concepts’ ongoing partnership with Nike has spawned a number of lobster-inspired colorways — some more rare than others but all of equal significance when considering the hype and popularity of Nike Dunks.

The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 36
The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 37
The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 38

Release Date: August 2003
Significance: Arriving in three colorways, this Dunk High was originally intended to have a Nike logo repeat pattern, though that was ditched in favor of stars when the sneaker was eventually released.

The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 39

Release Date: January 2004
Significance: This dunk, like the London version, was part of the “White Dunk City Series” and strictly limited to 202 pairs raffled off via lottery. This pair featured no heel or tongue logos, making it a truly blank canvas.

The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 40

Release Date: December 2004
Significance: This pair, like its predecessor, was offered only through Medicom’s website and opted for an all-denim upper, calling back to Reese Forbes’ denim Dunk.

The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 41
The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 42

Release Date: 2003
Significance: NYC-born graffiti artist Eric Haze added his signature style to a Dunk High and a Dunk Low, both of which were one of the earliest instances of an artist collaborating on a pair of sneakers.

The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 43

Release Date: May 2004
Significance: Officially dubbed “Baroque Brown,” this Dunk Low is said to be inspired by Master Yoda’s garb, as well as Jedi lightsabers.

The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 44

Release Date: July 2005
Significance: Stüssy Team Manager Robbie Jeffers designed this Dunk Low to look like Neapolitan ice-cream. The tongue even featured a literal cherry on top.

The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 45

Release Date: March 2003
Significance: Leonard Hilton McGurr a.k.a. Futura took inspiration from the NYC subway steel canvas for one of his earliest Nike SB collaborations.

The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 46
The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 47
The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 48

Release Date: April 2004
Significance: This was the first 4/20-inspired pack and introduced a brand new material to the Nike SB line: hemp.

The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 49
The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 50

Release Date: June 2002
Significance: East Coast meets West Coast in this two-sneaker pack designed by New York’s Zoo York and LA-based Chocolate Skateboards. The cross on the heel of the Chocolate pair was a nod to team rider Keenan Milton, who tragically passed away in 2001.

The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 51

Release Date: 2001
Significance: Originally released in 2002, the Viotech featured a vibrant clash of colors making it instantly recognizable. Coupled with a premium suede finish, the Viotech Dunk Pro B has become a defining icon that has been reissued multiple times.

The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 52

Release Date: April 2010
Significance: The “Skunk” Dunk is probably the most iconic 4/20-themed Nike Dunk thanks to its obvious weed inspiration and hairy green suede. A reverse Skunk was dropped in April 2020.

The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 53

Release Date: September 2004
Significance: This is another pair designed by longtime Nike SB collaborator Futura, this time in partnership with musical ensemble U.N.K.L.E. The High ended up releasing to the public, while there is also an unreleased low version.

The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 54

Release Date: March 2002
Significance: The second-ever Nike SB Dunk is a homage to New York City and was designed by Danny Supasirirat. The white, orange, and blue colorway is an obvious nod to two of New York’s sports teams.

The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 55

Release Date: June 2003
Significance: One of the most iconic Nike Dunks, this pair takes obvious inspiration from one of the most popular beers in the world. Due to legal issues, this pair was never actually released and is officially called “Classic Green.”

The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 56

Release Date: October 2007
Significance: Some of the most iconic colorways were included in this mash up pair, making this a real looker in addition to a collector’s item.

The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 57
The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 58

Release Date: 1999
Significance: Before Nike SB was officially established in 2002, the Dunk silhouette was turned into a skateboarding shoe as part of the Pro B line. The “Smurf” and “Putty” were Nike skateboarding before Nike SB.

The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 59

Release Date: December 2002
Significance: For Reese Forbes’ second Dunk collab, he tapped artist and fellow skater Natas Kaupas to create this frayed denim pair that has risen to iconic status.

The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 60

Release Date: 1999
Significance: Back in the late ’90s, Nike re-released its original “Be True” Dunk collection, with a special reworked goldenrod colorway for the University of Iowa, which was turned into the famed “Wu-Tang” Dunks. Only 36 pairs are believed to have been produced.

The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 61

Release Date: N/A
Significance: This blood-splattered, Freddy Krueger-inspired pair was created to celebrate A Nightmare on Elm Street’s villain, but product had to be halted due to legal issues. Only a few pairs made it out to the public, making this a real rarity.

The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 62

Release Date: August 2005
Significance: This is one of the first Dunks to go viral and generate a visceral level of hype unseen before. The colors are taken from Tiffany & Co. and the sneaker was designed by Diamond Supply Co. founder Nick Tershay.

The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 63

Release Date: March 2004
Significance: Designed by Futura, this “For Love Or Money” Dunk High features a pattern created from different denominations of printed money and was produced in a friends and family run of only 24.

The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 64

Release Date: March 2005
Significance: This was the final edition of the “City Series” and is the Dunk that probably kickstarted sneaker culture as we know it today. Good enough for spot four, which may prove to be controversial.

The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 65
The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 66

Release Date: September 2002
Significance: Limited to 500 pairs each and featuring the Air Jordan 3’s iconic elephant print, we don’t really need to say much more about Supreme’s first-ever SB Dunks.

The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 67

Release Date: August 2003
Significance: This pair was also part of the “White Dunk” city series and was designed in collaboration with French painter Bernard Buffet. The release at the exhibition was cancelled and pairs were sold through select Nike SB accounts in highly-limited numbers.

The 50 Most Influential Nike Dunks in History 68

Release Date: 1985
Significance: Many would have put Jeff Staple’s “Pigeon” Dunks top of the ranking but can you really ignore the OG 1985 BTTYS pack that kickstarted the whole Dunk mania?

To stay updated on everything happening in the sneaker world, follow @highsnobietysneakers on Instagram, check our sneaker release date calendar, and subscribe to our sneaker chatbot on Facebook to receive lightning-quick updates to your inbox.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.