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10 of The Best Nike SB Dunk Releases of All Time

10 of The Best Nike SB Dunk Releases of All Time

Marking its 20th anniversary in 2022, the Nike SB Dunk is cemented as one of the greatest silhouettes of all time. The cousin to the Nike Dunk which has seen a huge resurgence over recent years propelling what was once a cult classic, back onto the main stage. 

'Be True To Your School' Nike Dunk advert, 1995

However, it didn’t start with the Dunk SB. In 1985, Peter Moore, the designer of the Air Jordan 1, released the Nike Dunk. Created using a blend of the Air Force 1, Air Jordan 1 and the Nike Terminator, the initial release of the Dunk was done in the form of the ‘Be True to Your School’ pack. Releasing in 8 different colourways, the sneakers were designed to represent specific colleges including Iowa, Syracuse, Georgetown etc. each with matching tracksuits.

The Nike Dunk was a hit success when it was first released with its classic advertisement and marketing. Nevertheless, during the late 80s into the early 90s, the Air Jordan 1 prevailed as the basketball sneaker of choice for many with the Dunk being marketed for non-professional players and teams. Due to the lack of popularity around the shoe, they were largely found in discount stores sitting on shelves. 

Skate shoe advert showcasing the initial Nike skate shoes, 1996

Throughout the 90s, Skate culture was something that Nike was trying to tap into with a number of releases in 1996 that ended up being seen as futile attempts at entering a culture they had very little knowledge of. 

However, unbeknownst to Nike at the time, they had created the perfect skate shoe already.

The Nike Dunk was adopted by skaters as their go-to sneaker of choice thanks to the higher ankle support, longer-lasting construction and lower price point when compared to the Air Jordan 1. After realising the popularity the silhouette had within the skate community, Nike made some subtle modifications to the design including a lighter tongue to provide a better wearing experience.

Sandy Bowdecker, founder of Nike SB, where the name SB is derived

While Nike’s previous attempts at entering the skateboarding space were met with negative responses, it was Nike SB (SB standing for Sandy Bodecker, not skateboarding), that paved the way for Nike's illustrious take over of the skateboarding footwear industry. Originally a footwear tester, Bodecker was brought on as the General Manager of Nike SB in 2001, with the official release of the subdivision taking place 20 years ago this year, in 2002. 

Featuring a fat tongue and padded new sock liner as well as a Poron foam bed and a Zoom Air Unit in the heel, the SB Dunk was designed for skaters with comfort in mind. With the release, Nike signed its first skate team consisting of Danny Supa, Gino Ianucci, Richard Mulder and Reese Forbes, each of whom received their own signature colourway.

Since its official release in 2002, the Nike SB Dunk has been the canvas for some of the greatest collaborations of all time:

MF Doom x Nike SB Dunk High - 2007 (Black Box Era)

Released in collaboration with the legendary MF Doom (AKA Daniel Dumile), the MF Doom SB Dunk was released in July of 2007. The collaboration marked Nike SB’s second collaboration with a hip hop artist following De La Soul in 2005. 

Premium materials with ostrich leather and soft nubuck made up the largely minimal upper with a hit of colour from the red laces. Additional details included a 3M ‘Doom’ logo on the ankle flap, a silver tongue and silver piping to represent the iconic Dr Doom mask the rapper wore.

CNCPTS x Nike SB Dunk ‘Lobster’ - 2008 - 2018 (Gold and Blue Box Era)

Concepts’ Nike SB Dunk ‘Lobster’ pack contains some of the rarest in the SB collaboration lineage. Beginning with a red, blue and yellow (a friends and family exclusive) rendition of the shoe, later to release a purple colourway in 2018, it was the marketing and rollout of the sneakers that made them special. 

For the rollout of the ‘Blue Lobster’ CNCPTS released fake news reports of a dangerous blue lobster that was killing fishermen on the Boston shores. The news reports then went on to tease the release of the collaboration.

Each pair of the SB Lobster had a special shoebox design including a wooden fishing box with accompanying ‘Concepts Fishing Co’ merch for the OG Red colourway. 

   

Nike SB Dunk Low 'Jedi' - 2004 (Pink Box Era)

Inspired by the Jedi Master ‘Yoda’ from the Star Wars saga, the Jedi Nike SB Dunk is one of the most iconic colourways in the pink box era. Featuring green tumbled leather overlays against soft leather panels on the upper, it's the fluorescent green laces and detailing that set the shoe off. 

Reminiscent of Yoda’s lightsaber, the release was never an official Star Wars collaboration, but was the closest thing to being one.

Jeff Staple x Nike SB Dunk Low ‘NYC Pigeon’ - 2005 (Pink Box Era)

Released as part of an incredibly limited ‘City Pack’ which consisted of four Nike SB Dunk sneakers being created to honour the cities of London, Tokyo, Paris and New York each only releasing 30 pairs each, the ‘NYC Pigeon’ was created by designer, Jeff Staple. 

The colourways were reminiscent of a pigeon you’d see on the streets of the Big Apple, featuring grey, black and white on the upper with a soft nubuck leather to reflect the soft feathered wings along with an orange outsole inspired by a pigeons legs and feet.

With the signature detail being the small pigeon embroidered into the heel, the sneaker's release saw people camping overnight as well as riots which resulted in around 20 people being arrested and the in-store release of the sneakers being cancelled. 

Stüssy x Nike SB Dunk Low ‘Cherry’ - 2005 (Pink Box Era)

Released as part of Nike’s Team Manager series, a photographer at Stüssy and the individual that put the first Nike SB skate team together, Robbie Jeffers, was called up for his take on the Nike SB Dunk Low. Inspired by Metropolitan ice cream, the sneakers upper featured a timeless brown and pink leather with a white Swoosh for detailing. 

The ‘Cherry’ colourway takes its name from the small cherry on the tongue tag. 

Nike SB Dunk Low ‘Freddy Kruger’ - 2007 (Black Box Era)

Coined ‘the greatest sneaker that never was’ the Nike SB Dunk Low ‘Freddy Kruger’ was a sneaker due to release in 2007, but was cancelled just after shipments of the shoe had gone out to retailers following a cease and desist letter from New Line Cinema, the producers of the Nightmare on Elm Street series. 

While the design was not a direct collaboration between Nike and the production company or film, it was directly related to the iconic villain ‘Freddy Kruger’. Featuring the classic striped design from the character's sweater, the detailing on the shoe included blood splatters and a silver Swoosh reminiscent of the knives on Kruger's hands. 

While the sneakers were officially cancelled, an estimated 30 pairs were still circulated on the market coming from a store in Mexico as well as warehouse staff who were able to take a pair. 

Nike SB ‘Diamond’ Dunk Low - 2005 (Pink Box Era)

The Diamond Dunk (also unofficially known as the Tiffany Dunk) was the second SB Dunk to be a part of the Team Manager series. After Nike originally approached Sam Smyth, Talent Manager at Girl Skateboards, the project was later handed over to Nick Tershay (AKA Nicky Diamonds) of Diamond Supply Co. 

After deciding that the original blue, black and grey colourway wasn’t up to the mark, Tershay elevated the sneaker's materials to a level rarely seen on a shoe. Featuring black crocodile leather overlaying bright blue soft leather panels, the final touches of a silver Swoosh and large diamond stitched onto the tongue saw masses of fans.

While there was no marketing plan for the release at the time, Nick Tershay posted an image of him holding the sneaker on his Myspace a whole year before the sneaker's release, sending the community into pandemonium and garnering campouts before the day of release. 

Supreme x Nike SB Dunk Low ‘Black / White Cement’ - 2002 (Orange Box Era)

Marking the first collaboration between Supreme and Nike, the SB Dunk Low ‘Elephant’ took the signature feature of the Air Jordan 3, the elephant print leather, and spread it throughout the upper. Released in black and red and white and blue variants, the sneaker was released in limited quantities with 750 pairs of the black and reds and 500 pairs of the white and blues being released throughout the week at 4 select Supreme locations. 

To test the popularity of the SB Dunk within the Manhattan audience, staff from the Japan-based Supreme locations brought over limited stock of the Nike Co.JP Dunks including the ‘City Attack’ High from 1999 and the ‘Halloween’ Low from 2001.

Strangelove x Nike Dunk SB Low - 2020 (Striped Box Era) 

Sean Cliver, the founder of Strangelove Skate Company, is an artist that’s been displaying his graphics on skateboard decks and garments for some time. However, for valentines day 2020, Nike called upon Cliver to design his own Nike SB Dunk. 

Produced with a crushed velvet upper in pink and red, sitting atop a white midsole and icy pink outsole, the details on the sneaker along with the materials made this release special. Featuring the Strangelove logo on the heel, the sneaker was one of a kind getting better with age and wear. 

Ben and Jerry x Nike SB Dunk Low 'Chunky Dunky'- 2020 (Striped Box Era) 

Named after one of Ben Jerry’s flavours of ice creams, the ‘Chunky Monkey’, the Chunky Dunky was a sneaker that managed to permeate beyond sneaker culture, into the mainstream. 

Featuring an eclectic range of colours and materials including faux cow hair and a yellow Swoosh dripping on the lateral and medial sides of the upper, the Chunky Dunky also released with a limited number of pairs coming in a unique oversized ice cream tub. 

 

Despite the cult fanbase the SB Dunk has adopted, many still hold a high number of releases as grails. With a range of releases falling within varying box eras including the OG Orange Box, Black Box and Pink Box era which is widely deemed to be the best. 

Providing a canvas for some of the best collaborations in Nike’s history, the future of the Nike SB Dunk is perfectly unpredictable.

 

For all the latest on Nike SB Dunk releases, keep it locked in with Kick Game.

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