A Brief History of the Nike Dunk Shoe

Nike Dunk Shoe
Nike Dunk Shoe

The Nike Dunk’s rise in popularity is connected to the golden era of sports in the Mid-80s. College basketball was rising to the top of the ranks as a form of college athletics. 

The Nike Dunk is a rich moment in Nike’s shoe history. Here is a brief look into the history of the Dunk and its powerful moment on the court.

College Basketball Shoes

The Final Four was becoming one of the most anticipated sporting events in the nation. In terms of analytics, it was one of the most effective marketing strategies to represent these events.

Nike executives in attendance were looking for ways to solidify their logos in the competition. By 1985, Nike was being worn by players from all four schools. 

Thus, by mixing basketball’s most exciting events into Nike’s production line, the Dunk was born. This distinct line was a mixture of three of Nike’s most commercially successful shoes of the 1980s.

These three shoes were known as The Legend, The Terminator, and The Air Jordan 1’s. A fan favorite among college sporting events. 

Marketing & Design

Most shoes in the 1980s consisted of white simplistic designs. The Dunk was one of the first shoes to introduce a color block.

These were large panels of the shoe that were marked in distinct colors. These colors would represent the school’s colors or logo.

This line would run on a campaign under the tagline Be True to Your School. This campaign would feature apparel and dunks from twelve different schools. Athletes would wear these shoes, inspiring a younger generation to pick up these new shoe lines.

They were not only worn by athletes, but by kids representing their schools. Lesser-known schools that did not have dunk representation could buy other school’s colors to match their color.

Buying Shoes

Unfortunately, the dunk was set aside on the back burner. Their sales did not match the power of the Air Jordan 1’s.

The domination of the Air Jordan 1’s overtook the focus. Thus, the dunks were not able to reach their full potential.

The simplicity and subtlety of their designs were losing the customer’s attention. The shoe began to fade from media attention once their shoes lost those sales.

Not too long after, the dunk began to completely disappear from the market. People were focusing more on the release of the next Air Jordan’s. The dunks were only appearing in bargain bins in the basements of department stores.

Basketball players and skateboarders were seeking the same design details in their shoes. There are many similarities between Nike Dunk Vs Jordan 1. This includes flatter soles and grip to grab the grip tape of the skateboard.

The Dunks were also made of leather and were as durable as the Air Jordan 1’s. Skaters in and around the city were able to find this durability at a cheaper cost with Nike Dunks. This would be the rebirth of the dunk as a dependable skateboarding shoe.

This dunk continues to thrive among shoe aficionados and skateboarders. They are now known as a cool vintage shoe model.

Shoe History

The Nike Dunk was an iconic shoe in Nike’s shoe history. It brought innovation and color to the court and encouragement to college sports fans. 

It was a prominent shoe in Nike’s long line of performance shoes and sportswear. Visit our blog for more information on the origins of the Dunk and other iconic shoes!


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