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The Legacy of the Nike Dunk

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2015 marked the 30th year anniversary for one of the most recognizable basketball silhouettes ever made. The year 1985 will go down as one of the most pivotal years for Nike Basketball as it marks the year the Nike Dunk was born.

Originally drawn-up by designer Peter Moore and deemed the ‘College Color High’, the Nike Dunk was an artistic mash-up of multiple different shoes, a common design practice for Nike’s earlier basketball shoes. The Nike Dunk was driven by innovation in performance that naturally translated to a classic silhouette fit for the street.

The outsole had the same traction design as the Air Jordan I, which had just launched months before. The Dunk’s upper took cues from the Air Jordan I and the Nike Terminator; interestingly, the three shoes were all developed by the same design minds. The Dunk solidified Nike’s focus on basketball and reinforced its obsession with creating products that strive to make athletes better. 

The shoe launched at the perfect time, energizing basketball culture in unexpected ways. In the 1980s, college basketball was reaching new heights among a wide age range of athletes and fans. From east to west, rivalries were escalating and network TV brought college and professional hoops to the masses. The worlds of music, entertainment, advertising and sports were fusing together and Nike was a catalyst for all of it.

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During the summer of 1985, Nike premiered custom colorways of the Dunk appealing to colleges’ that could now get kicks in school colors, and allow fans to support their favorite teams from head to toe. The Nike College Colors program was officially established. The advertising tagline ‘Be True to Your School’ focused on 12 key schools including UNLV, Arizona, Iowa, Georgia, Syracuse, Georgetown and Kentucky. The memorable print ad features the Nike Dunk as the centerpiece of Nike’s College Colors program, the first campaign featuring bright, bold colors on basketball shoes, apparel and bags. 

The Nike Dunk transcends the decades and crosses over sports and fashion and is now firmly recognized for its performance and street style.