It was 1985 and Nike was a little more than 10 years old, the Slam Dunk Contest at the NBA All-Star Game had been born just one year earlier and had seen Larry Nance Sr. win against Julius Erving aka Doctor J.
Basketball was beginning to become more and more popular also thanks to the push given by the “meteorite” Micheal Jordan who had hit the NBA planet in the 1984 draft. Few had understood the real impact, except a certain Sonny Vaccaro from Nike, the man who will forever change sneaker marketing and who will make the fortune of Beaverton’s company.
Until Jordan’s arrival, Vaccaro had always managed, with extreme success, to manage relations with the coaches of the American college basketball teams, who had the power to sign partnership contracts with companies for the supply of shoes for their athletes.
1985 represents for Nike one of the fundamental turning points in the history of the company, basketball is ready to become the main American sport and Nike launches the Dunk. Conceived thanks to the restlessness of a group of young designers, the Nike Dunk basketball sneaker took very little time to become a cult even in the streetstyle world.
The design of the sneaker itself has consolidated Nike’s role in basketball and reinforced a concept, that of wanting to create a product that improves athletes’ performance.
Basketball shoes, however, had made the “leap” into the world of fashion coming out of the parquet. The debut of Nike Dunk in 1985 with an evolved silhouette compared to her older sister, Air Force 1 born in 1982, gave a boost to basketball culture in a totally unexpected way.
Originally designed by Peter Moore, the Nike Dunk were a mash-up between different shoes: the sole was similar to the Air Jordan 1 launched a few months earlier, while the upper was a mix between the same J1 and the Nike Terminator.
By the 1980s, college basketball had achieved widespread popularity and rivalry between universities is still one of the most exciting and spectacular things in American sport.
Just during the summer of 1985, Nike launched the Dunk with a campaign whose slogan was the memorable “Be True to Your School”, creating 12 colorways inspired by the most important teams of the college basketball scene. That launch was the centerpiece of Nike’s College Colors program, the first campaign with strong colors associated with basketball shoes.
The teams selected were: University of Nevada Las Vegas, Arizona State, University of Iowa, Georgia Tech, Siracusa, Georgetown, University of Kentucky e University of Michigan.
Dunks have gone beyond basketball and mod, becoming an integral part of the skate community. Thanks to lateral support, cushioning and a low profile midsole, they were perfect for skateboarding because of their incredible versatility and comfort that still make them an icon for skateboarders around the world with the Nike SB line.
To tell the legacy of this iconic sneaker, Nike has produced a 6-part documentary that will be released through Nike SNKRS entitled “The Story of Dunk”, in which we will find interviews with characters like Jeff Staple, Chris Gibbs and Luca Benini, each of whom will tell their relationship with the Dunks.
An iconic and timeless sneaker that shows how much, in a sneaker game dominated by hype, it is fundamental and essential to continue to tell history and legacy behind a pair of “simple shoes”.