The Best Nike Dunk Releases of 2020 (So Far!)
2020 has been one of the strongest years in recent memory for the Nike Dunk. It seems not a single day has passed without breaking news of new colourways, on-foot looks, or an abundance of grainy leaks. While its Air Jordan 1 sibling (read here if you’re still confused by the differences) has the edge for sheer volume of releases, the Dunk’s barely two-dozen drops managed to get just about everyone’s hard-earned. Old ‘heads have been able to relive the glory years of 1999–2001, and newcomers are experiencing shoes that retroed when they were still in diapers.
It seemed there was not a single Dunk release this year that wasn’t sold via raffle system or on the secondary market. One of the only exceptions, of course, was via Nike SNKRS – but who actually got the W there?
ICYMI, here’s just about every Dunk that has released so far this year. Some caveats. Nike Dunks only, not any offshoots like the Nike SB Dunk (keep an eye out for that roundup), the Dunk Disrupt, nor the Off-White x Air Rubber Dunk Low (sorry, Virgil).
Kentucky versus Syracuse
These two Dunks released all the way back in March, coinciding with the March Madness collegiate basketball tournament. Low-cut remakes of the ‘Kentucky’ blue and ‘Syracuse’ orange Be True To Your School (BTTYS) Dunks from ’85, the unprecedented demand for these clean colourways marked a turning point for the releases that would follow.
One of the first colourways from this current Dunk upsurge to be leaked, the rumour mill speculated the ‘Community Garden’ (aka ‘Lemon Wash’) was part of the Space Hippie program because of its speckled outsole. Rather, it was simply an all-canvas colourway inspired by urban botany. They fetch big bucks on the resale market, somewhat surprisingly.
Italian boutique Slam Jam celebrated their 30th anniversary in 2019, and the festivities continued well into 2020 with a slew of colabs, including these two Dunk Highs. Their penchant to mess with the sacred Swoosh was first witnessed on the Blazer, and here they blow it up and extend its tail around the heel tab. They also flip it upside down on the tongue.
The biggest Dunk High release of 2020, at least on merit of sheer size. First seen at the beginning of the year, sneakerheads had to wait until mid-December to scoop these Dunks with XXL rubber Swooshes and enlarged panels which, according to AMBUSH founder Yoon Ahn, is inspired by Japanese biker culture – among other muses. Still waiting for the vibrant ‘Active Fuchsia’ edition to drop...
Despite its relegation to sales racks and outlet back walls in 2016, this year’s ‘Michigan’ retro was buoyed by Virgil and Travis co-signs in the months leading up to its release. It’s also been the only reissue of an OG BTTYS colourway this year, but the ‘Varsity Maize’ (aka ‘Goldenrod’, aka ‘Iowa’) retro is imminent.
Perhaps better known as the ‘Goldenrod’ due to its famous 1999 retro being the base shoe for the uber-rare Wu-Tang Clan F&F edition, this reissue might not replicate every last detail – such as the glaring absence of yellow tongue piping – however, all but the most picky sneakerheads were happy to add these killa beez to their swarm.
Team Tones (Brazil, University Red, Champ Colours)
Nike repackaged some classic colourways from the turn of the millennium and renamed it the ‘Team Tones’ collection, which comprised the ‘Brazil’ (a reissue of the 2001 release), the ‘University Red’ (aka a low-cut BTTYS ‘St. Johns’), and the ‘Champ Colours’ (a low-cut redo of a 1999 colourway). These Dunks dropped mid-year, when keen buyers could still pick them up relatively easily.
Pro Green/Spartan Green
Another simple two-tone Dunk that followed OG colour-blocking. Interchangeably named ‘Pro Green’ and ‘Spartan Green’, its verdant shade was a common link across sneakerhead and hypebeast moodboards. A simple shoe that needed hurdles to be jumped over to cop. Such is the nature of sneaker releases in 2020.
Cactus Plant Flea Market
Cynthia Lu’s Cactus Plant Flea Market upped the Dunk’s glitzy return in 2020 with two bejazzled rhinestoned Dunk Lows. Because they weren’t run-of-the-mill Dunks, they featured curious additions like a stuffed tongue (but weren’t SBs) and ankle strap flaps (they’re fixed on regular Dunks).
Female sneaker fiends didn’t miss out on the Dunk action this year, with arguably one of the stronger colourways in the ‘Varsity Purple’. Slated for months as a reissue of the ‘City Attack’ edition from 1999, the final product, with its unexpected satin lining and ice sole, was a pleasant surprise for anyone who could squeeze into the women’s sizes.
Another reissue from the early-2000s, the ‘Samba’ saw a wider release this year compared to its original co.jp status back in 2001. It stands as one of the more unique Dunks with its slightly metallic blue leather finish and faux-carbon weave red Swoosh. The grey leather clash also works well.
Comme des Garçons
CdG had a busy year in collaborations and in-line product, so this two-pack of Dunk Lows seemed to slip under many radars when they released back in May. In retrospect, the translucent TPU textile uppers, plus oversized branding on one pair and ghostly grey on the other made this a unique colab compared to the other GR editions from this year.
The cleanest Dunk High to have released this year, purely by merit of being almost completely white. The ‘Pure Platinum’ moniker comes from its pale contrasting Swoosh and outsole. They look like something that would’ve been on display at 255 Elizabeth back in the day (IYKYK). It seems no one has dared wear their pair, but they’re definitely patina queens.
South Korea’s Kasina marked their first Nike colab with two takes of the sneaker du jour. Like some of the other indie stores who worked on the Dunk this year, Kasina made a personal connection with the colourway by referencing Korean road signs and buses between Busan and Seoul. Suedes and mini-Swooshes are good too.
Travis Scott x Sony PlayStation
Cactus Jack wouldn’t have made the cut based on the fact these Dunks didn’t see a retail release, but five pairs were given away at the recent PlayStation 5 launch. And it appears some of them were passed onto a prominent reselling platform. So, they can be purchased... for a cool $10K (give or take). Quasimoto/Stone Throws-esque colourway, backwards TS Swoosh, Sony branding, big $. Small change for the fakes that hit the market, though.
Ugly Duckling (Plum, Veneer, Ceramic)
The affectionately named ‘Ugly Duckling’ pack may have been a sleeper when it dropped the first time ‘round in 2001, but it was a hyped drop on the various days each colourway released this year. The all-suede build and colour clash is still unique almost two decades on.
With no end in sight for the Dunk, 2021 is bound to bring even more colourways to keep track of. And with at least half a dozen releases rumoured to hit in the first couple of months, who knows what the final count will be.
Check out some other in-depth sneaker documentation in our Features section.