2020, the Year of the Dunk, has been and gone. But Nike shows no signs of letting 2021 pass without releasing some more incredible renditions of the iconic silhouette. We are set for a massive January in terms of colourways releasing, but none more iconic than the UNLV. A colourway drenched in history, we look back at where the legendary silver and red colourway comes from and why it is so crucial in the Dunk’s history.
What does UNLV stand for?
UNLV stands for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. This is the school that Nike selected when initially releasing the Dunks way back in the 80s as part of the Nike ‘Be True To Your School’ campaign. The basketball team at UNLV are the Runnin’ Rebels who became somewhat notorious in the late 70s after hitting serious success heights, after only being in division 1 for seven years.
Despite being named the Runnin’ Rebels, the team was often dubbed Tumbleweed Tech due to their poor performances on the court. That was until legendary coach Jerry Tarkanian joined the ranks. He turned the team from snoozefest to one of the greatest college basketball teams anybody had ever seen. The Rebels offence went from lacklustre to high-tempo, whilst the defence became so difficult to break down that teams would become exhausted. They continuously led the nation in points scored and turnovers forced.
But most importantly, they always had the most wins of any team. The basketball powerhouse was also well known for running up the score on teams in games meant to be close. They would even go on to beat Duke, 103-73. This scoreline made them the first and only college team to score 100+ points in a championship game.
The UNLV Nike Dunk released in 1985, and shortly after the Runnin’ Rebels would go on to have one of the best runs in college basketball of all time. They absolutely dominated the late 80s college basketball scene. The Dunks release coincided with multiple Championship wins, in both the regular season and Conference Tournament Championship. The tenacious team were also consistently in the NCAA tournaments during this run. A genuinely iconic college basketball team that happens to have one of the most iconic Nike Dunks alongside them. Being true to your school was easy if you were a Runnin’ Rebels fan.
The UNLV colourway history
We have only seen the UNLV retro’d a handful of times since the OG release back in ’85. It was actually twenty-six year later before many of us were even given a chance to add the UNLV to our collections. The shoe that released was a true copy of the original, a high Dunk that featured the exact colourway that became famous in the 80s. The high top released in men’s sizing and did not really take off like it had all them years ago. One year later, that same silhouette released in women’s sizing but again did not really reach the levels of hype Nike perhaps anticipated.
Virgil Abloh strikes again.
It was not until 2019 when the colourway saw a resurgence and people began to deep-dive into the colourway’s history. This was, of course, thanks to Virgil Abloh’s Off-White collaboration with Nike on the Dunk. With the hype surrounding Virgil within the sneaker industry, the release of the Off-White UNLV had the younger sneakerheads looking into the historic colourway more and more.
In true Virgil fashion, the sneaker had some distinctive design aspects that caught collectors’ attention worldwide. An additional lace which you would generally find on mountain climbing shoes featured across the sneakers upper. This design took the sneaker in another direction that Nike hadn’t seen before, and naturally, the sneaker blew up. The Off-White UNLV Dunk now fetches around £500 in the resale marketplace. Nike must have noticed this to bring them to re-releasing the OG colourway that failed back in 2016/17.
This years release
This year’s release looks set to be an early contender for the year’s sneaker; especially now, people are beginning to understand the colourways origins more and more.
The uppers come crafted entirely of premium leathers, with silver underlays contrasted perfectly by the red panelling. The iconic swoosh features on both the sneaker’s lateral and medial sides, whilst you can find Nike Air branding on the tongue and heel. Underfoot, you will find an OG Dunk sole unit which houses the legendary Nike Air technology. The white midsole, combined with the red outsole, compliments the sneakers upper expertly.
The beauty behind Nike releasing these old colourways is the opportunity we all have to research and learn about why these sneakers are so important within the industry. Without these retro’s and OG’s many new sneakerheads will never know where the colourways originated. Everybody within the sneaker industry needs to keep learning and keep educating each other. That way we can elevate the game to the dizzying heights it deserves.
This ULNV Dunk looks precisely like what you’d want for a low rendition of that classic ’85 silhouette. Not only that, anybody that missed out on the Off-White Dunk will be rubbing their hands together waiting on this Dunk to release. I know I will be looking to add the iconic shoe to my rotation too.