After numerous failed attempts at infiltrating the skateboarding market in the late ’90s with new lackluster designs, Nike created its SB brand in 2001 in an attempt to rectify that. For decades, Jordan Is, Blazers and other famous Nikes were adopted by skaters across the country, but despite that affinity from skaters, Nike still couldn’t seem to get a foothold within the industry with any of its skate-centric designs. The task of growing the new brand fell to the visionary Sandy Bodecker, Nike SB’s general manager during its inception.

Bodecker attacked SB’s next steps from a practical perspective. Knowing that skaters already wore Nikes–regardless of its association (or lack thereof) with skating–he felt it was important to mold an existing silhouette to the needs of the skater instead of crafting an entirely new skate shoe from scratch that he would have to break into the market. He decided the perfect sneakers to lead the charge for Nike SB would be one of Nike’s most famous models, the Dunk.

Designed by Peter Moore in 1985, the Dunk was originally marketed as a high-top basketball sneaker. Bodecker and the team at Nike SB would need to figure out how best to tweak the classic hoops silhouette to better support its skaters. After consulting with its team of established skaters like Danny Supa, Gino Ianucci, Richard Mulder and Reese Forbes, Nike SB would make subtle changes like adding padding to the insole in an effort to reduce the force of impact, and reconfiguring the sole’s grip to create better traction against grip-tape. The sneaker was already proven to be aesthetically pleasing, now it was properly outfitted for the wear and tear that came with skateboarding.

The SB Dunk finally hit stores in March 2002 and by the end of the year, was becoming one of the most important sneakers in the entire industry. Bodecker and the team would cut down on mass production and instead focus on getting its limited product in front of those it was intended for, skaters. What would follow over the ensuing two decades is a collection of the most unique, eye-catching and ultimately, rarest, collection of sneakers this side of Air Jordans. Nike SB would go on to collaborate with behemoths of fashion, titans of the art world and some of the game’s most beloved skaters. The brand would simultaneously revolutionize sneaker culture and give rise to reselling. No inspiration was out of bounds, no idea too out of this world.

“I think we can take some credit for being part of the generation where the lid came off the Pandora’s box of sneaker collecting,” said the late Bodecker in an interview with Sneaker Freaker. “The role that Nike SB played was really around elevating sneakers–in this case the Dunk–as a canvas for creative storytelling...I think we helped introduce the idea of sneakers as ‘currency’ both culturally and financially.”

From “De La Soul” to “MF Doom”; from “Papa Bear” to “Mama Bear” to “Baby Bear”; from “Hemp” to “Skunks”; so many important sneakers were created under the SB banner. Now almost two decades removed from its inception in 2001, Nike SB’s fingerprint remains an indelible mark on sneaker shopping, collecting and designing, thanks to one of the most diverse and unique product lines of all time.

In no particular order, here are the Nike SBs that changed the game and left a lasting impact on sneaker culture.

Follow Stephen on Twitter here.

Tags: sneakers, huf, stussy, diamond-supply-co, diamond-supply, jeff-staple, staple, unkle, futura, concepts, supreme, skateboarding, sb-dunk, nike-sb, nike