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Top 18 Best Basketball Anime Of All Time Ranked

Intrigued by the world of basketball anime?

Ever wondered how the high-octane drama of the court could intertwine with the imaginative world of anime?

Your search ends here! We have assembled a list of the top 18 basketball anime that goes beyond the well-known favorites like Slam Dunk and Kuroko’s Basketball.

Prepare to embark on a journey where the thrill of basketball and the magnetic pull of anime come together, creating a captivating experience that even Kobe would applaud. So, are you ready to dive in?

1, Slam Dunk (1993)

First aired in 1993, Slam Dunk sets a gold standard for basketball anime series. It’s a captivating tale of Hanamichi Sakuragi, a red-haired, rebellious teenager with no prior basketball experience. With its global sales reaching a staggering 170 million copies by 2023, Slam Dunk undoubtedly solidifies its reputation as one of the best basketball anime to date.

Lured into joining the basketball team by Haruko Akagi, the sister of the team’s captain, and his burgeoning affection for her, Sakuragi embarks on an exhilarating journey of personal growth and skill acquisition. Gradually, the thrill of the game takes hold of him, leading to the blossoming of his innate talent.

One of the series’ notable highlights is the evolution of the team’s dynamics. Initially disjointed, they gradually forge a formidable force, maximizing each member’s unique abilities. The viewer experiences the joy of watching Sakuragi evolve from an absolute beginner into a leading player, complemented by the hard-earned strength and support from Akagi, Miyagi, and Kogure.

Embodying the heart of basketball, Slam Dunk also offers a plethora of memorable quotes that resonate deeply with the audience. The power of words like “The game isn’t over until you give up” or Sakuragi’s passionate declaration “My time is now!” underpin the series’ emotional strength.

The drama and sportsmanship depicted in Slam Dunk make it not just an anime about basketball, but a relatable story of teamwork, perseverance, and personal growth. It has shaped and continues to influence basketball culture globally, earning its well-deserved place as the top basketball anime of all time.

2. Kuroko’s Basketball (2012)

Engaging in a brilliant blend of sports and character drama, “Kuroko’s Basketball” has undeniably secured its spot in the hall of fame of the best basketball anime. The narrative revolves around the prodigiously talented group known as the “Generation of Miracles,” five players renowned as one-in-a-decade talents. Shadowing this extraordinary quintet is the sixth, phantom member, Tetsuya Kuroko, our understated protagonist.

Unlike the typical sports anime, Kuroko’s Basketball excels in grounding its story not in the flashy, overpowering skills of its main character, but in the unique dynamic between the “shadow,” Kuroko, and the “light,” Kagami Taiga. It’s a captivating tale of camaraderie, challenge, and passion for the game of basketball, with riveting matches that are a visual spectacle.

Its high-octane matches, each filled with strategic depth and the astounding abilities of the players, have earned the anime international acclaim. These ‘special moves,’ bordering on the supernatural, amp up the excitement and entertainment factor of the series, making it feel like a basketball-themed superhero show. However, at its core, the anime stays true to the spirit of the sport, reflecting the adrenaline, strategy, and team dynamics integral to basketball.

The characters of “Kuroko’s Basketball” are brilliantly fleshed out, each contributing to the narrative with their unique personalities and styles of play. Their development through the series not only contributes to the storyline but also enriches the overall viewing experience, making it one of the best basketball animes to watch.

Moreover, the anime has gained a loyal fanbase for its unique spin on the sports genre, where its focus on the ‘team’ as a central character sets it apart. And let’s not forget the excellent production quality with fluid animation and gripping soundtracks that add a thrilling edge to the basketball matches.

It delivers not just as an anime about basketball, but as a compelling narrative of teamwork, friendship, rivalry, and the sheer joy of playing the game. This makes it a series worth recommending as one of the best basketball anime out there.

3. Ahiru no Sora (2019)

Sporting a unique blend of heartfelt storylines and captivating basketball action, Ahiru no Sora ranks third in our top 17 basketball anime list. It’s a coming-of-age story following Sora Kurumatani, a diminutive 149cm-tall freshman at Kuzuryu High School, who loves basketball. Despite his small stature—a stark disadvantage in basketball—Sora aspires to fulfill his promise to his mother: to clinch the championship in his first high school tournament.

This best basketball anime paints an authentic picture of adolescence as it focuses on Sora’s struggles and personal growth. Sora’s Kuzuryu High School team isn’t your typical sports manga/anime crew who keep winning; instead, they face defeat after defeat in the early volumes. However, their human growth amidst repeated losses, how they overcome past failures and build stronger bonds as a team, represent the core charm of Ahiru no Sora.

One reason Ahiru no Sora stands out from other basketball anime is its focus on the ‘losers,’ meticulously depicting the pain and emotional fallout following a defeat. This attention to the characters who have fallen offers an emotional depth rarely seen in sports anime, making it one of the best for its realistic and touching portrayals.

Another element that earns this anime a top spot in our list is the complex issues each character battles with. Our protagonist, Sora, for instance, wrestles with the complexity of being a basketball player who is significantly shorter than average. His determination to fight and not be defined by his size is deeply moving and forms the core of the anime’s emotional pull.

As of June 2020, the manga that this anime is based on had exceeded 24 million copies in circulation—a testament to its popularity and influence.

4. DEAR BOYS (2003)

best-basketball-anime-DEAR-BOYS
(C)八神ひろき/講談社

Emerging from the shadows of a violent past incident that left the basketball team of Mizuho High School with just four members and a looming disbandment, the captivating anime “DEAR BOYS” revitalizes the quintessential spirit of high school sports. An unlikely spark comes in the form of the new student Kazuhiko Aikawa, the former captain of Tendōji High School’s basketball team, whose arrival spurs a renewed aspiration towards a national championship.

The franchise began in 1989 and continues with its ongoing fourth installment, cementing its place as an exceptionally long-running basketball manga and anime series. Its popularity is undeniable, with over 45 million copies of the original manga sold to date, and it continues to captivate readers and viewers even 30 years after its initial release.

One of the standout characteristics of “DEAR BOYS” is its distinctive portrayal of its characters, particularly the “genius” protagonist, Aikawa, whose playing style is said to be modeled after the legendary Michael Jordan. This characteristic makes it not just an exciting basketball anime, but also an insightful character study.

Furthermore, the anime has an appealing blend of refreshing romance and vibrant youthfulness which sets it apart from the more gritty sports anime offerings. This well-rounded perspective of the lives of its characters both on and off the court contributes to its appeal.

In 2007, “DEAR BOYS” was acknowledged for its outstanding storytelling with a win in the Shōnen category at the 31st Kodansha Manga Awards. The anime focuses on strategies, tactics, and teamwork, with each team displaying a unique playing style, which makes it even more engrossing for basketball enthusiasts.

5. Ro-Kyu-Bu! (2011)

best-basketball-anime-Ro-Kyu-Bu
(C)蒼山サグ/アスキー・メディアワークス/TEAM RO-KYU-BU! SS

If you’re seeking a unique blend of sports and slice-of-life genre in anime, “Ro-Kyu-Bu!” is your perfect bet. This series breathes new life into the world of basketball anime with its interesting plot twists. In this series, Subaru Hasegawa, a high schooler and basketball enthusiast, finds himself in the unusual position of coaching an all-girls elementary school basketball team. This comes about after a scandal involving suspicions of lolicon leads to his high school basketball club being suspended for a year. The dynamic with his young, vivacious players, particularly Tomoka Minato, who stands out with her beautiful jump shots, brings about an unexpected and wholesome experience.

The series quickly escalates as the girls’ basketball team faces off against their male counterparts, fighting for the right to use the school’s gym. Subaru rediscovers his passion for basketball as he gets drawn into the personal stories of the girls and their love for the sport, putting his all into training the team to ensure their survival. Amid the backdrop of a tantalizing love plot and a series of humorous incidents, Subaru becomes a full-time coach, immersing himself in deepening relationships with his team.

One of the reasons “Ro-Kyu-Bu!” stands out among basketball anime is its attention to the developmental aspects of the sport. The series captures the players’ remarkable growth, buoyed by the elementary students’ impressive learning and growth capacity, Subaru’s keen eye, decision-making skills, and his ability to coach. Nevertheless, the obstacle of not having enough members to play in official matches gives the narrative its tension, leading to a fascinating climax.

The team goes through numerous ups and downs, eventually forming a fifth-grade girls’ basketball team and challenging the older girls’ team. The series showcases the evolution of both teams, highlighting how they become good rivals, stimulating each other to become better while building towards forming a full team capable of competing in official matches.

6. Buzzer Beater(2005)

best-basketball-anime-Buzzer-Beater
U-NEXT

Buzzer Beater opens a unique avenue into a futuristic interpretation of the beloved sport, basketball.

The plot is not your ordinary basketball tale. It takes viewers beyond Earth to a space-wide league where our planet’s athletes struggle to compete. The central narrative revolves around the formation of the mightiest Earthling-only team, poised to challenge the extraterrestrial hegemony in the universe league. Filled with otherworldly stakes, this anime keeps you on the edge of your seat.

“Buzzer Beater” is a product of the brilliant mind of Takehiko Inoue, the creator behind the iconic “Slam Dunk” anime. The SF (Sci-Fi) and sports blend in the anime provides a refreshing take on the genre, ensuring both elements are sufficiently explored and balanced, offering a whole new level of excitement.

What sets “Buzzer Beater” apart from other basketball anime is its use of the sports genre to tell an engaging story that mixes in elements of science fiction. But don’t be fooled; the anime doesn’t forsake the heart-pounding, sweat-dripping thrill of the sport. The intense basketball matches in the anime will keep your eyes glued to the screen.

7. Basquash! (2009)

best-basketball-anime-Basquash
(C)河森正治、ロマン・トマ/サテライト/バスカッシュ!製作委員会・MBS

Combining the thrill of basketball with the exciting world of science fiction, “Basquash!” is a one-of-a-kind sports anime series that catapulted onto the scene in 2009. Set on the planet Earthdash, this show revolves around a new sport, “Basquash”, that combines elements of street basketball and squash. The story follows our protagonist Dan, who’s striving to stand out in this new sport to fund his sister’s medical treatments.

Created by the powerhouse team of Shoji Kawamori, Thomas Romain, and Satellite studio, “Basquash!” is not your typical basketball anime. It involves massive humanoid robots called ‘Bigfoots’ that are used to play the sport, providing a unique and refreshing take on the genre.

What’s more, this anime features distinctive designs and beautiful colors from a French design team, along with a collaboration with sports brand Nike for shoe designs, both of which add to its visual appeal and uniqueness.

At the heart of this anime is an emotionally gripping story of a young man trying to save his sister. But it’s also a celebration of the raw, unbridled energy of street basketball, this time played on an intergalactic scale. With an exciting backdrop, lovable characters, and dynamic basketball action, “Basquash!” is a riveting series that’s deserving of its place in any “best basketball anime” list.

8. Onagawa Chugakko Basketball Club: The Summer of Five Girls (2017)

best-basketball-anime-Onagawa-Chugakko-Basketball-Club
 女川町観光協会

Embodying the resilience of youth against the backdrop of a tragic natural disaster, “Onagawa Chugakko Basketball Club: The Summer of Five Girls” is an anime unlike any other. Set in a small coastal town shaken by the East Japan Earthquake, it presents the story of five close-knit girls – Anna, Serina, Karin, Kaho, and Nanami – who bring their middle school basketball team back from the brink of closure. This compelling anime combines the thrilling elements of basketball with a poignant tale of friendship and determination, making it a must-watch in the sports anime genre.

Woven with striking animation, the plot unfolds during the girls’ final summer in middle school, revealing their relentless pursuit of a spot in the national basketball tournament. The team, despite having once held third place nationally, is at the brink of disbanding due to a lack of members following the earthquake. Yet, the girls’ passion for basketball reignites in the corners of their evacuation shelter, pushing them to dream and fight once again. This journey, combined with the charm of the sport, gives the anime a unique appeal that basketball and anime fans alike will appreciate.

“Onagawa Chugakko Basketball Club: The Summer of Five Girls” transcends the typical narrative of sports and triumph. Its depiction of a community striving to rebuild itself through the shared love of basketball, symbolized by the five girls’ unwavering resolve, highlights the transformative power of sports and human spirit. It illustrates the significant role that basketball plays in unifying communities and sparking hope in dire situations.

9. Dash! Kappei (1981)

best-basketball-anime-Dash-Kappei
(C)Noboru Rokuta/Shogakukan・Tatsunoko Production

In a unique mix of comedy and sports, “Dash! Kappei” is a basketball anime that tells the story of Kappei Sakamoto, a small-statured and quirky protagonist who loves nothing more than pure white panties. This odd interest leads him to join his high school basketball team when he discovers that his beautiful coach, Natsu, wears such underwear. With his innate, superhuman athletic abilities, Kappei embarks on various challenges, overcoming obstacles with his quick wit and inventing secret techniques on the fly.

The basketball anime is known for its strong comedy elements, including light ecchi moments, which surprisingly catapulted it to unexpected popularity – even the creator didn’t see it coming. Beyond the humor and ecchi, what makes this anime intriguing is its unexpected shift in narrative halfway through, as it evolves from basketball to various other sports competitions and even a deathmatch towards the end.

10. I’ll/CKBC (2002)

best-basketball-anime-I'll/CKBC
(C)2002 Hiroyuki Asada/Shueisha・ANIPLEX

This basketball anime is the tale of two high school boys, Akane Tachibana and Hitonari Hiiragi, each with their unique reasons for turning away from the sport. Tachibana finds himself bored with the mundanity of his middle school basketball team, while Hiiragi, the second son of a basketball family, shies away from the sport due to the pressure of the high expectations placed on him.

Their paths intersect when they both enroll in the same high school, setting the stage for a youthful narrative centered on their rekindled passion for basketball. The anime stands out for its robust blend of humor and non-basketball scenes, creating a well-rounded viewing experience that transcends the confines of a typical sports anime.

The OVA version of “I’ll/CKBC” delivers an original story based on a popular episode from the manga, “Kofu High School VS National Athletic Meet Training Camp”, focusing on the bond between Tachibana and Hiiragi.

11. Barangay 143 (2018)

best-basketball-anime-Barangay 143

Set against the vibrant backdrop of Manila, Barangay 143 spins a compelling narrative of Bren Park, a South Korean basketball player who visits the Philippines in search of his biological father. Following a tragic accident that claims his family, Bren finds his life taking an unexpected turn, marked by encounters with destiny and a local basketball league.

Crafted as a collaborative effort among Japan, the Philippines, and Singapore, this anime delves deep into Bren’s journey, chronicling his growth as he navigates personal losses and grapples with his newfound sense of belonging in the Barangay 143’s basketball team. This storyline transcends the game of basketball, offering valuable insights into relationships, personal development, and the quest for identity.

A key highlight of this anime is its unique cultural fusion, lending it a distinct flavor that resonates with a global audience. The anime was so well-received that it made its way into Netflix Asia’s “Top Ten Most Watched Titles,” testament to its gripping storyline and intricate character development.

12. Breakers (2020)

best-basketball-anime-Breakers

Launched in the anticipation of the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics, Breakers is an anime produced by NHK Enterprises. An intriguing exploration of parasports, Breakers presents one story per sport, with each narrative spanning four nine-minute episodes. The series covers wheelchair basketball, para-athletics high jump, goalball, and para-swimming, offering a total of 16 episodes that provide a unique glimpse into these distinctive sports.

Unfolding the tale of a physically impaired junior high student named Kai, who dreams of emulating his basketball-playing brother, Breakers examines the challenges and triumphs associated with disability. Inspired by an assistant robot named Tama, Narita takes note of Kai’s athletic abilities and introduces him to wheelchair basketball. It is here that Kai’s journey begins, as he navigates the sport with determination and resilience, allowing him to evolve from a beginner to a more accomplished player.

Breakers delivers a profound message wrapped in a compelling narrative, showcasing the courage and willpower of individuals faced with physical limitations. The anime blends the passion for basketball with the heroes’ journeys of self-discovery, making it an inspiring watch for all anime fans. Its depiction of Kai’s growth as a wheelchair basketball player—learning to maneuver the wheelchair, negotiating with the coach for more ball time, and finally earning his place on the team—is moving and motivational.

13. Boyfriend (1992)

Diving deep into the archives of basketball anime, one stumbles upon an elusive title known as “Boyfriend”. Crafted by Fuyumi Sorō, it ran in Shogakukan’s Weekly Shōjo Comic from 1985 to 1988, garnering critical acclaim and winning the 33rd Shogakukan Manga Award for shōjo. The captivating story was adapted into a one-off 2-hour anime special by Toshiba EMI and Magic Bus in 1992.

The anime follows Masaki Takatō, a once national-level basketball player, now a high school student carrying the baggage of past mistakes. A chance incident on a train leads him to rescue Kanako Yūki, a popular yet fragile girl from his class, marking the beginning of an unlikely camaraderie.

In an attempt to reconnect with basketball, Takatō accepts an invitation to play for his school team but spirals into a pattern of rough play, causing a loss. Despite this, Kanako recognizes his earnest effort, foretelling his eventual participation in the basketball team.

Despite its brief run and limited availability, “Boyfriend” leaves an indelible impact, highlighting the power of redemption, connection, and basketball.

14. Eddie the Fast Break (2009)

best-basketball-anime-Eddie
Studio placebo Blog

In the realm of basketball anime, “Eddie the Fast Break” takes a unique spin on the genre with its charming stop-motion animation. Produced by NHK, NEP, and Studio Prashevo, the series focuses on a basketball-loving frog named Eddie as he challenges various city dwellers to matches, enhancing friendships through their shared passion for basketball.

The story is a delightful amalgamation of a frog’s enthusiasm for basketball, the challenges he faces, and the bonding that the sport facilitates. Eddie, the protagonist, has a love for basketball that transcends his small stature. Despite the occasional mockery due to his height, his prowess in dunking the ball, courtesy of his exceptional leap, turns the tables in his favor.

Eddie’s adversaries comprise an intriguing mix of characters, from Scott, an athletically talented dog, to Bill, a snack-loving, rotund boy. Initially, these characters taunt Eddie, but as the story unfolds, their bonds deepen through basketball.

15. Heong-geuli Beseuteu 5 (1995)

best-basketball-anime-Heong-geuli Beseuteu 5
myanimelist

Released in Korea in 1995, this film emphasizes the essential aspect of teamwork in basketball and resonates with audiences on a universal level. Youngwoong’s journey is a compelling narrative that not only showcases his individual growth as a player but also illuminates the strength and resilience of his team.

What makes “Heong-geuli Beseuteu 5” particularly remarkable is its cultural impact on Asian countries, most notably Korea. The film became a sensation locally, even inspiring the Korean University basketball team of the time to lend their voices to the movie’s theme song!

This 90-minute basketball anime is a must-watch for all fans of the sport. It delivers a gripping story of ambition, team spirit, and the transformative power of basketball.

16. Mitsu x Mitu Drops (2006)

best-basketball-anime-Mitsu x Mitu Drops
U-NEXT

Immerse yourself in an unusual love story with the anime “Honey x Honey Drops,” set in the intriguing backdrop of Hōjō Academy. This establishment is unique due to its ‘HONEY system,’ where ordinary students are selected to cater to the whims of wealthy students, often leading to exciting romantic developments. Our protagonists, Yuzuru Hagino, an ordinary student, and Kai Renge, the wealthy heir, end up navigating the ups and downs of an unlikely love story, sparked off by this unconventional system.

This anime artfully weaves a narrative where basketball games, dubbed as ‘DROP games,’ become significant plot elements. These games, played between the ‘HONEY’ and ‘MASTER’ pairs, are not just about winning; they’re battles for status, with the last-placed ‘HONEY’ getting ‘dropped’ or expelled. Basketball becomes the metaphorical battlefield where loyalties are tested and bonds are forged.

What makes it a compelling watch is not just the intensity of the ‘DROP games’ but also the depth of the characters, particularly the relationship between Yuzuru and Kai. Their complex relationship — the tension, the shared moments, and the gradual understanding — is the heart of this series, making it a memorable basketball anime.

RELATED:
41 Best Romance Anime– Everyone Should Watch

17. Wheelchair Basketball x DEAR BOYS (2020)

best-basketball-anime-Ladies' Sport
ORICON NEWS

“Ani x Para: Who is your hero?” is a captivating 5-minute per episode anime series that aired on NHK starting from November 2017. Produced by NHK Enterprises, the series is a collaboration with mangakas and novelists, focusing on parasports. The eleventh installment of this unique anime is a collaboration between the ever-popular sport of wheelchair basketball and the sports manga “DEAR BOYS”.

This installment follows the story of Yoshiaki Mori, the protagonist, as he encounters Rin Nakamura, who is practicing wheelchair basketball. The storyline becomes even more intriguing with the collaboration with Hiroki Yagami’s “DEAR BOYS”. The tale of unexpected friendships and thrilling games that unfold between Mori and Rin creates a heartwarming narrative that speaks to both basketball and anime enthusiasts.

The series also sees the return of Tomokazu Sugita, who reprises his role as Ayumu Fuse from “DEAR BOYS”, after 17 years, adding an exciting layer of nostalgia to this dynamic collaboration.

18. Ladies’ Sport (2018)

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BANDAICHANNEL

Sports-themed illustration animation movies, “Ladies’ Sport” offers a unique take on basketball within its eclectic mix of sports. In a universe where all disputes are settled by sports competitions, the series highlights a trio of women, competing for cash prizes across the cosmos. The inclusion of magical powers introduces a novel twist, evident in episode 9, “Triple Threat,” which centers around a basketball game.

Despite its unconventional narrative and distinctive animation style, “Ladies’ Sport” provides a fresh perspective, making it a worthwhile watch for those seeking something out of the ordinary in basketball anime.

ishii-chan
ishii-chanhttps://www.anime-japanese.com
Hello there, anime fanatics! Straight from Tokyo, Japan, I'm an avid blogger and anime enthusiast. By day, I work at an entertainment hub, but my real passion lies in the world of anime - I devour over a hundred series annually! Be patient with my English, I'm still learning.
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