Do you need some basketball action to survive the NBA season suspension or simply to pass the time? We got you covered with a list of the best basketball anime ever. There are not that many, to begin with, and there may be some that are old (but definitely still gold). Whatever the case, whether you love anime, basketball, or both, the entertainment value of these shows is still off the charts. Now, let’s get the ball rolling, shall we?
If you want to get back to playing basketball, get our top pick for the best basketball anime here.
Our Favorites for the Best Basketball Anime
Could there be a best basketball animes list without Slam Dunk? It’s like making an all-time best basketball players list without even mentioning Michael Jordan— it’s impossible! Why did this classic anime make it to our list of the best basketball animes?
In so many ways, the main character Hanamichi Sakuragi is so relatable and yet, so polarizing. He can be volatile and makes one wrong decision after another, and always gets into brawls. On another end, he can be sweet and friendly. One moment, he can be annoying beyond measure, and the next, you’ll find yourself cheering for him.
For basketball newbies, he can also be an inspiration, albeit not a very good one. Regardless, Slam Dunk is just fun and light-hearted, and among our most recommended basketball anime.
What Makes It Unique:
- It is borne out of the ‘90s, the NBA era considered by many to be the best. Many of its characters are also based in the 90s, such as Dennis Rodman (Hanamichi Sakuragi), Magic Johnson (Shinichi Maki), and Patrick Ewing (Takenori Akagi).
- The plot is over-the-top funny.
- It’s constant reference to Michael Jordan and sneakers will certainly draw appreciation from the sneakerhead demographic.
Well, what do you expect from the animation quality of the ‘90s? In this day and age, you can say it’s pretty basic. It can also drag at times, with a whole episode essentially amounting to two minutes of basketball playing time (remember that Kogure shot against Ryonan?). And lastly, the story stops at the most exciting part, which is the Inter-High tournament. In our opinion, it’s totally anticlimactic.
Interestingly enough, these shortcomings still won’t stop you from loving Slam Dunk. One anime fan recalls getting “sad” when the anime is over. This is because the animator does a fine job in developing the characters to the point that they touch you personally and they become real persons to anyone that watches.
Why Watch Slam Dunk:
- It is apparently the reason why the entire nation of Japan began to like basketball.
- While the animation leaves a lot to be desired, the games and situations are very realistic.
- It includes a glossary of the basics, which can be very useful if you’re new to the game of basketball.
The beauty of this basketball anime is in its characters. They are relatable and fun, and they are all developed individualistically. Aside from the characters, the variety of emotions and the smooth storytelling will put you at the edge of your seat and keep you there.
Many will argue that Kuroko no Basket could be the best basketball anime of all time. We see where that view comes from. This anime is full of highlight plays and brimming with stuff that you only see in mixtapes and whatnot. It’s safe to say that these are a staple throughout any episode.
What Makes It Unique:
- Its animation is absolutely terrific.
- A wider array of awesome characters compared to Slam Dunk.
- Succeeds in portraying basketball as a physically-intense and yet a highly mental game.
- The musical scoring is awesome and sets you in the mood with its impeccable timing.
The biggest flaw that we can say about Kuroko no Basket is how unrealistic it can get– the characters are often depicted to have better skills than NBA players. There is that guy Midorima Shintaro that routinely shoots from 90 feet and never misses a shot. Aomine Daiki often makes impossible shots such as attempting from behind the basket. Kagami Taiga can jump so high he can reach the top of the backboard, despite being only 190 cm.
Even so, if being entertained is what you’re looking for, Kuroko no Basket delivers. Like Slam Dunk, it will tug into your heartstrings to the point of getting emotionally invested in the characters.
Why Watch Kuroko No Basket:
- For someone who is utterly obsessed with anime, the fact that it has multiple seasons and a revolving door of characters is the definition of heaven.
- It has so many electrifying hype moments, flashy passes, and spectacular dunks.
- The show never runs out of pep talks, which can be a source of encouragement even if you’re just watching.
- Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Our pick for this category is the new kids on the block since the anime was released only in 2019. However, when it comes to sports anime, it might be a good thing. That means the creators already know the waters they are navigating and are already familiar with what works and what doesn’t. One fan puts it this way: Ahiru No Sora accomplished the main goal of bringing anime into basketball; however, it also brings out the beauty of the game into anime. How did Ahiru No Sora do that?
What Makes It Unique:
- Old school with touches of new school animation
- Builds characters slowly but surely, which in the end, you relate and feel empathy to (like Sora wearing an old and worn-out pair of Asics)
- Gives attention to detail on basketball plays
In our opinion, Ahiru No Sora may not equal the impact Slam Dunk brought to an entire country and anime fans, but from a pure basketball perspective, it’s not going to be left behind. Like Kuroko no Basket, it has a revolving door of characters but they are built up individually without dragging the story.
There is the usual plot about a boy (Kurumatani Sora) who has his share of limitations and worked hard to overcome them. In many ways, the main character Sora is the anti-Kuroko in that he is lively and spirited, can shoot and dribble, but tends to take matters into his own hands.
Why Watch Ahiru No Sora:
- Like Slam Dunk, Ahiru No Sora goes down to the roots with its explanation of the basics of basketball and breakdown of plays while showing the typical high school life in Japan.
- Sometimes, it shows iso-motions of Sora’s outstanding ball handling skills, which is nothing short of amazing.
- Basketball fans will love how technical the show can get.
- It does a good job of showing the highs and lows of playing the game of basketball.
Our Runner Ups for the Best Basketball Anime
Dear Boys (Hoop Days) is a story about a basketball prodigy named Aikawa Kazuhiko, who revived the Mizuho High School Basketball Team after it was left only with four players. All the upperclassmen quit, and they needed one more member to keep the team up and running. Overall, the anime is pretty average, with some strong points and several weaknesses. It is not as good as the manga, which spanned 28 years, but still a decent basketball anime.
What Makes It Unique:
- Delves into romance a little bit deeper compared with the other basketball anime on this list
- Voice acting and musical scoring are two of its strongest points. The characters’ voices fit perfectly with their personalities while the musical scoring revs up when it needs to.
Aside from the main character, Aikawa, the other personalities do not have as much development throughout anime. The members of the girls basketball team are just there for support and as love interests. However, it feels like they did not make that much progress throughout the story. Nonetheless, many who have watched Hoop Days still recommend it for a number of reasons.
Why Watch Dear Boys (Hoop Days):
- It has a strong message about perseverance and the need to develop good relationships with people.
- Nice pacing, with basketball games typically not lasting two episodes.
Our Value Picks for the Best Basketball Anime
All of the anime on this list portray real basketball games but Basquash! throws a haymaker by featuring basketball played by giant robots controlled by humans. They call it BFB (Big Foot Basketball) and is set on a futuristic version of the Earth named “Earth Dash.” Now, if that sounds weird, that’s because it is! This is not your typical basketball anime and instead, invents a whole new sport that revolves around basketball.
What Makes It Unique:
- For someone to actually manage to twist the game of basketball into something like this should get points for creativity.
- Every episode is a delicate balance of action and story-telling.
What do you expect out of an anime that tells a story about pseudo-basketball? It’s a hit or miss apparently, but in our perspective, it’s more of a hit than a miss. The characters are fun and colorful, and its comedy is borderline ridiculous, which is not really bad. We all need that kind of laugh at times.
Why Watch Basquash!
- It features some cool animation and awesome visual details.
- While the story may lack depth, it makes up for it by being insanely funny.
- The voice acting and music (including the opening theme and OST) are terrific and contribute to the overall chemistry of the anime.
- Hiro Shimono (Actor)
- Shin Itagaki (Director)
FAQ on Basketball Anime
What are the Benefits of Watching Basketball Anime?
If you have time to spare, then there are worse things to do than watch basketball anime. It’s good to remember that too much of a good thing is bad even though the said “thing” might have its benefits.
As for watching basketball anime, it’s a fun way to learn the game. In many parts of the show, rules are explained and broken down. You also get to learn about Japanese culture and food. And probably the best benefit of watching basketball anime are the life lessons it imparts about teamwork, perseverance, and not getting held back by your own limitations.
Why Should You Watch Basketball Anime?
If you are a basketball fan or an anime fan, basketball anime allows you to experience the best of both worlds. It presents the game of basketball in a much different way, sometimes more exaggerated but definitely not less interesting.
While most of the outstanding benefits of watching basketball anime are already mentioned above, there is also one reason why you should watch basketball anime: It opens your eyes to the harsh reality of this world. It teaches that nothing is a given, and if you don’t work hard enough and fail, many will be more than happy to add insult to injury and kick you when you’re down.
That’s not a feel-good wake-up call, but we feel that’s one of the best reasons why watching basketball anime is worth it.
Where Can You Watch Basketball Anime?
There are several websites where you can watch basketball anime, such as KissAnime, Crunchyroll, and others. Some are also available on YouTube (although its legality is questionable), and others, like Kuroko No Basket, are available on Netflix.
How to Choose the Best Basketball Anime for You
Like many other choices that you have to make, you ultimately have to choose what you watch. What we’re here for is to nudge you in the right direction.
Now, let’s be clear: If you are currently contemplating what the best basketball anime to watch are and you are a relative beginner to the sport, choose something that helps you understand the basics of basketball. If you know basketball well enough, we suggest something that goes deeper than the basics. Of course, a basketball anime’s entertainment value should also be considered, but we are confident the shows that made it to our list admirably brings this aspect.
Wrapping Things Up: The Best Basketball Anime
Putting everything together, in this guide we reviewed the following:
We just love basketball no matter the art form, be it in anime or the real deal. Watching basketball anime is not the same as watching an actual NBA game or whatnot, but it’s a pleasant and relaxing past-time that will allow your mind to relax and de-stress a little bit.
In the first of our three favorites for the best basketball anime, we feel that the cultural and entertainment impact Slam Dunk contributed to Japan and the world is immeasurable. To illustrate: We may recognize that LeBron James is better than Michael Jordan in some areas, but because of Jordan’s influence in pop culture, it’s crazy to label someone other than MJ as “the greatest” basketball player of all time. The same concept can be applied here. Other basketball animes are better in particular areas, but overall, Slam Dunk had this one on the bag, and it is not even close.
Next, Kuroko no Basket made the cut as one our favorites for the best basketball anime. It may not be as realistic as Slam Dunk, but it sets the bar high when it comes to animation, character buildup, and storytelling. Somebody described Kuroko no Basket as “Dragon Ball Z characters playing basketball” which is apt, and not necessarily bad if you’re into the hype thing.
The newest basketball anime on this list is Ahiru No Sora. Its character buildup and storytelling are also top-notch, but it sets itself apart with Kuroko no Basket in terms of how real basketball is as related in the anime. In that respect, it is more like Slam Dunk than anything, but with a modern touch.
After the three, the overall quality of basketball anime goes a tier down, in our opinion. That says a lot since the genre is not that deep in the first place. Nevertheless, there a couple more basketball anime that’s worth the watch– Dear Boys (Hoop Days) and Basquash!
Dear Boys (Hoop Days) makes it to the runner ups list because it is just average. It doesn’t have the comedic flavor of Slam Dunk or the wow factor of Kuroko no Basket. That said, it has a couple of aspects that separate it from the others, namely, romance and its message about developing friendships even among rivals.
On the other hand, Basquash! is an entirely different beast. It is science fiction and basketball combined in one crazy, yet funny kind of way. It is nothing short of admirable that the creators of Basquash! managed to recreate basketball in an interesting way. If you like really cool visual displays and an exaggerated plot, look no further than Basquash!
Now, what’s the bottom line? Every single one of these basketball anime offers something different to the table. It will entertain you a whole lot, especially with how each character is built up throughout the story. And lastly, it will teach you life lessons about hard work and perseverance that you can apply in your life. Regardless, we honestly feel that these three are the best basketball anime of all time while Dear Boys (Hoop Days) and Basquash! deserve to be checked out as well.
Did you find this article interesting? You may also want to read our post on the best basketball mangas here.