Basketball is a sport adored around the world, and a lot of movies and animes have been created that revolve around it. Some like White Men Can’t Jump, Coach Carter and Space Jame all brought, and are still bringing, basketball into the limelight. But if you want to get yourself a monstrous dose of hoops, we encourage you to check out this list of the best basketball mangas.
In this list, we aim to give insight into the best basketball mangas ever written. There are going to be familiar names on the list and probably one or two you probably never heard of, but these mangas are all top-notch basketball entertainment. Without further ado, let’s get right into the thick of things with the best basketball mangas of all time.
If you want to get back to playing basketball, get our top pick for the best basketball mangas here.
Our Favorites for the Best Basketball Mangas
You saw this coming from a mile away, didn’t you? Well, it doesn’t matter because it truly is one of the best basketball mangas, if not the best, ever created. This was even better than the anime version for reasons that we will state below:
What Makes It Unique:
- It has already sold 120 million copies in Japan alone and was voted the most popular manga in 2012.
- Slam Dunk possesses incredible detail that you won’t see in the anime. Unless you play basketball, you won’t notice how realistic the creator Takehiko Inoue was in the specifics of the game. An example of this is his illustration of the “eye fake” and the triple threat stance.
- The story is touching and funny, rolled into one fun-filled basketball adventure.
Slam Dunk revolves around a high school street thug Hanamichi Sakuragi. He was dumped by dozens of girls in Junior High before, so he is keen to turn things around in high school in terms of his luck in dating.
At Shohoku High School, he saw and instantly fell in love with a girl named Haruko Akagi, who happens to like basketball very much. To impress Haruko, Sakuragi, a natural athletic freak but has not played basketball before, decides to join the school basketball club. From there, the story goes on a wild and fantastic ride that you will find it impossible to stop reading. The characters such as Kaede Rukawa, Shinichi Maki, Ryota Miyagi, Takenori Akagi, and Akira Sendoh have almost become as popular as Hanamichi himself.
The only possible drawback of the Slam Dunk manga is the art quality in its first few volumes. After all, what do you expect out of the early to mid-90s? If you can manage to look past that, you are in for an intense and yet funny hoops adventure you never thought possible.
Why Read Slam Dunk:
- Interesting characters which you will find easy to care and cheer for.
- One American publisher named David Brothers praised Slam Dunk for its dramatic writing and profound motivations to become better at the craft you chose to pursue.
- The story and action are so real and genuine you’d feel like you are in the middle of the court.
- Its comedic timing is always perfect.
“Powerful” is one way to describe Real, and you shouldn’t expect anything less from Inoue, the man who brought Slam Dunk for the world to enjoy. Unlike Slam Dunk, though, Real has a very serious, even melancholic, plot about wheelchair basketball. Each chapter is an inspiration, and you will be left in amazement at how the three main characters worked to overcome their obstacles and disabilities.
What Makes Real Unique:
- It is about wheelchair basketball, a basketball subset that is not talked about as much.
- The first 12 volumes of the manga sold more than 14 million copies in Japan.
- Real’s story and plot appeal to a more mature audience.
If you saw who the author is and expected something funny, you will be disappointed. But if you start reading the manga, that disappointment turns into warmth and zeal. Human behavior is being pushed into the forefront, and like Slam Dunk’s impressive detail on basketball moves, it’s nothing less than extraordinary how Inoue detailed human nature.
Having said that, we don’t think Real is for everyone, at least not for someone who simply wants an easy read. It is profound and will touch you to the core. It will no doubt give you a hardcore slice of what life truly is.
Why Read Real:
- It has excellent writing and characterization.
- Real will teach you, or at least try to show you how to deal with what life is throwing at you.
- One reader thought Real is a masterpiece and that it is better overall than Slam Dunk. We beg to disagree, but we won’t argue that, either.
- Inoue, Takehiko (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 224 Pages - 07/15/2008 (Publication Date) - VIZ Media LLC (Publisher)
Our Runner Ups for the Best Basketball Mangas
We already had an all-time classic, something about wheelchair basketball, and a battle manga-type of basketball, so we might as well include a story about girls basketball here. Technically, it’s not about girls basketball, per se, it’s about a girl who hid her identity and joined the boys’ basketball team. It does sound like a lot of fun, doesn’t it? That’s because it is!
What Makes Girl Got Game Unique:
- The plot about a real girl joining a boys basketball team to pursue her father’s dreams is more or less an unexplored path. Like movies and shows with a similar plot, it’s a recipe for disastrous fun and enjoyment!
- The protagonists are often trapped in very awkward situations where it would end up over-the-top funny.
- Unlike the other basketball mangas in the series, basketball in Girl Got Game is only a part of the story but not the meat itself.
A lot goes on in this manga, and sometimes, it can be chaotic, in a fun kind of way. The main reason why Kyo Aizawa joined the basketball team for boys was his father registered her as a boy. He did that because she wanted her daughter to realize his dream to become an NBA player. We don’t encourage that type of parenting in any way, but it paves the way for hilarity, so we won’t be making a big deal out of it.
Anyway, that led to one hilarious event after another. Kyo became roommates with her rival Chiharu Eniwa, where most of their funny interactions happen. Other characters, such as Hamaya, are often the cause of entertaining dialogues and situations. There is not much depth in its plot, but if you’re looking for comedy and fun, Girl Got Game provides these elements in abundance.
Why Read Girl Got Game:
- It brings plenty of laugh out loud moments.
- The story keeps you guessing and makes you pray that Kyo never gets caught so that the fun can continue.
- Shizuru Seino (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
At first glance, Ahiru No Sora looks like the second coming of Kuroko (which we will talk about later), but that’s not true. If anything, Sora is the anti-Kuroko and an incredibly fun character, unlike the sixth man of the Generation of Miracles.
What Makes Ahiru No Sora Unique:
- The attention to detail when it comes to basketball is highly impressive.
- What’s also remarkable is how technical it can get when it touches on basketball strategies.
- Its portrayal of how basketball is played is very realistic.
Some may consider Ahiru No Sora as a tier below Slam Dunk, and I agree. Many manga enthusiasts are not so high about it since they feel that the genre and type of comedy have already been done before.
We agree that its attempt at comedy falls short compared to Slam Dunk, but when it comes to basketball portrayal, we feel Ahiru no Sora is a cut above the rest. It is still funny, but not as amusing as Slam Dunk. However, what should be considered a great basketball manga is when you learn about the sport by reading it, and in that aspect, Ahiru No Sora passed with flying colors.
Why Read Ahiru No Sora:
- It has a nice mix of goofiness, drama, and basketball.
- It offers interesting character background and development.
- The plot is straightforward and pretty easy to follow.
Our Value Picks for the Best Basketball Mangas
With Kuroko no Basket, you either love it or hate it. There is no middle ground. It’s probably the only story that presents the main protagonist as a boring teen, someone who ‘has no presence.’ But then again, that makes the whole story exciting and unpredictable.
What Makes Kuroko No Basket Unique:
- It has diverse characters with their own unique skills.
- Kuroko no Basket is almost like a fusion of battle and basketball manga, which can both be good and bad.
- The art is incredibly impressive.
When we say it’s a love it or hate it thing with Kuroko no Basket, we mean it. We can definitely see a different group of manga fanatics that would enjoy how these basketball players and games are depicted and some factions that won’t.
At Kuroko no Basket, the characters are illustrated as someone with incredible superpowers, and every play seems to be a highlight. For instance, Shintaro Midorima can shoot the full length of the court, and Ryota Kise can perfectly copy his opponents’ moves at a glance. As basketball fans, we know how exciting the game can be, but it couldn’t be exciting all the time.
Still, manga is manga, so the author Tadatoshi Fujimaki can choose to include any element he wanted. From a pure entertainment standpoint, Fujimaki did the right thing. To be honest, we enjoyed every bit of Kuroko no Basket despite how impossible the gameplay gets. We came to understand and appreciate that manga and reality are two different things. Kuroko Basketball’s manga volumes are already compiled at 30, so he must be doing something right.
Why Read Kuroko No Basket:
- It always gives you something to anticipate, and you’d often find yourself wondering what the characters are going to do next.
- All of the subplots revolve around basketball— no romance and not much drama (although it has its share of nudity). Basketball fans will surely appreciate that.
- It has so many intense and hype moments that will make you hold on to the edge of your seat.
- Fujimaki, Tadatoshi (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 384 Pages - 08/02/2016 (Publication Date) - VIZ Media LLC (Publisher)
Street basketball (or streetball) is not that well-represented in manga or anime, but we do think Harlem Beat did it justice. Like any other sports manga, it tells an underdog story about Nate Torres (Toru Naruse), who was cut from his high school team and then took his dream to the streets. The rest, they say, is history.
What Makes Harlem Beat Unique:
- Like wheelchair basketball, streetball is under-represented in manga, or even in anime or movies.
- American author Jason Thompson noted that Harlem Beat was “the first serious sports manga published in America.”
- It has not been made into an anime, but there is a video game inspired by it called Harlem Beat: You’re the One and a novel.
One thing that is considered a “negative” about Harlem Beat is that it automatically assumes the reader knows basketball. That’s not a deal-breaker, in our opinion, but that may confuse the readers who are not basketball fans. It uses phrases and jargon that only a basketball fan would know, such as “Barkley style” or “Ewing style.”
With these things considered, the fact that it became a hit in America says a lot about how good the storyline is. Even Eyeshield 21, an American football manga and anime, was largely ignored by the American audience.
Why Read Harlem Beat:
- In Harlem Beat, you can easily tell characters apart, a testament to author Yuriko Nishiyama’s skill as an artist.
- While the NBA is the pinnacle of basketball, Harlem Beat also gives a shout out to Rucker Park, the Mecca of street basketball in Harlem, Manhattan.
- It shows two different sides of the basketball, the 3-on-3 type streetball, and the regular 5-on-5 game.
- Used Book in Good Condition
- Yuriko Nishiyama (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
FAQ on Basketball Mangas
What are the Benefits of Reading Basketball Mangas?
Reading manga, in general, benefits the brain and needs a different set of skills than just reading a traditional book. Manga has done a lot to bridge Japanese and Western culture and is also a good way of introducing topics, in this case, basketball, to readers who may not have known anything about it.
Why Should You Read Basketball Mangas?
Basketball mangas, as in any other sports-themed manga, often highlights the value of perseverance, teamwork, respect, and overcoming obstacles. Naturally, there will be some inappropriate moments here and there that add to the comedy, but reading basketball mangas is an excellent way to instill these values in yourself while still having fun.
What is the Best App to Read Basketball Mangas?
There are a dozen options for optimum manga reading experience on your mobile device. Manga Reader, for example, has many positive reviews due to its user-friendly features, such as a full-screen mode and easy download options.
Bulu Manga is another nice alternative because it is ad-free, regularly updated, and has a clean user interface. All mangas are downloadable, of high quality, and even allows specific chapters to be downloaded and read later on.
Other excellent manga apps where you can read basketball mangas are My Manga, Ur Manga, Crunchyroll Manga, Comixology, and WebComics.
How to Choose the Best Basketball Mangas for You
Choosing the best basketball mangas is all about preference. Some are basketball fans that wanted manga to deliver a basketball fix; some are manga fans who don’t know anything about basketball but only want to be entertained. In rare instances, you can be both, which is fortunate because most of our recommended basketball mangas do provide both the fix and the entertainment. We would also recommend reading reviews and what other manga fans have to say about the basketball manga you are planning to read.
In our best basketball mangas list, Ahiru no Sora, Slam Dunk, and Kuroko no Basket delivers what we call a real basketball dose. Sora extensively discusses strategy, Slam Dunk explains basketball basics, while Kuroko no Basket traverses basketball’s ins and outs, albeit in an unrealistic way. The two over-the-top hilarious basketball mangas are Harlem Beat and Girl Got Game, while Real is a touching story that will tug at your heartstrings.
Wrapping Things Up: The Best Basketball Mangas
In closing, here’s a table of the best basketball mangas we looked at today:
Mangas sell millions of copies for a reason, and one genre that is too overlooked because of repetitive plots is sports. We have to admit that sometimes it gets monotonous, but the six best basketball mangas on our list manage to break the norm and be interesting.
The two that made it to our favorites for the best basketball mangas are Slam Dunk and Real. Both are from the same author, but they are so different you won’t even think it’s from the same guy.
Slam Dunk was a generational success and is probably the most popular sports anime of all time. For what it’s worth, Slam Dunk single-handedly generated Japan’s interest in basketball. On the other hand, Real is a serious drama about wheelchair basketball that touches on the reality of life, such as accidents, illnesses such as cancer, and disabilities. One thing that they have in common aside from the author is that they are both worth your time for their sheer entertainment value.
Ahiru no Sora tries to be funny, and in some instances, it can be hilarious, but generally, it’s not something special when it tries to be goofy. Girl Got Game, on one end, is amusing like no other, but it feels like basketball is only a part of the setting and not the main plot. (Realistically speaking, Ryo could just pursue women’s basketball or the WNBA, and there’s no need for her to pose as a boy to play basketball.)
Lastly, we had Kuroko no Basket and Harlem Beat as value picks for the best basketball mangas. As previously mentioned, both Kuroko and Harlem Beat are not for everyone. Kuroko No Basket’s unrealistic take about the characters’ basketball skills is exaggerated, and Harlem Beat often uses jargon that only basketball fans would know. Even so, they are incredibly entertaining, and in certain aspects, they offer something that the other basketball mangas did not. The way we see it, at least Kuroko no Basket and Harlem Beat have their own identities.
We are not compelled to include love stories here, but you may find Namaiki Zakari interesting if you’re into shoujo manga that incorporates a little basketball. People who have read Namaiki Zakari have mixed reviews, with one saying it is just a “wash, rinse, repeat” type of thing, while the other praises the manga for its simplicity and unique artwork. Outside of the best basketball mangas that made it to the magic six, we would recommend Namaiki Zakari if you want a more prominent love story element out of your manga.
Also, check out other basketball gear reviews here