Sports anime have a special place in our hearts. They're full of drama, action, and camaraderie, so it's no surprise that so many sports anime series have become classics over the years.
But one type in particular has become increasingly popular recently: the basketball anime series. As more Japanese fans latch onto the sport, there's a growing audience for anime studios.
Fortunately, there are several out there that soar above the competition and give us everything hoops fans could hope for. They teach us about teamwork while celebrating individual achievements and talent.
Here are the best basketball anime series that'll suck you into worlds where basketball is the most fascinating thing to watch!
10. Dash! Kappei
Comedy, Ecchi, Sports
Originally aired 1981 to 1982
65 episodes (1 season)
"Old school" is probably the best way to describe this basketball anime. Dash! Kappei centers on Kappei Sakamoto, a high school student with incredible skills on the basketball court.
The problem? He's incredibly short, so he needs to be creative with how he approaches each match and his various opponents.
While there are some great gags in this comedy anime, some moments haven't aged particularly well. The humor leans into 80s ecchi tropes, so it definitely won't be for everyone.
However, if you want something more lighthearted with low stakes, Dash! Kappei is still a solid watch even today.
9. Onagawa Chuu Baske Bu: 5-Nin no Natsu
Originally aired 2017
1 episode (1 season)
Onagawa Chuu Baske Bu: 5-Nin no Natsu technically isn't a series, but it holds so much cultural importance that we couldn't skip over it.
Back in 2011, the Tohoku region of Japan was hit by one of the worst earthquakes in the country's history, killing nearly 20,000 people.
In the aftermath, the Onagawa Junior High School girls basketball team was left without any coaches or trainers. Only five players remained.
This true-to-life anime is a highly dramatized take on their story, with plenty of heartbreaking moments and small stories of triumph mixed in with the horrific real-world tragedy.
8. Buzzer Beater
Originally aired 2005 to 2007
26 episodes (2 seasons)
We love Buzzer Beater because of how quickly it escalates its seemingly grounded premise. Can basketball mesh with sci-fi? It sure can!
Hideyoshi Tanaka is a kid who's down on his luck. As a teenager living on the streets, he uses his incredible speed to hustle anyone he can on the basketball court.
His skills are so extraordinary, in fact, that he's soon recruited to join the Earth All-Star Team to compete against all kinds of weird basketball teams from across the galaxy.
What's great is that the sci-fi premise of Buzzer Beater doesn't undermine its core underdog story. You'll root for Tanaka no matter who he finds himself up against.
Mecha, Sci-Fi, Sports
Originally aired 2009
26 episodes (1 season)
We love animes about basketball. We love animes about mechs. We love animes with science fiction elements. What happens when all three come together? You get the incredible Basquash! series.
Basquash! takes the high stakes of Gundam, mixes it with a bit of Space Jam silliness, all with the aesthetics of Megas XLR.
These players are pilots of giant robot cars as they play a giant version of basketball. It's absolutely wild and incredibly fun to watch!
6. Hoop Days
Originally aired 2003
26 episodes (1 season)
Also known as Dear Boys, Hoop Days is one of the greatest animes about basketball. It's two decades old at this point, but still great!
When a high school basketball club finds itself short on players, the team faces a future where they'll be forced to disband. But when Kazuhiko Aikawa transfers to Mizuho High School just in time to fill out their roster, they're fortunately allowed to compete.
Hoop Days is a classic basketball anime that centers on this team that's technically allowed to compete but struggles due to a lack of players (because they can't make any substitutions or take breaks).
The cast is small enough that everyone gets a chance to shine and develop, which is something that many other sports anime series lack.
5. Ahiru no Sora
Originally aired 2019 to 2020
50 episodes (1 season)
Ahiru no Sora is about Sora Kurumatani, a first-year high school student who made a promise to his mother that he would lead his basketball team to victory in his first high school tournament.
That's already a lofty promise to keep under most circumstances, but it's made even worse because Sora's teammates are all delinquents and thugs who joined only the team to have an excuse to hang out together without being bothered by their teachers.
It's Sora's passion for the sport that convinces them to really give basketball a proper try. Along the way, their investment in the sport also helps them to become better students and people.
Comedy, Ecchi, Sports
Originally aired 2011 to 2013
24 episodes (2 seasons)
Are you in the mood for a moé anime series that happens to involve basketball? Then this one will scratch that itch perfectly.
Ro-Kyu-Bu! leans heavily into the "cute girls doing cute things" genre and all the tropes that come with it, but it never feels lazy.
The series follows a high school freshman who's forced to coach a girl's elementary school basketball team.
There's lots of humor and some uplifting moments throughout, with a heavy emphasis on the importance of teamwork. The aesthetic won't be for everyone, but there's a lot to like about Ro-Kyu-Bu!
Originally aired 2020
16 episodes (1 season)
Breakers follows a team of para-athletes who are competing in different sports, one of which happens to be wheelchair basketball.
This isn't a sport that gets much attention around the world—let alone in Japan—so it's fantastic to see it handled so thoughtfully here.
We love the positive messaging in the story, particularly with regard to how each athlete's unique circumstances impact their abilities both on and off the court. It's a shame it hasn't gotten more attention!
2. Kuroko's Basketball
Originally aired 2012 to 2015
75 episodes (3 seasons)
Kuroko's Basketball is a full-blown celebration of one of the most overlooked skills in the sport of basketball: passing.
Tetsuya Kuroko can't shoot or dribble or dunk as well as the five players known as the Generation of Miracles, but he's a master of putting the ball exactly where it needs to be.
Using this brilliant skill, he aims to dethrone the players sitting atop the pecking order at Teiko Junior High.
Kuroko's Basketball works because it shows how selfless play can overcome superior skills if a team is willing to work together. If that doesn't sum up the glory of basketball, what does?
1. Slam Dunk
Originally aired 1993 to 1996
101 episodes (1 season)
Slam Dunk is one of the greatest sports anime in history, so it shouldn't be much of a surprise to see it top this list.
The show revolves around Hanamichi Sakuragi and his incredible strength, which he uses to bully other students. He joins the school's basketball team at the behest of the girl he likes, but it ends up allowing him to find value in teamwork and friendship.
Slam Dunk has plenty of ups and downs, with the underdog not always coming out on top. What makes it so great? The fact that Hanamichi grows into a better person throughout the show. That alone makes this one of the easiest basketball anime series to recommend to anyone.
In 2022, it got a sequel anime film release called The First Slam Dunk. The fact that it's still garnering attention almost 30 years after the original anime shows how lasting Slam Dunk's legacy is.