[Top 10] Best Sports Anime To Watch

Ten best sports anime to watch
Be compelled by the power of friendship into watching these wholesome, testosterone filled anime.

As an avid shoujo and slice of life fan, I was completely caught off guard when I first picked up The Prince of Tennis and was absolutely obsessed. I have since read the entirety of The Prince of Tennis twice, along with its sequel series, and fallen deep into the chasm of the sports anime genre head first. With compelling characters, story arcs, and the power of friendship, the genre has a lot to offer any anime fan. 

10. Slam Dunk

Slam into action with this sports anime classic. 

Hanamichi Sakuragi is a hard-headed delinquent at best, and simply a loser at worst. After experiencing his fiftieth rejection, Sakuragi meets Haruko Akagi, who recruits him for the school’s basketball team. A little in love, Sakuragi agrees, and eventually falls in love with the sport as well. 

Slam Dunk originally aired back in 1993 as a TV series followed by a series of films. The most recent film came out in 2022, making this a great time to either revisit or get into this anime. Slam Dunk has an older animation style that brings out nostalgia, along with a rags-to-riches plot that fans of any sports anime can enjoy. 

Slam Dunk features not only the achievements of a small town basketball team rising through the ranks, but also the crew of misfits that help the team rise to the top. 

9. Hikaru no Go (Hikaru’s Go)

Who knew board games could be so riveting?

Hikaru Shindo stumbles upon an old Go board one day while snooping around his grandfather’s attic. To his surprise, the old board was haunted by the ghost of Sai, the emperor’s Go teacher from the Heian Era. Sai becomes linked with Hikaru, as the only person who can see and interact with Sai. Together, they take the Go world by storm, making their way up the rankings in the hopes of achieving the Kami no Itte - the perfect move. 

While some would consider Go to be a sport just about as much as Chess is, I think it would be remiss not to include Hikaru no Go on this list. With a rivalry and a goal to be the best of the best, Hikaru deserves as much recognition as the other sports on this list. 

At first glance, an anime about Go doesn’t seem the most thrilling - and I’ll admit I was hesitant at first as well. However, the way the characters develop throughout the story and discover their own goals and wants is incredibly well done, with the Go matches performed with enough suspense and drama to keep you hooked. I’ve read and watched Hikaru no Go several times over now, and it should be a must watch for any sports anime fan. 

8. Yuri on Ice

It's time to make history fellas. 

Yuuri Katsuki is reeling from defeat at the Grand Prix Finale, and simply wants to rest at home, eat pork cutlets, and wallow in his misery. Unfortunately for those plans, an old video of Yuuri, wherein he recreated five time world champion Victor Nikiforov’s routine, goes viral and catches the eye of Victor himself. Victor, inspired, goes to meet Yuuri and offers to be his coach and mentor, snapping Yuuri out of his funk and into the zest of competition once more. 

Yuuri on Ice is a very heartwarming show with a whole slew of interesting characters that make Yuuri’s journey back into the spotlight a fun and compelling watch. If you’re a fan of BL as well, Yuuri on Ice is a rarity of a popular show wherein the main male couple (spoiler) do get together. As Yuuri and Victor’s relationship as coach and mentee develops and pushes them towards victory, the audience feels their success and joy as they conquer competitions and rivalries to make it to the top. 

And, of course, it’s got a banging opener. 

7. Diamond no Ace (Ace of Diamond)

Do you have what it takes to be an Ace?

Eijun Sawamura is a pitcher with a very unique throwing style. His unpredictable throws get him scouted by the prestigious Seido High School to join their baseball team. Their goal? Help the upperclassmen make it to nationals for the summer tournament before they are forced to retire. Subsequent seasons of Diamond no Ace follow Sawamura and the other underclassmen as they struggle through building the team and going to the fall nationals without their upperclassmen. 

Diamond no Ace follows an interesting crew of characters that really grow on you (and each other) as the show progresses. At first, the team is reluctant to accept Sawamura as one of their own, but through the development of his skills and proving himself to the team, Sawamura becomes an intrinsic part of the team. This inner-team rivalry makes Diamond no Ace an interesting watch with a twist on more traditional team dynamics. 

6. Sayonara Football (Sayonara Watashi no Cramer: First Touch)

Set aside the male-driven ego fests for a moment with this all female soccer team. 

Sayonara Football follows Sumire Suō and Midori Soshizaki as they enter high school and join an eclectic cast of girls in the Warabi Seinan High School soccer team. Sumire and Midori have to band together against rival schools, fellow classmates, and even their own administration in their efforts to take their team to the top. The original manga was first developed into an anime film, Sayonara Watashi no Cramer: First Touch, and then into an anime TV series, Farewell, My Dear Cramer. 

Sayonara Football is a refreshing new look on a traditionally male dominated genre. It balances the light heartedness of the genre with a realistic look at the challenges that women and girls face across the world when it comes to being taken seriously in sports. Sayonara Football is truly one of a kind, and a definite must watch for sports anime lovers everywhere. 

5. Area no Kishi (The Knight in the Area)

Why am I crying? It's allergies, I promise. 

Kakeru and Suguru are brothers with a passion for soccer. Suguru decides to aggressively pursue his passion on the field, quickly becoming a top tier player with a bright future. Meanwhile, Kakeru decides to take a more passive role, content as a manager for the team until a series of unfortunate circumstances force him back onto the field. Kakeru, along with his childhood friend and women’s national team star, Nana, aims to join the men’s national team and enter the World Cup. 

Area no Kishi is a turbulent, emotional ride that caught me off guard the first time I delved into it. With tragic motivations, it is easy to become invested in Kakeru’s journey, with each win feeling like a personal success. Along with the trials and tribulations of soccer, Kakeru goes on an intense personal journey that, with a splash of romance along the way, catapults him to victory. 

4. The Prince of Tennis

Do you have what it takes to beat a twelve year old?

Echizen Ryouma returns to middle school in Tokyo at the request of his father after a stint abroad in America. He joins Seishun Academy for their highly ranked tennis team, quickly earning himself a spot among the roster. Ryouma and his teammates must fight through a series of qualifying rounds and learn to work as a team to qualify for a spot in the National Tournament. 

The Prince of Tennis is one of the best-selling manga in circulation, with an anime adaption, several live action musical and movie versions, and even a 3DCG film that premiered in 2021. The characters from each team feature a unique “quirk” that makes simply playing tennis as exciting as watching a match between superheroes. 

Echizen Ryouma, as a character, is quite unique as well. Most sports anime tend to favor an underdog main character that builds their way up through the ranks through sweat, hard work, and the power of friendship. On the contrary, Echizen starts off guns blazing with the skills and ego to match. Despite this, the audience never fails to keep routing for Echizen even as we know he’ll probably win yet another match. With an unapologetic catch phrase of mada mada dane (you still have far to go), Echizen decimates his opponents as the watchers eagerly lap up his cocky attitude. Ryouma’s character growth is centered less around his tennis skills and more about his ability to make friendships with his teammates and accept their help in the coming tournaments. 

3. Free! Iwatobi Swim Club

It's time to put friendship to the real test and solve our problems like real men - shirtless and in the water. 

Free! started as a marketing campaign by Kyoto Animation to highlight their animation style. The story follows Nanase Haruka as he and some friends revitalize Iwatobi High School’s swim club after a run-in with his old rival, Matsuoka Rin. As Rin joins the swim team at Samezuka Academy, the boys each continue training to advance through the prefectural tournaments - and perhaps advance their friendship at the same time. 

Free! is purely just simple fun. While there is an underlying plot with a few tender-hearted moments, for the most part the cast is kooky, the events are light-hearted, and the episodes pass quickly. With a series of faintly ridiculous events following each other, Free! is not a show to be taken seriously, which is where its charm lies. If you want a fun, easy sports anime revolving around friendships and redemption, Free! may be worth checking out. 

2. Haikyuu!!

Never let your height stop you from soaring to new places. 

Hinata Shoyo becomes determined to be the greatest volleyball player of all time after watching the Karasuno Volleyball Team play on TV. He enters Karasuno High School only to discover the team has seen better days, and (even worse) he’s expected to work closely with his old rival, Kageyama Tobio. 

Haikyuu!! quickly shot to fandom stardom with a cast of likable characters and an enemies-to-friends dynamic for the ages. As the show unravels characters’ pasts and motivations, the audience is drawn deeper into caring for the different teams and their successes. With side rivalries that are as loveable (and sometimes even more) as the main characters, Haikyuu!! draws the audience in with the trials and tribulations of high school volleyball. 

1. Kuroko no Basuke (Kuroko’s Basketball)

Life is ball, ball is life. 

All Kuroko Tetsuya wanted to do was play basketball with his best friends. Unfortunately, a mysterious event while they were in middle school breaks up the “Generation of Miracles” and they each part ways to a different high school. Kuroko attends Seirin High School, where he meets Kagami Taiga, a hot-headed basketball loving idiot who seems primed to take Seirin to the top. The anime follows Kuroko and his new teammates in their attempt to become Japan’s number one high school basketball team, defeating Kuroko’s ex-teammates, forging new friendships, and rekindling old ones along the way. 

With unexpected amounts of emotional quirks, Kuroko no Basuke stands as one of the most popular sports anime of our time. Each of the “Generation of Miracles” plays with a near superhuman quirk that makes each match interesting and unpredictable. The character growth shown throughout the show is what really drew me in, with the characters having to evaluate their past selves in middle school and come to terms with their past mistakes in order to move forward in the future. Kuroko no Basuke is undoubtedly a sports anime, but, above all, it is a story of friendship. 

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Born to the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, Julia spends her days collecting sea shells, walking barefoot, and pretending if she tries hard enough, she can still become a mermaid one day.
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