[Top 15] Best Sports Anime of All Time

Best Sports Anime
To make our sports club the best there is!

These titles might actually cause you to start a sport.

While a lot of people think that this is a new rising genre, the truth is, the Sports genre is a long-time, well-loved, and much sought-after genre in anime. No, Haikyuu!! isn’t the only sports anime out there, but if it’s what brought you to start looking for more sports anime, then we humbly welcome you to an inspiring and thrilling journey as we watch countless fictional athletes overcome their hardships as a sportsman/sportsperson. Like any good anime, several sports anime are well-written with other elements and sub genres are involved but a sport is used to tell the story. The involvement of a sport keeps things interesting for a viewer. It’s possible for a person  to get hooked on the sport at the same time immersed in  the stories of the characters involved.

There are too many good titles out there, but here’s a list of 15 sports anime that I highly recommend people to try out. Who knows? One of you might even try out a new sport along the way.

15. Hanebado

Hanebado Trailer

The story revolves around Ayano Hanesaki, the daughter of the reigning champ in badminton, Uchika Hanesaki. Ayano grew up happy, being able to play and train in badminton under her mother and was hailed as a good player. However, Ayano caught a cold before an important badminton match during her middle school year and subsequently lost. Uchika leaves her  after that event and Ayano believes it is due to her loss. After the incident she becomes disinterested in things and detached from the world till she eventually quit playing badminton. Now that Ayano begins her first year in high school, she is recruited to the badminton team by a former member, Kentaro Tachibana. 

If you’re after the thrill in a sport then Hanebado is beautifully drawn and executed when it comes to those scenes. So, for me the selling point of this series is its art and animation (fanservice is thrown here and there). However, Hanebado does tend to be too dramatic at times, but some people don’t seem to mind it. But if you’re in it for some really intense matches then it's a pretty good watch and probably it’s those scenes  that kept me watching.

14.  Baby Steps

The Prince of Tennis Trailer

The Prince of Tennis revolves around a 12-year old tennis prodigy, Ryoma Echizen. After completing and coming out victorious in several tennis tournaments in America, Ryoma returns to Japan and attends his father’s alma Mater, Seishun Academy, a private middle school famous for its strong tennis team. He eventually joins the school’s tennis team and easily becomes a regular member of the club. While things seem to go smoothly with his natural talent, Ryoma struggles to break free from his current style of tennis (a copy of his father’s style) and his awkwardness with his fellow teammates. 

The Prince of Tennis was one of those anime that probably gave the genre a boost and probably a lot of us have already crossed paths with this anime. While the anime does seem a bit over the top with unrealistic tennis moves (that increasingly becomes more exaggerated later) it still is a well-written anime with great characters, even the opposing teams will get you attached to their members. And hey, sometimes watching those exaggerated animations while they execute moves are entertaining. It’s kind of a lengthy series so this anime is probably good to watch with 2-3 other titles on the side. 

11. Tsurune: Kazemai Koukou Kyuudoubu

Tsurune Trailer

Minato Narumiya who apparently caught Target Panic during his last kyudo tournament in middle school caused his team’s loss. Now entering his high school years, he transferred to a lesser known school and is determined to put down the bow for good since it seems impossible to get over his Target Panic. A fateful meeting with the owlman makes him rethink his decision about never returning behind a bow. Though Target Panic stricken—he struggles to overcome his fear alongside his new team.

One of Kyoani’s lesser-known sports anime but I believe deserves a spot in the list. Usually, sports anime are backed with pretty good drama and I think Tsurune’s way of dealing with an actual psychological problem that archers have was done beautifully. Tsurune may not get your heart pumping like high-energy sports animes such as Free! or Kuroko’s Basketball but its charm lies with how real it is in terms of drama and teamwork. Tsurune is basically  short, sweet, and a good break from your usual sport anime. 

10. Yuri on Ice

Yuri on Ice Trailer

Yuri on Ice features a fictional figure skater by the name Yuri Katsuki who  just had a terrible loss at the skating Grand Prix Final. Wanting to disappear from the public eye from a humiliating loss he decides to head home and figure out what he wants to do with life and puts on a ton of weight while suffering depression. Despite wanting to leave the life of a pro he still loves skating and performs an original routine by a Russian figure skater, Victor Nikiforov, which some kids caught a video of and posted online. The next day, the video goes viral without Yuri’s knowledge, even reaching the eyes of Victor. The Russian decides to become Yuri’s coach and catches a plane for Japan as soon as possible.

Admit it, everyone was half expecting this anime to be in here. Well, that’s probably because the anime was just “born to make history”. Since the airing of the first few episodes, I saw more and more people try out skating for themselves. So, I figured if it took a skating anime for them to get on the ice then this show probably deserves a spot. The show focuses on two things; the life and career of a competitive skater, Yuri who battles through his low self-esteem and Yuri’s relationship with his new coach Victor, who teaches the rising star how to express himself more out in the ice… and maybe a thing or two about love. Watch to find out.

9. Chihayafuru

Chihayafuru Trailer

Growing up, Chihaya Ayase has always been in the shadows of her model older sister. Despite not getting as much attention or praise she is still pretty content with her life and supports her sister. At school, she meets and befriends a transfer student named Arata Wataya who introduces her to a game called “Karuta”—a physical and mental card game inspired by the classical anthology of Hundred Poets. Inspired by Arata she eventually falls in love with the game alongside her friend Taichi Mashima. The trio eventually grew close, spending most of their childhood at each other’s company, but were split up due to certain circumstances. Now at high school, Chihaya is determined to build the Municipal Mizusawa Competitive Karuta Club and bring the club to nationals.

Despite the anime being about Karuta, a Japanese competitive card game/sport, Chihayafuru has made it easily to almost every sport anime fan’s list. Something you don’t expect from a traditional card game. The anime has also garnered a lot of foreign fans during its run. The cast is fun and will easily grow on you and having a female lead to a co-ed sport has a refreshing feel to it. If you don’t know much about Karuta, it’s fine – I’m sure a lot of us only heard about it in passing with other anime shows, not knowing about the sport shouldn’t hinder you from watching this show.

8. Slam Dunk

Slam Dunk Trailer

The story focuses on a teenager named Hanamichi Sakuragi, a delinquent and a gang leader. He isn’t the most popular guy with the girls and has been rejected several times by girls that he’s liked. However, he manages to convince himself that Haruko Akagi is the love of his life and eventually decides to enter the Shohoku High School Basketball Team in order to impress her. 

An oldie that deserves to be mentioned. Slum Dunk premiered when the sports genre wasn’t too big of a deal yet—but you can tell a lot of sports anime, specifically basketball sports anime follow the footsteps of this anime. A lot of sports anime fans also have started off with Slam Dunk as one of the first few animes in this genre.

7. Ace of Diamond

Ace of Diamond Trailer

Eijun Sawamura, a middle school baseball Pitcher with a very unusual pitching style vows to play baseball with his current team in a local high school. That all changes when a talent scout invites him to play for a prestigious school: Seidou High and a shot at playing in Nationals. The problem with Eijun is that he has yet to control his pitching. Now that he is put in a spot with multiple talented players, Eijun struggles to find his place on the team.

Japan has A LOT of baseball anime, and it’s hard to narrow it down in this list. So, I’ll be limiting my list to my top two (The other you’ll get to see later). Ace of Diamond gives us a more realistic view of baseball, nothing over the top like some sports anime tend to do. Characters are fleshed out pretty well and the comedy is pretty solid in this show. Even if you aren’t a baseball fan Ace of Diamond is easy to fall in love with. The music also draws you in pretty well.

6. Run With the Wind

Run With the Wind Teaser Clip

Kakeru Kurahara, a former runner of Sendai Josei High School is being chased away from a convenience store he shoplifted from. While running away from his pursuer, he runs into Haiji Kiyose, a student from his university. Haiji, impressed by Kakeru’s running, manages to convince him to live in his apartment with eight other students. During his welcoming party, Haiji reveals his true intentions on having Kakeru onboard—he wants the entire apartment to participate in the upcoming Hakone Ekiden, a marathon relay race in Japan. The problem? Only Kakeru and Haiji are seasoned runners, the other residents are mere novices and don’t seem to be interested in Haiji’s plan.

While most sports anime do put mild focus on other team members, Run With the Wind goes the extra mile and gives all our 10 members in the relay some extra beef to back up their story. The show is easy to get into even if you aren’t a fan of any type of sports. It’s a good coming-of-age/self-discovery show that almost anyone can relate to. If you’re after something wholesome to watch, then add Run With the Wind to your list.   

5. Hajime no Ippo

Hajime no Ippo Trailer

Makunouchi Ippo starts off with almost zero friends and struggles with being bullied most of his life. One day, Ippo is saved by Takamura Mamoru who happens to be a boxer. Due to retaining some injuries from his attackers, the boxer takes Ippo to the Kamogawa boxing gym to recover. Once Ippo regains consciousness he is amazed with the boxing gym and even tries to punch the punching bag. He decided there and then that he wanted to enter the world of boxing and asked Takamura to train him. For Ippo his training has only begun.

I am not a huge fan of boxing anime but I enjoyed my run with Hajime no Ippo. The anime itself fits right in with other classics that debuted in the late 90s to early 2000s. It even has the old animation style a lot of 90s kids feel right at home with. I think the message of inspiration hits hard with this show with the main character originally being shy and timid. He eventually comes out of his shell due to finding himself with a sport—while it didn’t make me feel like I should try out the sport, Ippo did manage to hit its message with me: you can aim high as long as you have the determination to do it.

4. Free!

Free! Trailer

Free! is set in the small town of Iwatobi, Japan where a gifted swimmer, Haruka Nanase lives but has unfortunately stopped swimming in competitions. The story starts with the opening of a new school year, where Haruka and Makoto Tachibana encounter a long-time teammate of theirs from their very first relay competition, Nagisa Hazuki. Nagisa asks the two of them if they would like to dig-up their time capsule in their original club since the building was going to be torn down. The trio sneak-into the swim club in the evening and run into Rin Matsuoka, Haruka’s childhood rival and a teammate to the trio. Rin has seemingly changed and acted cold towards his old team. The meeting encourages Makoto, Nagisa and reluctantly, Haruka to start up a swim club so they can swim relay again.

Take it from Gou, most of us are in it for cute anime boys and muscles. Kidding aside, while the fanservice is very much welcome in this swimming anime, Kyoto Animation did not disappoint when it came to creating stunning visuals comboed with a compelling story. All the characters, especially our five main boys grow so much over the course of the series—even Rin who was a try-hard antagonist in the beginning, is shown to have a much caring and responsible side, especially when the torch of becoming the club leader in his own school is passed on to him. We swim free for the team.

3. Major

Major Trailer

Gorou Honda has always looked up to his father, Shigeharu, resulting in the younger boy getting obsessed with baseball. Gorou as a young child wishes to be like his father, a professional baseball player. Because of his kid’s admiration, Shigeharu keeps preserving his career despite his unsatisfying position in the baseball world.  Due to an injury Shigeharu is forced off the baseball team but still continues to play baseball but this time in a different position, as a batter. Gorou, bearing witness to his father’s baseball career, feels more motivated than ever and works his way up to the Japanese Little League.

And here is my other baseball entry for this list—Major! The mere fact that this series lasts long enough to have a 6 season run, 3 OVAs and a movie means it’s well-loved in the community. The series follows Gorou from his childhood to his professional baseball career to his unfortunate retirement in a similar case to his father ---only he decides to keep playing at the end but no longer pitches. Through the anime you get to see how athletes feel about their sport and how retirement looks for them and the lengths they go through to keep themselves in their game. 

2 Kuroko’s Basketball

Kuroko's Basketball

Teiko Junior High basketball team have been winning the Junior High Nationals for 3 consecutive years, their members were all known as the “Generation of Miracles” as they all belong to the same year. The team eventually split up after junior high, the members all had to attend different high schools with different basketball teams. The 6th member of the team, Tetsuya Kuroko called the “Phantom Sixth Man” ended up in Seiren High and joins the school’s new but powerful basketball team. Now he and his new teammates are planning on making Seirin the best basketball team in Japan, the hurdle is that all of Kuroko’s old teammates are now their opponents. 

If you don’t mind special abilities in a sports anime, Kuroko’s Basketball is pretty good. I enjoyed the animation and sometimes a sports anime doesn’t have to be realistic for it to be good. Despite it being in the sports genre it feels more like an action shounen anime, only with a bit of basketball done in there…. Or rather, basketball is the means of battle over here. But it being over the top makes it pretty hyped up for me and it’s part of the reason why a lot of us want to watch sports anime.

1. Haikyuu!!

Haikyuu!! Trailer

Junior High School student Shoyo Hinata becomes obsessed with volleyball after watching a match of Karasuno High School playing on TV. A particular player stood out to him because of his short stature, inspiring Hinata to be just like him. Even without any volleyball experience he decided to join his junior high volleyball club, but since he was the sole member, he had to build it from the ground-up with new members. In his first official match in his final year he suffers a loss from the team of Tobio Kageyama, Hinata then vows to someday defeat him. Once he starts off his High School career, he is shocked that Kageyama is also his clubmate this time around.

From biggest rivals to teammates, I did not expect the both of them to end up in the same team. That may as well be a good thing, as the both of them push each other to be  better players. I see almost the same influence this anime had on fans as Yuri on Ice had, If Yuri on Ice fans decided to try their luck on Ice, then Haikyuu!! got people to try smashing a ball on the court. I also see a lot of volleyball players really into the anime.

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An Alchemist who offers her creations to wandering travelers for their stories. Pat’s potions often have immense healing capabilities, sometimes a potent poison— you never really know till you try.
Gamer Since: 2001
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