The 10 Best Sports Anime to Watch

Diamond no Ace anime screenshot

Sports are fairly common in manga and anime for several reasons: They have obvious training/ competition/ tournament arcs which make for good storytelling, and sports also promote such values as teamwork and hard work. Also, Japanese schools tend to encourage participation in either clubs or sports.

That all adds up to a lot of sports anime series. So many, in fact, that we had to find the 10 best sports anime series you have to watch before anything else. Here are the top choices for any anime fan:

The Prince of Tennis

Prince of Tennis Anime Image

If someone asked you for a tennis anime series, this is probably the one you’d mention. The series began in 2001, starring middle school tennis prodigy Ryoma Echizen.

Ryoma isn’t always the easiest protagonist to like. Rather than a plucky underdog, he starts out having already won titles. He also sometimes comes across as arrogant (hence ‘prince’ of tennis).

Still, the series undeniably takes tennis seriously. And for all of his faults (tennis pun), Ryoma rises to face many challenges. The Prince of Tennis has OVAs, anime films, live-action musicals, and the sequel series The New Prince of Tennis (2012).

Hulu has the first 50 episodes of the first series. Funimation will slowly roll out the whole franchise.

Alternative: If you want a tennis anime series without all the tennis, try Teekyu. In theory, this hilarious gag anime series is about a high school girls tennis club. In practice, the goofy series avoids serious, hardcore tennis as much as possible, in order to concentrate on jokes and slapstick.

Slam Dunk

Slam Dunk anime

Based upon one of Weekly Shonen Jumps tentpole manga series, this 1993-1996 basketball anime has become a standard by which other series are judged.

The series features moody, hotheaded tough guy Hanamichi Sakuragi, who joins his school’s basketball team in order to impress a girl. Yes, Slam Dunk has elements of high school romantic comedy as well as sports. The series is almost worth it just for the nostalgic value of the music and the animation. However, it does tell a good story of the team’s rise to the top, as well as Hanamichi’s personal development.

The series is available at Crunchyroll in both subbed and dubbed versions.

Yowamushi Pedal

Yowamushi Pedal Puts the Bicycle Pedal to the Metal

The 2013-2014 anime series Yowamushi Pedal is a bicycle-racing sports anime series with an unlikely hero.

Series protagonist Sakamichi Onoda starts out as a shy, anime otaku. His only bicycling experience consists of his ‘mamachari’ city bike. However, Onoda’s hill-climbing ability grabs the attention of the racing club.

An OVA was also produced, along with anime and live-action films, and a live-action TV drama. The series can be found at Crunchyroll.

Alternative: Minami Kamakura High School Girls Cycling Club (2017) is a cute and funny slice-of-life series about the titular club. They take part in a racing event, but it’s mostly just fun with girls exploring on bikes.

Haikyu!!

haikyuu anime

Haikyu!! takes a very shonen anime approach to volleyball. The main protagonist, Shoyo Hinata, is a rookie underdog with a lot of guts and attitude. His rival, Tobio Kageyama, is an arrogant prince. These two join a slumping high school team with a tradition of excellence.

Crunchyroll has this series, which began in 2014.

Cinderella Nine

Cinderella Nine

This one is something of a personal favorite, but it’s certainly unique and interesting. This 2019 anime series is based on a mobile game.

Arihara Tsubasa wants to start a girls’ baseball team at her school, but she faces a lot of obstacles. Initially, the school doesn’t even have a suitable place for them to practice. She also has to gather up enough potential players. Some of these would-be players have to be encouraged to take part. Amazingly, the team somehow even manages to make it to a tournament. Crunchyroll has the series.

Kuroko’s Basketball

Kuroko's Basketball Characters

This 2012-2015 basketball anime series features hard-working, but unnoticeable ‘shadow’ basketball player Tetsu Kuroko. In junior high, Kuroko was on a title-winning team. However, when he gets to Seirin High School, his former teammates have all gone to other schools. Naturally, Kuroko must now battle his former allies.

You can find the series at Crunchyroll.

Free! Iwatobi Swim Club

Free! Anime characters

As an island nation with a lot of coastline (and a high number of Olympic swimming medals), it makes sense that Japan would produce a lot of swimming anime series.

The 2013 Free! series was initially based upon the light novel High Speed!, which was an honorable mention in the Kyoto Animation Award contest. The franchise includes several sequel series, and several movies.

The show revolves around a gifted swimmer who restarts his high school’s swim team. Naturally, top swimmer Haruka Nanase has a childhood rival who goes to another school. Eventually, the team breaks up, but he continues to compete in college.

The series is available at Crunchyroll.

Ace of Diamond

Diamond no Ace Anime

Japan has loved baseball for a long time. Dozens of baseball series have been made, ranging from gag series to romantic comedy. (But good luck finding some of those.)

Ace of Diamond (Diamond no Ace) features rising high school star pitcher Eijun Sawamura, as he pushes himself forward on an elite team. The series realistically depicts the drama and emotion of the sport. The series is available at Crunchyroll.

Hajime No Ippo

One of Anime’s Most Solid Contenders: Hajime no Ippo

The boxing series Hajime No Ippo started with a Weekly Shonen Magazine manga in 1989. There have been a couple of anime series, an anime TV movie, and an OVA.

A shy high school student, attacked by bullies, trains to become a boxer. Naturally, the series covers Ippo’s rise to the top, but there’s also a ton of character development.

Crunchyroll has both Hajime No Ippo: The Fighting (2002) and Hajime No Ippo: The Fighting – Rising (2013).

Ahiru no Sora

Ahiru no Sora Characters

The 2019 basketball anime series Ahiru no Sora is essentially the opposite of Slam Dunk. While the classic 1990s series had a tough guy joining a basketball team, Ahiru no Sora has a whole team of basketball delinquents.

Protagonist Sora Kurumatani (plucky young newcomer) has to get these club punks interested in actually playing basketball. Ahiru no Sora is on Crunchyroll.

Crunchyroll; OTAQUEST archives; Takeshi Konomi, TK WORKS / Shueisha, TV TOKYO, NAS; Takehiko Inoue/L.T Planning, Toei Animation; Wataru Watanabe (Weekly Shonen Champion) / Yowamushi Pedal 04 Production Committee; Haruichi Furudate / Shueisha, "Haikyu !!" Production Committee, MBS; Akatsuki Inc. / Animation "August Cinderella Nine" Production Committee; Fujimaki Tadatoshi / Shueisha Inc., Kuroko's Basketball Production Committee; Oji Koji / Kyoto Animation / Iwatobi High School Swimming Club; Terajima Yuji, Kodansha / “Ace of Diamond” Production Committee, TV TOKYO; Jyoji Morikawa / Kodansha / VAP / NTV; Takeshi Hinata, Kodansha / "Ahiru no Sora" Production Committee, TV TOKYO
Join Our Discussions on Discord