Hanamichi Sakuragi is a extremely tall red-hairedJerk with a Heart of Gold (the "gold heart" part often hidden from the public) and a bit of a delinquent, who has been rejected by fifty girls while in Junior High School due to his fearsome fame. The last one, Yoko Shimamura, confesses that she rejected him because she was in love with Oda, a player from the basketball team, so Hanamichi hated that sport with a big passion. Naturally, when in his very first day in High School someone asks him if he likes basketball, he would be very happy to turn to the idiot and give him a big headbutt...Only to find, when he turns, that the one asking the question is a girl. A very pretty girl, in fact.The pretty girl in question, HarukoAkagi, is a basketball fan as well as a former player, and Hanamichi, who has instantly fallen in love with her, lies saying that he is an expert in the sport. Although she is not fooled, she finds that Hanamichi has a hidden natural talent (by seeing him try to dunk and slam his forehead against the backboard no less), and encourages him to apply into the school's basketball team. Unfortunately, she also lets slip that she is in love with one Kaede Rukawa, an uber-talented rookie. Hanamichi is so crushed that he commits the mistake of insulting the sport just when the team captain was near.After "winning" with a very bizarre play against the captain of the basketball team (who also happens to be Haruko's older brother TakenoriAkagi), Hanamichi is finally accepted into the team. However, he is relegated to learning the basics, something that his bombastic personality and his "necessity" of impressing Haruko can't handle well. To make matters worse, his hot temper and his very open rivalry against Rukawa (who ignores him half of the time, and fights back the other half) makes the training sessions a living hell for everyone involved. It doesn't help that Rukawa has a legion of noisy fangirls who visit every training session and are very annoying to begin with.However, between the addition of more players to the team (one of them after an especially gruesome fight involving gangs), the first games against other schools, and the obligatory regional and national championship, something weird begins to happen to Hanamichi. Although he is still a hot-tempered redhead and his hopeless onesided crush on Haruko doesn't diminish even a little, he soon finds that he actually does like basketball by himself and not as a way to impress someone else. More enough, he slowly begins to accept that he needs to practice more, and needs to play along with the team. Learning that is making him a better player. The basketball court is making him more mature...First published in 1990 in Shueisha's Shonen Jump, Slam Dunk became extremely popular and set many standards in sport manga, with a storyline that balanced comedy and drama. It subverted the then-usual trope of instant sport genius with a main character who, while having a lot of potential, is a real newbie and is treated as one even when he makes astounding progress. It was also written under the real supposition that very few people would know the sport, using the protagonist road to learn a new sport as a way to explain the rules and tactics, and even adding extra blurbs for bigger inside.The anime series was broadacast in Latin America in late 1990s-early 2000s, where it earned great popularity and is still very well-loved (partially because of a fantasticdub made in Mexico). The manga is still very popular in South Korea, where it is said it has inspired a generation of players. Reruns of the series also occur every few years in the basketball-obsessed Philippines, where the series is a favorite even among usually non-anime-watching demographics.An English version of the manga was initially published in the short-lived English manga anthology Raijin Comics by Gutsoon! Entertainment from 2002 to 2004. Years Gutsoon went out of business, Viz Media picked up the rights for the manga and begun serializing the series in the American Shonen Jump on September 2008. Additionally, Funimation is offering official subtitled episodes from Toei Animation on their video streaming site.
Not that the referred ones care that much about it.
Also, when Rukawa recalls an one-on-one he had with Sendoh, the latter told him about a certain "Kitazawa" who Rukawa should be on the lookout for. Turns out that he was talking about Sawakita and could not remember his name properly.
Adorkable: Hanamichi and Ryota have this in spades for their love interests.
All Love Is Unrequited: It so is. Sakuragi for Haruko at first. Eventually Haruko herself recognizes this is where her feelings for Rukawa are going. Also, Ryota for Ayako, at least until the epilogue.
Ambiguously Brown: Many characters, prominently Akagi (playing up on his resemblance to Patrick Ewing), Uozumi, Masashi, and Maki.
Animal Motifs: In Hanamichi's imagination, Akagi is a gorilla, Rukawa is a fox and Miyagi was at least once seen as a mouse. And pretty much every other guys are monkeys or apes of one species or another.
Author Avatar: Dr. T, a character with appears in both anime and manga to explain the basic rules of basketball to the audience, is just a chibified version of the author, Takehiko Inoue.
And This Is for...: Parodied with Sakuragi and a gangster (who belonged to Mitsui's gang before he returned to the team) who once hit Rukawa, whom he gives a mere slap on the wrist (anime) or a light tap on the face (manga), actually thanking him for beating up Rukawa.
It's made ever funnier by the fact that it happens in the middle of a long list of "more serious" And This Is for... examples (like... putting a cigarette out on a basketball) that earned said gangster much heavier hits.
Awesome, but Impractical: Sakuragi's 'Skull Dunk'. It's awesome, but won't get you anywhere in the middle of a basketball match. You'll get a foul and, depending on the case, you might even get the player on the receiving end unconscious.
Belligerent Sexual Tension: Miyagi and Ayako were this at age eleven (age was probably the key reason for this). Rather hilarious considering how much of a dogged nice guy Ryota becomes later on.
Berserk Button: Do NOT wake up Rukawa from a nap. Do NOT say Rukawa is the best in front of either Sakuragi and/or Kiyota. Do NOT mention Sendoh's prowess in front of Rukawa and Sakuragi. Do NOT insult basketball in front of Akagi. Do NOT...
Berserker Tears: Sakuragi cries them while trying to commit suicide in episode 2, after Haruko shouts at him. Also, Miyagi, after mistaken Sakuragi as going out with Ayako.
Beta Couple: Ryota and Ayako are this to Hanamichi and Haruko to an extent. Ryota makes his affection for Ayako very clear and Ayako generally doesn't mind it (unless it interferes with basketball or gets him in trouble). Sakuragi even shows some distress when he notices Ryota's made more progress with Ayako then he has with Haruko.
Beware the Nice Ones: Kogure; he's gentle and calm, yet doesn't even flinch when he's slapped by Mitsui, and later gets to yell at him when Mitsui hits him again. Haruko is also shown as a pacific and gentle Na´ve Everygirl, but the second episode had her openly yelling at Sakuragi when she mistakenly thinks he's back to his bad habits. Also, Coach Anzai; we are informed that years before he got his pacific, almost beatific appearance, he was a very aggressive trainer and manager who was downright feared by his peers and pupils. He only became gentler after his star student's Yazawa's tragic death.
We see a glimpse of his evil persona during the Sannoh game, when Sakuragi is being his usual self and Anzai really needs him to listen to his plan, before he returns into the court. However, the glimpse is so brief that Sakuragi and the other players on the bench look quite confused on what actually happened. Still, it's enough to get Sakuragi's attention, and thus start the Miracle Rally.
Big Eater: Sakuragi, in the lunch breaks of his 20,000-shot training.
Bland-Name Product: Oh, so many in the anime... Subverted with the sneakers, all of which are noted to be legitimate, professional basketball brands. The manga also subverts it by including many real sports brands in the basketballs and gear.
The manga goes more on the aversion route, because real-life brands can be spotted rather frequently on and off courts (some characters are usually seen drinking Pocari Sweat, a Japanese soft drink).
"Blind Idiot" Translation: A punk saying "Hey, you with the beard" to Noma, who is completely clean shaven except for his prominent mustache; This is because there's only one word (hige) for any kind of facial hair in Japanese, but you'd think an editor would notice that the "bearded" guy has absolutely no beard.
Blind Without 'Em: Subverted with Hanagata, who gets his glasses broken during the Shoyo match but can still play.
Catch Phrase: Hikoichi's "UNBELIEVABLE!!" ("must check that!" too) Sakuragi's "I'M A GENIUS" and "TEMEE KITSUNE!" (Why you fox!), which is always directed at Rukawa; Rukawa's "Dou Ahou" (lit. "dumbass"), usually directed towards Sakuragi.
Chekhov's Boomerang: Early in the series, in the practice game with Ryonan Sakuragi learns the lesson that the game is still on until the time's up. With a one point lead and only 20 seconds left, Shohoku has assumed that they have already won, but Sendoh doesn't waste a remaining second as he rushes the ball to the other end and scores, ending the game with Ryonan as the victor. Sakuragi takes this to heart as much later in Shohoku and Ryonan's actual match, as the game is about to end with Shohoku leading, Sakuragi warns his teammates not to put their guard down toward Sendoh and they rush to make a defensive formation that keeps Sendoh from scoring up to the end. THEN, much more later, at the end of the series Sannoh takes the one point lead with only eight seconds left. So SAKURAGI HIMSELF DOES A SENDOH. As everyone is about to acknowledge Sannoh's victory, they then realize that Sakuragi is already running to the other end of the court to get a good shooting position. The rest of Shohoku quickly catches on and does a fast break; Sakuragi then gets the ball and does a buzzer beater, winning the game for Shohoku.
Crazy Jealous Guy: Ryouta Miyagi in regards to Ayako. One of his earliest appearances has him crying a river, screaming and punching Sakuragi because he mistook him for Ayako's boyfriend. When they just happened to be walking together talking about basketball.
Determinator : Lots of players are SO determined to win against all costs that they endure injuries, extreme fatigue and practically Every Single Crap thrown at them because of their sheer willpower. Special mention goes to Sakuragi in the manga, playing whole-heartily in the semifinals despite having a crippling injury, Akagi playing against Kainan with a seriously sprained ankle, this being his Crowning Moment Of Awesome and Rukawa playing half blind against Toyotama (he still had one functioning eye, but still)
Dojikko: Haruko. Sakuragi himself, in the beginning.
Drill Sergeant Nasty: Anzai, prior to the series beginning. He adopted his current zen-like persona after he realized that his methods were driving his players into physical harm.
According to Haruko, Miyagi became one after becoming Captain.
Driven to Suicide: Parodied in episode two - After Haruko calls Sakuragi out, he attempts to jump off the ledge while crying Berserker Tears and his friends have to pull him away.
Expy: A lot of the characters were based on real-life NBA superstars.
Shohoku High lampshades these to high heaven: Although the team are only allowed numbers 4 - 15 in their jerseys (FIBA Rules), they wear the numbers of their respective real-life counterparts on their practice sessions. As such, Akagi (based on Patrick Ewing) wears 33 instead of his regular number 4, and Rukawa (Jordan) wears number 23 instead of 11. Sakuragi, who is based on Dennis Rodman, still wears the number 10 that Dennis wore while playing for the Detroit Pistons.
Mr. Fanservice: Every named male character except for Akagi or any of the old and ugly coaches.
Festival Episode: After a grueling 20,000 shot challenge by Coach Anzai, Sakuragi collapses when his friends suggest that it's time for basics, something Sakuragi HATES. Haruko, concerned, and as a reward, suggest they go to the festival. To which Sakuragi immediately perks up and thinks its a date. He then jumps up and enthusiastically does whatever basics is required.
Game-Breaking Injury: Sakuragi, in the match against Sannoh, leading to one of his greatest Crowning Moment Of Awesome in the series. Some may think of Akagi's sprained ankle against Kainan too, but Shohoku did not win that match.
Gecko Ending: Though the manga had already ended at around the same time, the anime was finished before the nationals arc; and as the anime's finale a practice game is made up where Shohoku goes against a team consisting of Shoyo and Ryonan's finest. Some elements in the nationals games are used in the practice game.
Gentle Giant: When in a good mood, Sakuragi can be a rather awkward but nice guy. Specially if you're a sweet-looking girl, like Haruko.
He may be one of the hot-headed characters, but Uozumi also counts, especially considering his background story.
Genius Bruiser: All the center players, especially Masashi Kawata and Akagi.
Glass Cannon: Mitsui is Shohoku's second best scorer and one of the best in Kanagawa, but his stamina is very poor. There's also Team Toyotama, who greatly emphasize offense and have rather lacking defensive play as a result.
Gonk (Takamiya, Kawata - both brothers - , some other players)
Goldfish Grabbing Game: During the festival episode. Trying to find Haruko, who disappeared with her two friends, he finds her at the fish grabbing game. She wanted to help a little boy and girl get one but admits she's clumsy. Sakuragi of course boasts his genius and tries unsuccessfully several times, soon running out of money. He didn't give up and insists the guy "put it on his tab" and furiously swishes around to get the fish. The owner of course is not pleased and gives him whatever fish he wants.
Hero Antagonist: Worth noting since unlike some other sports-themed stories the opponents are not the least bit Jerkasses. And some of them are better sports than the hotheaded delinquents that consist most of the main cast. (And yet you can't help but love and root for Sakuragi and the rest for it.) Of particular note is Sendoh, with his easygoing and inspiring attitude; who may be the closest thing to the ideal sportsman in the series, and who ALSO brings up the biggest Oh Crap moments every time he gets to hold the ball!
How We Got Here: The first episode shows the Shohoku team in a match before the opening. Probably the Nationals. After the opening, they show us how they got there.
Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Haruko and either Sakuragi, Rukawa, Aouta, or Akagi if we go by platonic relationships. Also Youko and Oda, as well as Okita and Eri (though they're more Will They or Won't They?). Subverted with Ayako and Miyagi since they're around the same height.
The Idiot from Osaka: Hikoichi is a perceptive guy who prides himself on the amount of effort he puts into researching opposing teams. He also mistook Sakuragi for Rukawa and Akagi when they first met, and was convinced that he really had all the talent be boasted of.
Irony: Sakuragi frequently calls himself a genius, and such moments are either ignored or turned into a Crowning Moment of Funny. But seeing as he manages to go from a complete beginner to someone giving the top senior high basketball team an extremely tough time, he may very well be counted as one.
It's All My Fault: After losing to Kainan, Sakuragi and Rukawa have a fight over whose fault it was (that's right, each blaming himself instead of the other).
Love at First Punch: Surprisingly enough, Ryota and Ayako were both this to each other in 6th grade (according to the prequel). Perhaps Miyagi's adorkable side came with puberty.
Love Makes You Dumb: Haruko is a quite normal and booksmart girl, but mention Rukawa to her and she'll go all starstruck. Miyagi also suffers of this: mention Ayako and he'll do the same even in the middle of a game ("Well done, Ryouta!" "Aya-chaaan!").
Made of Iron: Nearly everyone. Hanamichi and Rukawa get beaten up, hit with the metal side of a mop. They're both left made bloody messes, and at one point Rukawa faints from bloodloss and lays in a pool of his own blood. They both proceed to beat the shit out of their respective opponents. Everyone received at least one attack, and while the redshirts were knocked out of the fight with one blow, Hanamichi made Tetsuo, a big muscular man, look like a fly by comparison.
Kiyota: Wild Monkey (And he gets called 'Red-haired Monkey' in return)
Maki: Old Man
Kogure: Glasses Man (Megane-kun)
Mitsui: Missy (Micchy)
Masashi Kawata: Gori-ball
Anzai-sensei: Pops (Jiji)
Himself: Genius (Tensai)
No Celebrities Were Harmed: With a bit of Shout-Out too: Shohoku's colors and jerseys are also based on the Bulls and fans have lots of fun drawing parallels to its star players at the time of the comic's running. Sakuragi's resemblance to Dennis Rodman is somewhat accidental; the series started before Rodman was on the Bulls at all (and let's consider also that Sakuragi had been a typical school delinquent for quite a while), but given that Sakuragi shaves his head, bringing a physical resemblance to Rodman into the picture, it seems like the author just ran with it. There's also Akagi's uncanny resemblance to Patrick Ewing despite being a Japanese high school student.
PrequelSpinoff: In 1998, Inoue published a one-shot manga called Piercings, which starred Ryota and Ayako. As the name suggests, it tells the story of how and when Ryota got his piercing, as well as some insight into Ayako and Ryota's families.
However, unlike most prequels and spin-offs, it's relation to the main series wasn't promoted at all, and it isn't till the last pages that we learn who the two children really are.
Rage Quit: Sakuragi quits the team in the earlier episodes because he is only being given basic training
She's All Grown Up: One possible explanation for Miyagi's deep infatuation with Ayako. It's revealed in the prequel he first met her when he was 11, but at the time thought she was weird. Yet when he meets her again in high school, he's head over heels.
Ryonan High - Orlando Magic (at least the 1993 jersey)
Kainan High - Los Angeles Lakers
Shoyo High - Boston Celtics
Small Name, Big Ego: Sakuragi in the beginning, zero skills, and still likes to call himself a Basketball Genius. While he does improve as the series goes on, his bark is consistently louder than his bite.
Super-Deformed: By the bushel. Since the "normal" style is very near to a realistic one (which is Takehiko Inoue's default), the comedic effect is increased. One of the licensed videogames was a basketball simulation where all the characters were in SD.
Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Sakuragi with Rukawa. Rukawa himself is a proxy example because he is very individualistic - it's like he thinks he could take on the entire opposing team alone.
Possibly lampshaded at the end of the manga, where Rukawa makes the final pass of the game against Sannoh to Sakuragi, who is in position to score the winning bucket and does. Then, they high-five... And immediately turn away from each other contemptuously.
Team Dad: Anzai, Taoka, Takato and other coaches. To a degree, also Captain Akagi.
Team Mom: Ayako, Anzai's wife, somewhat. Kogure is a male example.
10-Minute Retirement: When Sakuragi quits basketball in the earlier episodes, he comes back very quickly
Those Two Guys: Sakuragi's delinquent friends are those four guys. Usually parodied whenever they are presented (needless to say, the others Okusu, Noma and Takamiya feel less than pleased with this treatment):
Training from Hell (Hanamichi's special training, either with Anzai or Gori - I mean, Akagi. The Ryonan training is actually so hard that the mere memories make *all* players, from Hikoichi to Sendoh to Uozumi, go weak at the knees.)
True Companions: Many: Sakuragi's gang of friends, and the baseketball teams themselves.
Akagi even lampshades this trope. He bluntly states that he doesn't consider any of the starters his friends, but he does think they're the best teammates he could have.
That said, after overhearing Sakuragi loudly declaring that he will defeat Kainan to help protect his dream of championship while forced out of the match by a painful injury, and witnessing him giving his all to do so, Akagi clearly begins to show a genunie brotherly love for the boy, in spite of his attempts to do otherwise.
Tsundere: Manager Ayako, towards Dogged Nice Guy Ryouta. In the end, she may have started to return his love for her.
Ayako's friend Mari Kawai and Eri from the OAV are also pretty Tsundere-ish.