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Improbable Sports Skills

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In Real Life, sports are not so entertaining as it seems. Top-class players may have different styles among them, but that's all. The sport mainly works in terms of either My Kung Fu Is Stronger Than Yours or strategic play, or team play, or all three.

In fiction, however, especially if the whole plot is about a certain sport that exists in Real Life, expect it to become Mundane Made Awesome. The characters will have some special moves somehow reflecting to their characteristics, being improbably awesome while defying physics and common sense. If the sport involves a ball that doesn't break while using these moves, you'll wonder what that ball is made of in order to survive all kinds of overkilling shoots done to the ball. These skills has power proportional to one's will, so expect the protagonists to beat much stronger opponents by David vs. Goliath very frequently.

Or just be simple — using sport skills that's improbable or impossible in Real Life.

Appears a lot in Shōnen anime or comic. Fighting Series involve this a lot, since fighting is a sport if rules are enforced. Usually paired with Tournament Arc. Involves a lot of Calling Your Attacks, and There Is No Kill Like Overkill (at least in relation to what they actually needed to do). Can be easily justified if the player are using their superpowers to play sports.


Compare Fictional Sport, where in this trope it's about players who plays a Real Life, mundane sport using improbable skills, and compare Blood Sport, where in this trope the sport itself isn't deadly; it's the players who hold deadly sport skills. Also compare Martial Arts and Crafts. See also I Know Madden Kombat, the inverse of this trope (using non-combat sport skills in combat situations); and Muggle Sports, Super Athletes, when the skills come from superpowers.




  • An anti-steroids PSA features a soccer player breaking the laws of physics.
  • In this commercial for All Sport energy drink, by 2044 basketball hoops are 20 feet tall, courts are 100 yards long and the basket moves around randomly to make the game harder. After everyone started drinking All Sport the game just got too easy.

Anime and Manga

  • Played for laughs in Azumanga Daioh, during an impromptu soccer game between Yukari and her class. Sakaki is shown moving to intercept Yukari, as the latter charges upfield with the ball. Then Sakaki casually steals the ball from Yukari as she literally walks past her!
  • Captain Tsubasa is famous for this. We have soccer player protagonists who shoots football that follows any arbitrary curve, shots that blows the goalkeeper away and hurts who blocks it, soccer player that jump on posts and crossbar and many other examples.
  • In Eyeshield21, American football becomes one - a Magnificent Bastard who always outsmart other teams, runners who are rumored to have lightspeed (or to be accurate, 50 yards in 4.2 seconds) with improbable counter-attacks to stop players from blocking them, pass receivers who run backwards even faster than most people can run forwards, and catch long-range passes without looking at the ball.
  • The Prince of Tennis is full of this - we have players who can perform instant serves, lightning-fast reaction speed, shots that always hit your wrists, or even take away your five senses during a play. The protagonist? A Game-Breaker which can use his sixth sense to play tennis while copying everyone's special moves, and is unbeatable even when he suffers from memory loss.
  • Bleach anime episode 205. A number of Soul Reapers use their natural shinigami and zanpakuto abilities while playing a game of kemari.
  • In the Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's manga, Nanoha, Fate and co are playing dodgeball. Predictably, Fate uses her supersonic flight and Super Reflexes to her advantage. But Nanoha's friend, the Passionate Sports Girl Suzuka Tsukimura, surpasses her by showing superior reflex; she manages to Catch and Return the ball that Fate throws at her, and making Fate unconscious in the process.


  • Shaolin Soccer did this by putting Kung Fu in soccer. In short, a bunch of superhumans playing soccer, and using Tai Chi as the stronger goalkeeper shot, blowing away all 11 players plus the goal post.
  • The Ultimate Game of basketball is this in Space Jam, wherein Elmer Fudd can dunk, lardbucket Stan Podolak can sink a shot while buried under five Monstars, and Michael Jordan can reach the rim from the half-court line. Of course, since the game is being played in the cartoon universe, the Laws of Physics and the Rules of Basketball are reduced to suggestions.
  • Baseball film The Scout has an utterly ridiculous scene in which Steve Nebraska 1) pitches a perfect game (possible) 2) by striking out every batter, 27 in total (ridiculous, as no pitcher has ever struck out more than 20 batters in a game and more than 15 strikeouts is pretty uncommon) 3) on the minimum 81 pitches (about a billion times more unlikely than the 27 strikeouts).
  • The Mighty Ducks: Both shots of goal-snipers Fulton Reed and Russ Tyler are physically impossible to perform in real life. Tyler's knucklepuck cannot be launched as shown in the movies (the puck would tumble along the ice for a few feet before sliding to a stop) and violates aerodynamic laws as it travels every which way in mid-flight; Reed's slap shot is more straightforward but the tracking shots make the puck seem to travel all of three miles an hour, plenty of time for opposing players to skate out of the way and for the Hawks goaltender to let out a scream before being blown into the back of the net.


  • Discworld:
    • Death is The Ace at pretty much every sport or game he tries his hand at. Because he's Death. However, when he takes a stab at being human in Reaper Man, he has to learn how to be bad at things, and so becomes impossibly bad at them, which takes a great deal more skill than being merely good.
    • At her school, Death's daughter Susan demonstrates unerring and somewhat inhuman accuracy at any sport involving sticks, being able to swing a hockey or lacrosse stick with such strength and accuracy that the ball or puck goes exactly where she wants it to go. Apparently being able to swing a long stick with precision runs in the family. But to Susan's chagrin, the more she points this out to her peers, the more likely she is to be picked last for a team.

Live-Action TV

  • In The Greatest American Hero, Ralph goes undercover as a pitcher in a baseball team. He uses the supersuit to throw pitches at well over 100 mph.

Video Games

  • Touhou has a fan-game called Touhou Soccer, i.e soccer in Touhou style. Everyone uses overpowered skills, which usually don't involve kicking the ball, to play soccer - from dribble, tackle, passes, shoots, saving, while you can even use danmaku to stop opponents going further by invoking a foul. And by overpowered, see it yourself. Probably the most exaggerated example ever seen.
  • Inazuma Eleven has junior high school kids playing soccer and throwing bona fide Elemental Powers and other supernatural stuff around like no tomorrow.
  • In Final Fantasy X, The Jecht Shot is this in-universe for the sport Blitzball (some mixture of rugby and soccer and played underwater). It involves bouncing the ball off the goal post (or a defender's face) and swimming up to kick the rebound into the goal with a lot of spinning thrown in.
  • NBA Jam, the NBA Street series, and to a lesser extent the NFL Street series, give real-life athletes apparent superpowers. Nobody can jump over the rim while pulling off highlight-reel dunks as consistently as the players do.

Web Original

  • DSBT InsaniT: The volleyball scene in 'Beach Brawl' contains a lot of artistic liscense on physics. This is even pointed out by the characters. The soccer match in 'Store Story' has some crazy physics too.

Western Animation

  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Played straight in "The Beach" episode, which has Azula, Zuko, Mai, and Ty Lee dominate an opposing team in a volleyball match by using gravity defying stunts and trick shots. Including one instance where Ty Lee lands atop the net and strikes a pose, after acing a shot, and another where Azula roundhouse kicks the ball in midair, at about 20 ft. above the court! The shot scorches the net and is the game winning point.
  • The Boondocks: "The Red Ball" episode culminates in a showdown between Huey and Ming, that has him airbend the ball, then roundhouse kick it at her, in the exact same fashion as the above example. Ming returns fire by kicking the ball hard enough to set it ablaze, and breaks her shin! You can see it here.
  • Speedster Mercury of Filmation's Space Sentinels amuses himself by playing one-man baseball. He throws the pitch (a fastball, of course), then runs to the plate ahead of the ball to bat it toward the outfield. Mercury then circles the bases multiple times before once again arriving ahead of the ball to catch it. "You're out!" he declares, though not before the scoreboard has recorded 46 runs.
  • One episode of Hanna-Barbera's The Harlem Globetrotters had the titular basketball team boast that they could beat their opponents blindfolded. The antagonists took them up on that boast, forcing the team to play sightless. Somehow, Team Mom Granny was able to use a fresh-baked apple pie swung around on a fishing line to guide the players around the court, and clue them in to the hoop's distance and direction. The Globetrotters' accuracy remained phenomenal.

Real Life

  • It is rare to the vanishing point for a sportsman to be so good at more than one un-related discipline that (s)he can earn a professional salary at both. Most people fortunate enough to be so good at a sport that they can earn a living at it focus on one. But they have existed.
    • Ian "Beefy" Botham combined playing first-class cricket in the summer with a winter job playing professional football for Scunthorpe United. He only gave up football because the winter season is when the English national cricket team tours abroad against other first-class national sides. Botham became England team captain. Playing football for a lower-division side didn't cut it by comparison. note 
    • In the so-called "Super Bowl Era" (i.e. since 1967), only seven athletes have managed to make the teams for both professional U.S. football and American professional Baseball. Of those, only two had stellar careers in both: Bo Jackson, the only person to be named a first-string Pro Bowler and All-Star, respectively; and Deion Sanders, the only person to play in both a Super Bowl and a World Series.
    • Ellyse Perry has represented Australia at both cricket and soccer, being declared the Australian women's cricketer of the year three times and the international women's cricketer of the year twice; she has been dubbed Australia's most marketable sportsperson.
  • Perhaps not a great "real life" example, but North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il was once touted to hit five hole-in-ones in a round of golf (which later was mysteriously increased to eleven). State media also claimed that he bowled a perfect 300, which is not itself improbable except for the fact that the 300 was supposedly bowled in his first round.
  • Professional basketball player Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors is seen by many as the best pure shooter in the game. Why? Not only because of his incredible ability in making 3 point shots almost at will, but his ability to shoot the ball and make baskets at angles that defy logic. Simply put, if there are just seconds left on the clock during a quarter, don't let Curry have the ball. Most players who shoot desperately from down court will miss, but in a lot of cases he won't.

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