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Manga / Slam Dunk

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Team Shohoku; resemblance to the Chicago Bulls probably not accidental

"I want to play basketball..."

"I'm a genius player!"

"The left hand is for support only..."

"I love it. And this time, it's for real."

Hanamichi Sakuragi is an incredibly tall red-haired Jerk 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, Haruko Akagi, 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 Takenori Akagi), 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...


Created by Takehiko Inoue and first published from 1990 to 1996 in Shueisha's Shonen Jump, Slam Dunk became an instant phenomenon throughout Japanese culture and set many standards in sports manga; becoming one of JUMP's pillars alongside Dragon Ball, bringing sales up to their record all-time high of over six million copies nationwide. 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 good measure.

The anime series was broadcast in Latin America in late 1990s-early 2000s, where it earned great popularity and is still very well-loved (partially because of a fantastic dub 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. After Gutsoon! went out of business, Viz Media eventually 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.

On January 7, 2021, Takehiko Inoue announced on his Twitter account that the series will have a new movie to be produced by Toei Animation.


  • Accidental Misnaming:
    • Sakuragi refers to the Sannoh team as "Yamaoh" (since the kanji name is the same). For the same reason, at the hotel the Shohoku team stays for the Nationals, the staff calls him as "Nagarekawa" instead of Rukawa.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • Always Someone Better: Rukawa, Sendoh, Maki or Fujima usually play this part. The ultimate example is Sawakita, and even he found his Someone Better when he went to America.
  • Ambiguously Brown: Many characters, prominently Akagi (playing up on his resemblance to Patrick Ewing), Uozumi, Masashi, and Maki. For an example outside the players, there's Takamiya, who looks like Gary Coleman with shades.
  • And This Is for...: Both played straight and parodied. During a fight between the vicious Mitsui's gang (before he returned to the team) and the basketball team, Sakuragi does this to the biggest guy who punched almost everyone there. He dedicates a furious punch for every one of his hurt teammates, but when it's his turn to "avenge" Rukawa, he only gives a little pinch, to follow up with a punch for one of the bench. Everyone looks at the scene amazed, but, naturally, Rukawa is not very amused.
  • 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. Sakuragi himself is often represented as a dog.
  • Author Avatar: Dr. T, a character with appears in both manga and anime to explain the basic rules of basketball to the audience, is just a chibified version of the author, Takehiko Inoue.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: The 'Slam Dunk' for Sakuragi. It's awesome, but Akagi explains to him that it's rare for opponents to allow them to get close enough to the basket to do it. It's in fact pretty rare for Sakuragi to perform this maneuver successfully. Indeed, even though his 'Slam Dunk' over Shoyo's Hanagata was pretty memorable, it caused an offensive foul that resulted in Sakuragi's fifth foul (thus he was ejected from the game).
  • Back-to-Back Badasses: Youhei and Tetsuo (after his Heel–Face Turn) to, along with Okusu, Noma and Takamiya, take care of Ryu's gang.
  • Bathroom Stall of Overheard Insults: Mitsui overhears Hasegawa openly taking him for granted when he's taking a dump.
  • 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 is always 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 shown as a pacific and gentle Naïve 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.
  • Big Fun: Coach Anzai, who's even called a "White-Haired Budda" (and indeed displays budda-like patience when a much less patient Sakuragi manhandles him while begging to get off the bench).
  • Bittersweet Ending: Shohoku spent everything they got to win against Sannoh that they eventually lose their chance to the overall championship. However, the match finally made the whole Basketball community realize that Shohoku has evolved from a 'loser team' into a 'very tough team'. Afterwards, everyone still have a good future ahead of them: Akagi and Kogure graduated, Mitsui did as well (but he still hung around to the school before he can get to the university he wanted), Miyagi succeeded Akagi as the Captain, Haruko became Ayako's co-manager, Rukawa is scouted by the international Japanese Basketball team, while Sakuragi willingly underwent his rehabilitation and it'll be just a matter of time until he can return to the sport he's grown to like for real.
  • 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.
  • Blunt Metaphors Trauma: When Sakuragi is told to use his head, he does so, very VERY literally.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Sakuragi is one of the rare protagonist examples.
  • Book Dumb: Almost everyone in the Shohoku team, except for Genius Bruiser Akagi and Badass Bookworm Kogure. Akagi has to persuade the teacher to let them take remedial exams so Shohoku won't go to the Nationals without their best players.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy
    • Rukawa. Even though he's only 'brilliant' when it comes to basketball.
    • Sendoh, even more so. He skips practices and regularly sleeps in late, but is still one of the best players in the series.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Sendoh is an excellent player and lead. He's also always late to any kind of meetings, loves eating lemon slices and always goes fishing.
  • But Not Too Foreign: Michael Okita from the third movie.
  • Cassandra Truth: The players may not have liked it, but the Toyotama administration was correct that Coach Kitano's gameplan prioritizing offense over defense would never lead the team to a national championship, and the team's efforts to retain Kitano's style after he was forced out of his job only results in them losing in the first round. With that said, Kitano is still portrayed sympathetically as valuing a player's enjoyment of basketball over winning championships.
  • Catchphrase: 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.
  • Chekhov's Skill:
    • Slam Dunk is called after a sort-of this: it's one of the most spectacular moves ever in basketball and Sakuragi decides to make it his own. It takes him quite a while to master it, but it becomes very handy in the second match against Ryonan, where Sakuragi scores a magnificent one to give the victory to Shohoku.
    • Similarly, Captain Akagi spends half an episode teaching Sakuragi how to do rebounds. Sakuragi eventually becomes so good at this specific move that it becomes his other signature skill, and it's vital to the team in the match against Shoyo.
    • Sakuragi's practice of Jump Shots also pays off waaaaaaay later in the manga. He's the one who scores the winning shot against Sannoh, the strongest team in the nation.
  • Cherry Blossoms: The story begins when Sakuragi and his friends are starting highschool, so the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. At some point, a depressed Sakuragi stares at them and says his heart is still "in winter". And then Haruko Akagi shows up to "defrost" it.
  • Chick Magnet: Rukawa, Sendoh and Fujima. Each of them has his own fanclub.
  • The Comically Serious: Rukawa, Akagi, sometimes Uozumi and Maki.
  • Corporal Punishment: Captain Akagi sometimes hits Sakuragi (and very occasionally, Miyagi or Rukawa) when fed up with his/their childish antics. It's almost always Played for Laughs, save for the time he slapped pre-Heel–Face Turn!Mitsui for trying to get the team disqualified. Right before the last one, when Kogure tries to talk the team's way out of Mitsui's attacks, Mitsui tells him to get the fuck out and slaps him across the face, but Kogure refuses to do it.
  • 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.
  • Cute Clumsy Girl: Haruko. Sakuragi himself is a Cute Clumsy Guy in the beginning.
  • Cute Sports Club Manager: Ayako. But she's of the Tomboy and assertive variety. She's joined by Haruko in the epilogue.
  • Dark-Skinned Blond: Maki has lighter hair than the average and a much darker skin as well.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Rukawa, especially whenever Sakuragi is being stupder than usual.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Ayako was this towards Ryota in the prequel. Hilariously, she's rather Tsundere for him in the main series.
  • Delinquent Hair: Sakuragi is an ex school delinquent who has a bright red (dyed) pompadour, which still fits after he shaves his head, as the color remains. Out of his still-school gangster friends, Ohkusu has a blond afro and Yohei and Noma have smaller pompadours.
  • Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: Hisashi Mitsui after he reveals his Hidden Depths.
  • 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 and Rukawa playing half blind against Toyotama (he still had one functioning eye, but still).
  • Disappeared Dad: Sakuragi's beloved father died of a heart attack when his son was in junior high. Sakuragi could never forgive himself for not being able to help him.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Hanamichi and especially Ryota.
  • 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 is trying to become 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.
  • Elevator School: Kainan is an escalator school, as it's always introduced as Kainan University Affiliated High
  • 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.
  • Eye Catch: Several of them, usually featuring Sakuragi, Rukawa and Haruko, or Sakuragi being disciplined by Akagi. In all of which, the voice-over woman is speaking English.
  • Face Doodling: This is one of many funny moments in the story. During the study night at Akagi's house, as the host takes a nap, Hanamichi picks up a marker that conveniently fell to his reach and strikes.
  • Failure Knight: Sakuragi, after his backstory is shown.
  • 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.
  • Flat "What": Rukawa always says 'What' very bluntly. Actually, he says everything very bluntly.
  • The Fool: Subverted. Sakuragi's got potential by the bushel, but still has to acquire basic skills. Other players start treating him more and more seriously as he learns the basics of the sport.
  • Friendship Moment: Hilariously averted near the end of the Manga. Shohoku was within striking distance of beating Sannoh, and Akagi is overwhelmed with emotion.
    Akagi: Guys, thanks for being here.
  • Game-Breaking Injury:
    • Akagi's sprained ankle during the match against Kainan. He manages to come back into the court during the second half, though.
    • Sakuragi suffers a big one in the match against Sannoh, leading to one of his greatest moment of awesome in the series. In the ending he is recovering until his return.
  • 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. Especially 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: Most of 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.
    • Team Toyotama greatly emphasizes offense during practice, and has rather lacking defensive play as a result.
  • Goldfish Scooping 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.
  • Gonk: Takamiya is a very noticeable example.
  • Groupie Brigade: Rukawa has one of these, which goes from a trio of Shohoku girls to an entire crowd section. They follow him to every game, loudly cheering for him and against his opponents (and Sakuragi). He doesn't seem to know or care.
  • Hate at First Sight: Sakuragi and Rukawa. Sakuragi initially hates him because Haruko has had a crush on him for quite a while and he takes Rukawa's indifference as him leading her on (his first reaction to him is a headbutt), but mostly because he can't accept that Rukawa is, definitely, the star of the team (with his amazing skills). Rukawa, on the other hand, regards Sakuragi as an idiot with zero experience (despite the fact that he seems to realize that Sakuragi has some hidden talents).
  • Heavy Sleeper: Rukawa is actually infamous for this. He falls asleep while riding his bicycle.
  • Hero Antagonist: Worth noting since unlike some other sports-themed stories the opponents are not the least bit Jerkasses (except maybe the Miuradai and Toyotama teams - and even then, the latter's captain later apologizes to Rukawa for his rough play). 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; he may be the closest thing to the ideal sportsman in the series, and ALSO brings up the biggest Oh, Crap! moments every time he gets to hold the ball!
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Miyagi and Sakuragi, Kogure and Akagi.
  • Hot-Blooded: Sakuragi is the definition of this trope.
  • 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.
  • I Am Not Left-Handed: Shoyo restricts Fujima's playing time as a matter of professional pride. However, Ryonan's coach reflects that this handicap is the reason why Shoyo lost to Shohoku.
  • 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.
  • Idiot Hero: Sakuragi and Kiyota. Rukawa also has some traits, he just hides them better.
  • Important Haircut Mitsui, and later Hanamichi. In the anime, Haruko; she actually realizes Rukawa won't love her back right after she cuts her hair short, and starts swooning less over him.
  • Instant Fan Club: the Rukawa cheerleaders.
  • Irony: Sakuragi frequently calls himself a genius, and such moments are either ignored or turned into a Funny Moment. 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 (where interestingly, each is blaming himself instead of the other).
  • Japanese Delinquents: There are quite a few of them across the series, including the protagonist and his buddies. Circumstances show that most of them are pretty decent beneath the rugged exterior, though (a good example being Hotta and his buddies, who start out antagonistic towards Sakuragi and are led by Mitsui in his Jaded Washout phase; once Mitsui undergoes Heel–Face Turn and rejoins the team, they start getting friendly with Sakuragi's friends, attending matches as Mitsui's own cheer squad).
  • Jerkass:
    • Rukawa and Sakuragi towards each other.
    • The Toyotama players towards their opponents, mostly because they're frustrated at their own school for kicking out their previous coach and preventing them from playing the style of basketball they love.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Surprisingly enough, Miyagi was this towards Ayako in the prequel.
  • Large Ham: Sakuragi is a Hot-Blooded rookie who loves to loudly claim he's "A BASKETBALL GENIUS!"
  • Lethal Joke Character: Miyamasu. Small, nerdy, unimposing... and an excellent long-distance shooter who manages to utterly disrupt Sakuragi's concentration in the Kainan game.
  • Literal Ass-Kicking: Rukawa often does this to Hanamichi.
  • Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places: Basically, the life story of Hanamichi Sakuragi and Ryota Miyagi. They actually bond over that. The descent on criminality of Mitsui and his posterior come back can be see as a non-romantic version of the trope
  • Loud Last Name: This happens a lot especially during basketball matches.
  • 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 cute 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.
  • Madness Mantra: Hanamichi uses it to disrupt Uozumi's free throws. It works.
  • Manly Tears: Rivers and rivers of it.
  • The Medic: Ayako, the team manager, often has to bandage the guys when they get injured. The only time she refuses since she's not sure if it'll work, Akagi actually forces her to.
  • Middle Child Syndrome: An interesting example. Shohoku's shortest players are all 2nd year students and -with the exception of Miyagi- they are all substitutes.
  • Mood Whiplash: Goes from drama to comedy and then to sports action without almost any warning.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Every named male character except for the coaches.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Any basketball skill Sakuragi learns.
  • My Beloved Smother: Mitsui's mother, apparently. He lampshades this by loudly whining about how his mom refuses to believe him when he says he's staying at Akagi's to study and nothing else.
    Mitsui: (hanging up the phone) Won't trust even her own son...
    Sakuragi: Well, after all that stuff you did...
  • My Life Flashed Before My Eyes:
    • Sakuragi's Game-Breaking Injury against Sannoh causes this. He gets so distraught at the perspective of not being able to play that he starts reviving the events of the series in rapid succession, but in reverse, up until the day he met Haruko for the first time.
    • Kogure, who was substituting for a tired and dehydrated Mitsui in the final prefectural decider against Ryonan note , started reliving his entire high school basketball career as he attempted a crucial three-pointer, starting from when he first met Akagi during the freshman tryouts, when their hopes of winning the prefecture were crushed after they lost Mitsui to injury, on how many of their peers quit the team after losing time and time again, on how he was spurred by Akagi's determination to win despite all odds, up to when Shohoku became a formidable team with the return of both Mitsui and Miyagi and the addition of Sakuragi ang Rukawa in the starting lineup, brooding over the fact that this is his and Akagi's last chance for glory. Needless to say, he made the crucial shot.
  • Naïve Everygirl: Haruko.
  • Narrator: Hideyuki Tanaka narrates the anime series.
  • The Nicknamer: Sakuragi's list of nicknames:
    • Rukawa: Fox (Kitsune)
    • Akagi: Gorilla (shortened 'Gori')
    • Uozumi: Boss Monkey
    • Hanagata: 'Glasses' ('Megane')
    • Kiyota: Wild Monkey (And he gets called 'Red-haired Monkey' in return)
    • Maki: Old Man
    • Kogure: Glasses Man (Megane-kun)
    • Mitsui: Missy (Micchy)
    • Miyagi: Ryochin
    • Masashi Kawata: Gori-ball ("because he looks like Gori, but rounded", as he explains to Mikio Kawata)
    • 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.
  • No Indoor Voice: Sakuragi, part of his Hot-Blooded and Large Ham characterization.
  • No Social Skills: Rukawa doesn't seem to have a single friend outside the basketball club, and he doesn't even get along so well with his teammates.
  • The Ojou: Eri Fujisawa from the OAV is a mix of Ojou and Tsundere.
  • One-Book Author: Haruko Akagi was Martha MacIsaac's only English-language anime role.
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You:
    • How Hanamichi rationalizes the fact that he actually gets worried when Rukawa is knocked out of commission during a game.
    • On the other hand, Hanamichi encourages Sendoh to defeat Rukawa (despite being Rukawa's teammate) because he decided that he will be the one that defeats Sendoh.
    • Kiyota's rivalry with Sakuragi starts with both of them declaring they'll be the one who defeats Rukawa.
    • Rukawa feels this towards Sendoh and later Sawakita.
  • Only Sane Man: Yohei among Sakuragi's buddies.
  • Out of Focus: Parodied. After not being featured prominently for several chapters, Hanamichi snaps and shouts "I am the main character!"
  • Own Goal:
    • Played for Drama during the final seconds of the match between Kainan and Shohoku, wherein the novice Sakuragi passes the ball to Vice-Captain Takasago (who, in fairness, kind of looks like Captain Akagi).
    • Played for Laughs when Sakuragi accidentally taps the ball into the basket of Ryonan during their InterHigh qualifiers match.
  • Paper Fan of Doom: Manager Ayako's weapon of choice.
  • Perpetual Frowner: Rukawa. Hanamichi tries to make fun of him for being "expressionless".
  • Phenotype Stereotype: But Not Too Foreign Michael Okita has green eyes and blond hair.
  • Prequel: 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. Unlike most prequels and spin-offs, its 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 chapters/episodes because he is only being given basic training.
  • Rated M for Manly: This is especially true during the beatdown between the basketball team and Mitsui's gang. Sakuragi and his gang gets to turn the sports manga into a delinquent fighting manga for several chapters.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Kogure, on gangster Mitsui. After being slapped twice. Easily, his first Moment of Awesome.
  • Real-Place Background: The action happens in the port city of Kamakura. Shohoku High is modelled after a local highschool, whereas the railoroad crossing near Kamakurakoko-mae Station appears in the first OP as Sakuragi spots Haruko and her friends and says hi to them. In July 2015, a group of Taiwanese tourists got in trouble for getting into the aforementioned high school without authorization.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Sakuragi and Rukawa (Sakuragi even has red hair and Rukawa has blue eyes in the anime), Akagi and Kogure.
  • School Newspaper News Hound: Mari Kawai.
  • Serious Business: Basketball, of course.
  • She Is 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.
  • Shout-Out: Aside from the No Celebrities Were Harmed above, the team jerseys of the schools in the Kanagawa Prefecture bears resemblances to the top teams of the NBA in The '90s:
    • Shohoku High - Chicago Bulls
    • Ryonan High - Orlando Magic (at least the 1993 jersey)
    • Kainan High - Los Angeles Lakers
    • Shoyo High - Boston Celtics
  • Shown Their Work: Instead of drawing generic white sneakers, Takehiko Inoue gave the protagonist and his rival real branded basketball shoes: Rukawa wears the Nike Air Jordan 5, while Sakuragi started the seriesnote  wearing the Nike Air Jordan VI (the shoes Michael Jordan wore when he won his first NBA Championship), later switching to the Nike Air Jordan 1, the top of the Jordan shoe line (in the original red/black colors, no less).
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Sakuragi in the beginning. He has 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.
  • The Strategist: Fujima, who acts as a captain and coach for his team.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": On this very page and several other entries associated with the series, expect to see Akira Sendoh's name to be spelled as "Sendo" or "Sendou". It's the same deal with Japanese national basketball champions Sannoh/Sanno/Sannou. Also, there's Ryota/Ryouta Miyagi.
  • 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.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: The series uses this trope a lot, making its events very grounded overall.
    • Despite his potential and confidence, Sakuragi's lack of experience manifests itself often during games. A notable example is when he attempts to display his shooting ability during the Toyotama game after a week of hard practice, only for the ball to go over the entire backboard and land in the stands. He later attempts it again, ignoring that the Toyotama players are surrounding him and are in easy position to block it.
      • During the Shoyo game, he performs a massive dunk that invigorates the crowd, but still incurs a foul (his fifth, which causes him to foul out) since he had knocked down a Shoyo player in the process.
      • He challenges Rukawa to a one-on-one during a practice for nationals, and it's clear that he gets decisively beaten by the much more experienced freshman even though it was offscreen. However, Rukawa alleviates this slightly by stating that Sakuragi made him go all out.
    • The end of the manga is essentially this, as even though Shohoku took down the reigning champs, the amount of effort they expended to do so and the loss of Sakuragi causes them to be beaten badly in the next round.
      • No one is more affected by this than Akagi, who loses his offer to play for Japan's top college team. However, he does have the book smarts to transition into college normally.
    • Much like in real life, while athletes can and do persevere through injuries and exhaustion while playing, the injuries do take noticeable tolls.
      • When Rukawa receives a swollen left eye in the Toyotama game, his lack of sight in that eye limits his depth perception and makes it difficult to catch passes and shoot. Alleviated somewhat due to having advanced muscle memory when it comes to shooting (as he had taken millions of shots in the past), but it doesn't always work.
      • While Sakuragi plays in the remainder of the Sannoh game despite receiving a crippling back injury late into it, he's no longer able to play in future games during the tournament, and has to go through months of rehabilitation before he can get back on the court.
      • Mitsui's lack of stamina due to not playing for two years almost always becomes a factor in Shohoku's close games.
      • Rukawa's scoring tear in the final minutes of the first half in the Kainan game allows Shohoku to catch back up to Kainan, but also leaves him too exhausted to finish the game in the second half, causing him to blame himself for Kainan winning the game.
    • Size doesn't always matter on the court, but often ultimately does when push comes to shove. Although Miyagi's lack of size gives him certain advantages, he usually has a difficult time when matched up against much taller point guards.
    • This happened to Anzai's former protege Yazawa when he went to America. He found himself not only struggling in basketball, but struggling with his life overall because of his lack of English skills. Sawakita must now grapple with learning English as well.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork:
    • Sakuragi with Rukawa, after they learn to put their differences aside. Possibly lampshaded at the end of the manga, where Rukawa and Sakuragi win the Sannoh game with teamplay, then they high-five... And immediately turn away from each other contemptuously.
    • Rukawa's play-style is very individualistic - it's like he thinks he could take on the entire opposing team alone, and often takes contested shots rather than passing the ball.
  • Team Dad: Anzai, Taoka, Takato and other coaches. To a degree, also Captain Akagi.
  • Team Mom: Kogure is a male example.
  • 10-Minute Retirement: Sakuragi quits basketball in the earlier episodes, but 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):
      "Hanamichi Sakuragi... Yohei Mito... And the others."
    • Haruko's friends Fuji and Matsui are those two girls.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Ayako and Haruko, Fuji and Matsui.
  • Tournament Arc: Being a sports manga, the main arcs are examples of this.
  • Training from Hell:
    • Hanamichi's special training, either with Anzai or Gori- I mean, Akagi. He needs to keep up with people who have been playing for years, after all.
    • 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:
    • Sakuragi's gang of friends. They often tease and embarrass him, but they're always there for him when it's really needed.
    • Akagi lampshades this trope. He bluntly states that he doesn't consider any of the Shohoku starters his friends, but he does think they're the best teammates he could have.
    • While Akagi is benched because of an injury, he overhears Sakuragi loudly declaring he'll take Akagi's place in the game to protect his dream. After this episode, Akagi clearly begins to show a genuine brotherly love for the boy, despite his attempts to hide it.
  • 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.
  • The Ugly Guy's Hot Sister - Nobody can believe that Haruko is related to Takenori (i.e. "Gorilla", who looks like Patrick Ewing).
  • Unknown Rival: How Rukawa sees Sakuragi for a long while. Towards the end, he starts taking Sakuragi more seriously, even if it will be a long time before their skills are actually comparable.
  • Use Your Head:
    • Hanamichi Sakuragi does this so much, it's practically his off-basket signature move. One of his first scenes ever in the series involved him headbutting his True Companions for teasing him, then other people for unknowingly hitting one of his Berserk buttons, and more than once he has dealed them to his own teammates (like Ryouta Miyagi), schoolmates (like Tatsuhiko Aouta) or people from other teams (like Hikoichi Aida) if they piss him off enough. Takenori Akagi and Kaede Rukawa are pretty much the only ones who can resist his headbutts without being knocked-out.
    • A flashback reveals that the aforementioned Ryota Miyagi is also fond of this "move", as he's seen trying to defend himself from bullies led by a pre-Heel–Face Turn Hisashi Mitsui by headbutting their "boss" and knocking down two of his (Mitsui's) front teeth.
  • When She Smiles: Rukawa, in the Sannoh arc. It's his only smile in the entire run of the manga. During one of the movies, he smiles while giving his blazer to Ichirou.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: Done in the form of a letter Haruko writes to Sakuragi while he's recovering from the back injury he got in the match against Sannoh in the Nationals (before that, it's mentioned that they were beaten out of the tournament by Aichi Prefecture's Aiwa High immediately afterwards). Miyagi took over as team captain after Akagi entered college, Mitsui stuck around after failing the entrance exams, Haruko joined the team as coordinator alongside Ayako and Rukawa is trying out for the Japanese team.
  • Wife-Basher Basher: Miyagi tries not to get involved in Mitsui's revenge fight, but he jumps at one of Mitsui's underlings after he hit Ayako.
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl:
    • During the gang fight, Ayako gets slapped. Ryouta goes apeshit at the guy who beat her, repeteadly screaming that women should not be hit ever. This is actually ironic regarding the prequel, where an 11-year-old Miyagi slapped Ayako twice. (Then she hit him back and even bit him. And then he pushed her away and freaked out when she actually got hurt.)
    • In the anime, also, Sakuragi is pissed off when he mistakenly thinks one of his rivals/friends is neglecting his girlfriend, and calls him out on it very harshly.
  • Yamato Nadeshiko: A grown-up example is Anzai's wife, who even dresses up in a kimono.
  • Younger Than They Look:
    • Shinichi Maki, to the core. Sakuragi simply can't believe he's just 17 and refers to him as "old man", which is one of the few things that pop veins in the ultra-serious Maki. Not that said popped veins are easy to notice, though.
    • Sakuragi's buddies even think Maki is the coach of his team when they meet him on the street!
    • Maki claims that Akagi looks even older then he does.
    • Uozumi is mistaken for Akagi's dad.