What are the best sports anime to watch?
Sports are universal, so of course, there are many anime series centered around them.
The fast pace and inherent rivalry that sports provide make it perfect for anime, and there is no shortage of series you can watch.
However, some sports anime shows stand out as the ones you absolutely cannot afford to miss out on, and we’ve ranked them all right here.
The 25 Best Sports Anime to Watch Ranked
Our ranked lists are created by researching and rounding up information from the most reputable web sources.
This way, you can trust that you’re going to be able to find a high-quality anime to watch that may end up being your next favorite.
Here’s our list of the 25 best sports anime to watch:
25. Cross Game
Cross Game is centered around Kou, the only child of a sports shop owner, and Aoba, who is a star baseball player in school.
While baseball is what brings these two main characters together, it isn’t the main focus of the series.
Instead, this anime is primarily a touching coming-of-age story that touches on everything from love to grief and regret.
However, it is the sport that helps bind everything together, and it certainly helps drive the story forward as the protagonists deal with their personal struggles.
24. Megalo Box
Megalo Box is all about boxing, and it follows Junk Dog, an underground fighter with mechanical limbs who throws fights to benefit his crooked manager.
However, he is eventually invited to Megalonia, a worldwide boxing tournament that decides the strongest boxer of them all.
Junk Dog takes on the name of Joe and starts fighting his way to the top in order to eventually challenge his ultimate rival, Yuri.
This anime is filled with incredible fights but centers around the theme of never giving up, and it is hard not to become invested in Junk Dog’s rise to world champion.
He may not be one of the strongest anime characters, but he definitely packs a hell of a punch!
23. Tsurune: Kazemai High School Kyudo Club
Tsurune is the sound an arrow makes when it is loosed, and it is a sound that the characters in this anime are very familiar with.
The story focuses on Minato, a Kyudo prodigy who picks up a bow once more in high school after previously having given it up.
Minato quickly falls in love with the sport once again and does everything he can to help his team win the prefectural tournament.
Not only is this anime series gorgeously animated, but the camaraderie between characters makes it incredibly easy to get obsessed with.
22. Burning Kabaddi
This anime revolves around Kabaddi, a sport that originated in India, and Tatsuya Yoigoshi, a former soccer player turned internet live streamer.
Despite having quit sports, Yoigoshi is scouted for his high school’s Kabaddi team and ends up joining after a bit of coercion.
Fortunately for him, he ends up falling in love with the high-intensity sport, and things quickly kick-off as the team competes to become the best.
21. One Outs
Another anime focused on baseball, One Outs, follows the story of Toua Tokuchi, who has earned 499 consecutive victories as a pitcher.
While he initially uses the game of “one outs,” a showdown between a batter and a pitcher, as a way to earn quick money, he is eventually scouted by the world’s best hitter.
However, Tokuchi quickly finds himself at odds with his contract, which specifies that every out will earn him 5 million yen, but every run will cost him 50 million.
With every match having the potential to ruin him financially, the stakes are raised quickly in this sports anime.
Amanchu follows Futaba “Teko” Ooki after she moves to a small seaside town for high school and quickly finds herself becoming friends with diving enthusiast Hikari “Pikari” Kohinata.
Together, the pair join their school’s diving club, with Hikari’s energetic personality helping bring the initially shy Futaba out of her shell.
Despite not knowing how to swim at first, Futaba remains dedicated to earning her diving certification while making new friends!
The characters in this series are what really make it stand out, with Hikari being one of the best green-haired anime girls with an infectious personality.
19. Ao Ashi
Ashito Aoi is known for his unpredictable moves on the soccer field, which has made him the powerhouse of his high school team.
However, after being sidelined due to losing his temper, he ends up being invited to try out for a youth team in Tokyo.
While the opportunity could be life-changing, once Ashito learns he isn’t the only gifted player in the country, he has to overcome his self-centeredness in order to succeed.
Ao Ashi isn’t just action-packed on the soccer field, but it is remarkably down-to-earth, with an engaging story that can enthrall all sports anime fans.
Following the story of Chihaya Ayase, Chihayafuru is centered around the world of competitive karuta.
Karuta is an old Japanese card game that requires a lot of agility and endurance, as well as an excellent memory, in order to win.
After creating a karuta club at her high school, Chihaya recruits veteran player Taichi and a few enthusiastic newcomers to try and win the Omi Shrine’s national tournament.
While the sport itself isn’t well known outside of Japan, Chihayafuru is incredibly easy to follow and become invested in within the first couple of episodes.
17. Tomorrow’s Joe
Tomorrow’s Joe is one of the most classic sports anime series, and it takes a realistic look at the life of a professional boxing fighter.
While it first debuted in 1970, this anime holds up remarkably well as it follows Joe’s rise to becoming Japan’s greatest boxer.
Nothing is sugar-coated, and Joe’s struggle is front and center in all 79 episodes, each of which will keep you on the edge of your seat.
With so many episodes, Tomorrow’s Joe is perfect for any sports anime fan who wants a long series to binge-watch.
16. Prince Of Tennis
Like many of the best sci-fi anime movies and series, Prince of Tennis is another classic anime, and it follows Ryouma Echizen, who aims to take the Japanese tennis scene by storm.
It isn’t long before his skills make him a valuable member of the Seishun Boys’ Tennis Team, despite his young age making them initially reluctant to accept him.
As the team strives to claim a spot in the national tournament, they must play through numerous regionals that test their skills and teamwork.
However, cooperating is easier said than done, and each of the 178 episodes is filled with a new challenge for the team to overcome.
15. Captain Tsubasa
Captain Tsubasa boasts 128 episodes, numerous films, and OVAs as a series that has been going strong since the 1990s.
This sports anime is all about soccer, and it has become a legendary staple of Japanese pop culture.
Following the story of Tsubasa Oozora, an elementary school student with a passion for the sport, this anime pulls out all the stops.
In order to prove himself, Tsubasa must build his skills to stand out from the competition as he makes new rivals and friends throughout the series.
While his ultimate goal is to represent Japan in the FIFA World Cup, there are tons of engaging action scenes to be found from the first episode until the last.
14. Run With The Wind
After using his superior running stills to lose a pursuer after shoplifting, former ace runner Kakeru Kirahara runs into university student Haiji Kiyose.
Haiji is impressed by Kakeru’s running abilities and invites him to become his roommate, with the secret goal of having him join the Kansei University Track Club.
Once realizing that Haiji has brought him to the dorm of the track club, Kakeru is less than impressed with the other resistant, all of whom are complete novices.
With only months to go before the most prominent university relay race in Japan, Kakeru has to use all of his skills to try and get the lackluster team in shape.
Despite having a relatively simple premise, this sports anime is engaging from the first episode, and it’s hard to stop watching once you start!
13. Yowamushi Pedal
Sakamichi Onoda is a huge otaku who wants nothing more than to join his new school’s anime club.
Unfortunately, the club was disbanded, but while making the 90-km bike ride to Akihabara, he meets a fellow student, Shunsuke Imaizumi.
Imaizumi is an avid cyclist who is impressed by Onoda’s ability to climb hills with his clunky old bicycle.
Onoda ends up joining the bicycle racing club, which kickstarts this well-written slice-of-life anime series.
While he definitely isn’t the kind of sports protagonist you would imagine, it is hard not to root for Onoda once you start the show.
12. Initial D: First Stage
Initial D: First Stage is all about street racing, and it follows Takumi Fujiwara, who initially has little knowledge of the sport.
Starting off as a tofu delivery driver, Takumi ends up catching the attention of two ace drivers after he overtakes them in his old Toyota.
Thanks to his various delivery routes, Takumi has developed some impressive driving skills that quickly make him one of the best racing drivers on the street.
While the original anime premiered in 1998, the series remains incredibly popular, with the most recent movie, Legend 3: Dream, being released in 2016.
It is an unconventional sports anime, to be sure, but one that doesn’t hold back when it comes to nail-biting action!
11. Ace Of Diamond
After losing his final middle school baseball game, Eijun Sawamura is unexpectedly invited to the prestigious Seidou High School in Tokyo.
Eager to prove himself and play at a more competitive level, Eijun accepts but quickly finds himself surrounded by talented players as he struggles to find his place in the team.
As the Seidou team aims to become the best in Japan, Eijun must face off against a number of formidable players to help his team rise through the ranks.
Ace of Diamond is engrossing from the start, and with 75 episodes, there is plenty of content to keep you occupied.
10. Free! Iwatobi Swim Club
It may not have the best blue-haired anime girls, but Free! Iwatobi Swim Club is packed with pretty anime boys who are glistening in the water.
Despite seeming like fan service, this sports anime is surprisingly engaging as it follows Haruka and his childhood friends as they pursue their passion for swimming.
When they reunite in high school, they decide to form the Iwatobi High School Swim Club and recruit former track star Rei to join them.
Together the club forms a close bond as they train hard to come out on top, and with only 12 episodes, this series is a quick watch that you won’t want to end.
9. Blue Lock
Blue Lock is a soccer anime with a major twist that makes it stand out from others that cover the sport.
It follows Yoichi Isagi, a high school soccer star, who is invited to be one of 300 strikers selected for the Japan Football Union’s controversial project Blue Lock.
The project itself is designed to turn one of the 300 players into the best striker for the Japanese national team, but things get cutthroat quickly.
In order to achieve his dreams, Isagi has to be willing to crush those of 299 other players, provided he doesn’t end up getting crushed himself!
8. Sk8 The Infinity
One of the most recent anime series on our list, Sk8 The Infinity, finished airing in 2021 after quickly becoming one of the most popular series in the world.
It follows the story of Reki Kyan, a skateboarder who ends up breaking his board and his arm in an illegal underground race.
However, he soon meets Langa Hasegawa, a half-Canadian, half-Japanese boy who is in desperate need of money after returning to Japan following the death of his father.
Reki teaches him about skateboarding, and the pair take on the illegal skateboarding race in a bid to become the best in the sport.
This anime not only looks amazing, with smooth animation and crisp details, but the story is action-packed and never slows down.
7. Ping Pong The Animation
Ping Pong The Animation has one of the most unique animation styles in anime, and everything about it is hand-drawn, as opposed to being created digitally.
This series follows Makoto and Yataka, childhood friends, as they tackle the sport of ping pong.
While Yataka wants to be the best in the world, despite often skipping practice, Makoto has a natural talent but often holds himself back.
As they both struggle with their own internal problems, they must also face numerous hardships as the pair strive to become ping-pong masters.
6. Yuri!!! On Ice
Yuri!!! On Ice is one of the most popular sports anime series of all time, and it enjoyed unprecedented success when it premiered in 2016.
This show focuses on figure skater Yuury Katsuki and his struggle to get back on the world stage after being defeated at the Grand Prix Finale.
After being noticed by five-time world champion Victor Kikiforov, Yuuri becomes his protege, but the competition is still fierce.
Particularly from Victor’s former pupil, Russian figure skating star Yuri Plisetsky, who seeks to defeat Yuuri by any means necessary.
While the figure skating scenes are gorgeously animated, many fans also consider Victor and Yuuri to be one of the best anime couples after they shared a kiss midway through season one.
5. Slam Dunk
Slam Dunk is one of the best sports anime series to come out of the 90s, and it follows Hanamichi Sakuragi after he joins his school’s basketball team.
While he initially joined to get close to the team captain’s sister, Hanamichi ends up falling in love with the game instead.
Unlike many other sports anime shows, Hanamachi’s growth throughout the series feels natural, as he actually has to put in the effort and doesn’t start off as a prodigy.
Hanamachi’s journey is difficult but relatable, and it’s easy to find yourself rooting for him both on the court and off.
4. Fighting Spirit
Also known as Hajime no Ippo, Fighting Spirit is one of the highest-rated sports anime titles of all time, and the original adaptation debuted in 2000, with 76 episodes being produced.
Fighting Spirit follows the story of Ippo Makunouchi, who struggles with being bullied on a daily basis.
However, after being rescued from a violent attack by boxer Mamoru Takamura and taken to his boxing gym to recover, he discovers he can throw a mean punch himself.
This leads to Ippo taking his first steps toward becoming a professional boxer, and throughout the series, he must fight to rise through the ranks as the underdog no one saw coming.
3. Kuroko’s Basketball
This sports anime follows Tetsuya Kuroko after he is recruited to the Seirin High School basketball team.
While he demonstrates no amazing athletic abilities at first, his strengths become increasingly evident as the story plays out.
Although some people criticize this show for being unrealistic, fans of shonen anime will feel right at home as the players use overpowering super moves on the court.
Kuroko’s Basketball may be over-the-top, but it keeps you engaged from episode one as the team seeks to win the Interhigh championship.
2. Eyeshield 21
Eyeshield 21 follows the story of Deimon High School student Sena Kobayakawa, a shy, timid boy with a small stature.
Despite his small size, Sena has become incredibly agile due to running errands while trying to avoid as many people as possible.
However, once the captain of the football team notices his impressive speed, he is coerced into joining the team.
Since his identity is hidden thanks to his visored helmet, Sena becomes known as Eyeshield 21 as he helps his team try to find victory at the prestigious Christmas Bowl.
Taking our number one spot is a show that almost every anime fan has undoubtedly heard about, even if they’ve never watched it for themselves,
Haikyuu! is all about volleyball, and it follows Shouyou Hinata as he tries to become a professional player.
Unfortunately, he soon learns that his middle school rival is his new teammate, which leads to a lot of internal conflicts.
In order to achieve his dreams, Hinata needs to work out his differences with his rival, but this is easier said than done.
There you have it! Our choices for the must-watch shows for any sports anime fan!
Each of these series brings something unique to the table and stand out for their well-written stories and impeccable animation quality.
If you haven’t yet seen any of these series, we definitely recommend adding them to your watch list!
Here’s a quick recap of the 25 best sports anime to watch:
- Eyeshield 21
- Kuroko’s Basketball
- Fighting Spirit
- Slam Dunk
- Yuri!!! On Ice
- Ping Pong The Animation
- Sk8 The Infinity
- Blue Lock
- Free! Iwatobi Swim Club
- Ace Of Diamond
- Initial D: First Stage
- Yowamushi Pedal
- Run With The Wind
- Captain Tsubasa
- Prince Of Tennis
- Tomorrow’s Joe
- Ao Ashi
- One Outs
- Burning Kabaddi
- Tsurune: Kazemai High School Kyudo Club
- Megalo Box
- Cross Game
What is your favorite sports anime series? Leave a comment below!
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