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Slam Dunk: Basketball Anime, Movies & Dramas in Asia

Written by YumCha! Editorial Team Tell a Friend

From December 2022 through 2023, The First Slam Dunk opened in Japan and then South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, mainland China and across Southeast Asia. Everywhere it's gone, the Japanese basketball anime film has inspired collective fanfare and nostalgia for a generation that knows the fictional exploits of the Shohoku High School basketball team better than the NBA. In Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong, The First Slam Dunk is still in theaters over half a year since its release.

Though Slam Dunk is undoubtedly the most well-known, there are other sports anime as well as live-action Asian movies and series themed around basketball. From Slam Dunk to The First Slam Dunk, below are 15 basketball anime, movies and TV dramas released in Asia since the 1990s.

Slam Dunk
1. Slam Dunk (1993-1996)
When it comes to sports manga and anime, one title towers above the rest: Slam Dunk. Serialized in Weekly Shonen Jump from 1990 to 1996, Inoue Takehiko's iconic manga follows the scrappy basketball journey of the Shohoku High School team. Taking shape with the different skills and personalities of unruly power forward Sakuragi Hanamichi, cool small forward Rukawa Kaede, confident shooting guard Mitsui Hitashi, bad boy point guard Miyagi Ryota and steadfast center Akagi Takenori, the underrated Shohoku team shakes up the power rankings as they aim for the national championship. Slam Dunk is one of the top ten highest-selling manga series of all time, and the best-selling sports manga in history with total sales of over 170 million copies – that's well more than other famous sports titles like Touch, Hajime no Ippo and Captain Tsubasa. Like the manga, the Slam Dunk anime became a huge hit across Asia in the 90s.

Let's Go Slam Dunk
2. Let's Go Slam Dunk (1994)
Sometimes you watch the bad to better appreciate the good. Outright using the same Chinese title as Slam Dunk, Let's Go Slam Dunk! is made in the early 90s Hong Kong cinema spirit of: anything goes as long as we don't pay to actually adapt the real thing. Directed by Yuen Kam Lun, the 1994 sports action comedy stars a pre-Young and Dangerous Ekin Cheng as the Kaede Rukawa stand-in who doesn't button his shirt and often has wind blowing through his hair indoors. Also on the team are David Wu and Louis Koo cameoing in one of his first film appearances. Basketball is played in low-rent manner with wacky aerial acrobatics, and the film bears little resemblance to its inspiration, save for Kent Cheng whose face shape is an impeccable match with Slam Dunk coach Anzai. This is not a good movie, but if you've ever wondered what a 90s live-action parody attempt at Slam Dunk would look like, here it is!

My MVP Valentine
3. My MVP Valentine (2002)
Aired in 2002, the Taiwan teen sports romance My MVP Valentine, also known as MVP Lover, launched the careers of a whole basketball team worth of idols. Angela Chang made her acting debut in this classic idol drama, as did the members of boy band 5566. Angela stars as a determined high school girl who organizes a basketball team, while Tony Sun plays a rich kid who joins the underdog team in order to get close to her. Completing the romantic triangle is pro baller Johnny Yen, making the transition from Taiwan's top point guard to actor and pop idol. (Yen later returned to professional basketball as a player and then coach.) My MVP Valentine's cast also includes Joe Chen in one of her earliest roles, and basketball player Gao Tien Chi in his first and only acting appearance. With decent basketball scenes, fresh-faced star power and an incredibly catchy soundtrack, My MVP Valentine was a big hit when it aired, striking the right balance as a manga-inspired basketball idol drama.

Kung Fu Dunk
4. Kung Fu Dunk (2008)
Basketball meets Chinese martial arts in Jay Chou's action-packed and CG-filled Kung Fu Dunk! Directed by Kevin Chu Yen Ping, the 2008 action comedy stars Jay Chou as Fang Shi Jie, an orphan who grew up in a martial arts school. Impressed by Fang's shooting skills, swindler Zhen Wang Li (Eric Tsang) talks him into joining the basketball team of First University. Upon joining the team, Fang gets entangled in conflicts with ace player Xiao Lan (Baron Chen), the love interest of his crush Li Li (Charlene Choi), until they figure out the importance of teamwork. More unconventional challenges await when they're on a winning streak to the championships and go head-to-head with Fireball University.

Hot Shot
5. Hot Shot (2008)
Six years after My MVP Valentine, Taiwan dished out another basketball idol drama – and this one managed to have even bigger stars. Scouting idol drama A-listers Jerry Yan, Show Luo and Wu Chun into one dream team production assured that Hot Shot was in hot demand across Asia when it was released. Show plays a basketball-loving country boy who joins a rundown college team with an abysmal record. However, the team is set to shake things up with the addition of Jerry as a two-time MVP who transfers to the school. Hot Shot shoots for a showy and campy anime-inspired aesthetic akin to the KO One series, complete with wuxia-worthy names for the characters and their over-the-top high-flying basketball moves assisted by slow-mo, CGI and wirework.

Buzzer Beat
6. Buzzer Beat (2009)
Fuji TV's 2009 basketball drama Buzzer Beat was a primetime hit with its crowd-pleasing formula of sports and romance, not to mention that hit B'z theme song. Yamashita Tomohisa stars as a professional basketball player who seems to keep cracking under pressure. With time, training and some encouragement from Kitagawa Keiko, the young shooting guard will eventually realize his full potential, alongside a team that includes Mizobata Junpei, Kaneko Nobuaki, Aoki Munetaka and Nagai Masaru, plus Ito Hideaki as coach. Buzzer Beat was filmed with the support of Japan's professional basketball league, and real-life players made special appearances in the drama.

Kuroko's Basketball
7. Kuroko's Basketball (2012-2015)
Aired from 2012 to 2015, the anime series Kuroko's Basketball is based on Fujimaki Tadatoshi's shonen manga about the underdog Seirin High School basketball team. Different powerhouse high school teams are led by star players from the Generation of Miracles, an undefeated junior high team of generational talents (conveniently differentiated by a rainbow variety of hair colors). Unbeknownst to most, there was a phantom sixth man in that legendary team named Kuroko Tetsuya, a quiet point guard whose lack of presence is his strength as he turns invisible on the court to dish assists. With the addition of Kuroko and cocky U.S.-raised power forward Kagami Taiga, the Seirin team fights, grows and challenges the odds in Slam Dunk-like fashion in the national high school tournament. After the TV anime ended, all the star players assembled Avengers-style for a match against an American street ball team in the 2017 film Kuroko's Basketball: Last Game. Kuroko's Basketball has also been turned into stage shows.

8. Basketball (2013)
Korean period sports drama Basketball is set during the dark Japanese colonial era in the 1940s. The tvN series centers around a group of young athletes who hold on to basketball as the only hope and chance to change their lives during this turbulent time of Korean history. Do Ji Han leads the series as the poverty-stricken protagonist Kang San who takes up a challenging rivalry with star player Min Chi Ho (Jung Dong Hyun) – both in sports and their love for the well-to-do Choi Shin Young (Lee Elijah). Inspired by real events, Basketball also reenacts the first and last time the Korean national basketball team competed under the unified name of "Korea" at the 1948 London Olympics, before the division of the peninsula.

My Other Home
9. My Other Home (2017)
After crashing out of the NBA, Stephon Marbury took his talents to China and found a second career and home in the CBA (Chinese Basketball Association). From 2011 to 2017, the All-Star point guard led the Beijing Ducks to three CBA championship titles, and along the way reinvented himself as a true sports hero of the people. The 2017 Chinese-American production My Other Home, also known as Another Shot, is a biographical sports film about Stephon Marbury's unlikely storybook journey on the other side of the world. Marbury stars as himself in the film, which focuses on the Ducks' 2011-2012 championship season, and he even received a Best New Actor Award at the 14th China Movie Channel Media Awards. Other unexpected details: Jessica Jung plays Marbury's manager in the film, and Allen Iverson and Baron Davis make appearances.

 Run! T High School Basketball Club
10. Run! T High School Basketball Club (2018)
Directed by Furasawa Takeshi, the 2018 Japanese youth sports film Run! T High School Basketball Club is based on the same-titled best-selling novel series by Matsuzaka Hiroshi. Shison Jun stars as high school basketball ace Tadokoro Yoichi who quit the sport due to bullying. However, after transferring to T School, he makes new friends and decides to return to the court. Yoichi leads the ragtag but passionate T High School Basketball Club – which includes other up-and-coming young actors like Sano Hayato and Sato Kanta – against his former team in this spirited coming-of-age film that celebrates youth, friendship and sports.

We Are Champions
11. We Are Champions (2019)
In Taiwan where high school basketball commands a passionate following, the High School Basketball League Division 1 tournament is the island's answer to March Madness. Directed by Chang Jung Chi, the 2019 Taiwan basketball film We Are Champions stars Fandy Fan and Berant Chu as brothers on rival teams competing in the HBL tournament. One is the new star player of a top-ranked school expected to win, and the other is the point guard for a talented underdog team in danger of being disbanded. Realistic basketball training and gameplay scenes, combined with the stirring depiction of the tense yet close relationship of the stubborn brothers, make this coming-of-age sports film a winner both on and off the court.

Ahiru no Sora
12. Ahiru no Sora (2019-2020)
Based on Hinata Takeshi's shonen sports manga, the anime series Ahiru no Sora follows the tried-and-true formula of high school misfits coming together to create a basketball miracle. Aired from 2019 to 2020, the 50-episode Japanese anime is set in motion by freshman basketball fanatic Kurumatani Sora who lacks height but has loads of heart. He eagerly joins the Kuzuryu High School basketball club, only to find that it's run by jaded delinquents who don't want to play. Unfazed, Sora uses his passion, perseverance and pure love for the game to revive the team and reignite the basketball spirit of his teammates, who may look intimidating but are soft at heart.

We Got Game
13. We Got Game (2022)
After capturing hearts with sports dramas like We are the Littles and I SWIM, Hong Kong broadcaster ViuTV launched the basketball-themed We Got Game in 2022. The series is led by Louis Cheung alongside a cast of MakerVille stars including MIRROR's Keung To, Edan Lui, Stanley Yau and Ian Chan, plus ERROR's Fatboy and Denis Kwok. Directed by Yuen Kim Wai, We Got Game follows Louis Cheung as a coach assembling a basketball team of amateur players around the neighborhood in order to challenge a college team that's occupying their outdoor court. Clashing and unifying as a team, these young men grow up together amid family, friendship and sportsmanship problems.

The First Slam Dunk
14. The First Slam Dunk (2022)
Well over two decades since the end of the Slam Dunk manga and anime series, the iconic Japanese sports classic returned in 2022 with the blockbuster animated feature The First Slam Dunk. And if box office and Japan Academy Prize accolades are any indication, this film is exactly what we all needed. Slam Dunk creator Inoue Takehiko himself wrote and directed the film, which reveals the emotional backstory of point guard Miyagi Ryota. Through Miyagi's personal basketball journey inspired by family love and devastating loss, we also revisit the origin story of the Shohoku High School basketball team and the moment that put them on the map – the game against Sannoh High's championship team in the inter-high basketball tournament. The animation aesthetic visually updates Slam Dunk with a boldly different yet familiarly nostalgic look and feel that capture the spirit of the beloved characters and the dynamic movement of gameplay. After all these years, Slam Dunk is still the best at depicting basketball on screen.

15. Rebound (2023)
Ahn Jae Hong leads the Rebound of a high school basketball team on the verge of disbanding in this 2023 Korean film. Together with screenwriters Kwon Sang Hui and Kim Eun Hee, director Jang Hang Joon recreates the true story of the Busan Jungang High School basketball team's miraculous journey to the 2012 championships final in the sports drama. Once a promising MVP-caliber player, Kang (Ahn Jae Hong) becomes the head coach of his alma mater's basketball team. The high school athletes (played by Lee Shin Young, Jung Jin Woon, Jung Gun Joo and more) each have different back stories, but they all push their physical limits aiming to qualify in the national tournament, despite being seen as the weakest team. With only six players on the roster, the underdogs push themselves even harder to score consecutive wins and eventually reach the final stage of the tournament.

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Published June 30, 2023

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