Slam Dunk is a manga everyone should read. I came up on the graphic novel about an aspiring high school basketball player in 2008. It was during a sort of mid-life-crisis time of my life—my 20’s—where my nose was deep in graphic novels. Scott Pilgrim, Death Note, Batman: Year One, The Long Halloween, and Slam Dunk were my escape from the looming reality of adulthood.
Scott Pilgrim came, saw, and conquered pop culture as a graphic novel, blockbuster movie, and now it’s been licensed for those fun bobble head figures. After I got through about two Death Note books, I graduated to the anime series. I’ve never watched so much TV—37 episodes. I’ve been binge watching before Netflix became synonymous with the term. I was also pretty lucky Death Note was offered as the in-flight movie when I went to Japan. Then Slam Dunk became my
teenage obsession. I played basketball in junior high and high school, and had my fair share of crushes. Playing on a team earned cool points with the ladies, as the stereotype goes. Slam Dunk plays that up pretty nicely, with humor and dramatic stare downs with rivals.
I remember my former Art Director at Complex told me Slam Dunk should be on my reading list in addition to Death Note and Scott Pilgrim. Scott Pilgrim is now a mega-successful film that I could watch endlessly; an American version of Death Note is due sometime next year; Slam Dunk on the silver screen can’t be too far behind.
Between 1990-1996, Slam Dunk (Viz Media) was published weekly in Shonen Jump magazine. I finally read Slam Dunk Vol. 1 in ’08 after it became its own standalone book. I was drawn to the storyline of Hanamichi Sakuragi, a lovestruck highschooler trying to woo his crush by joining the basketball team. He was bumbling, clumsy, the furthest thing from a star athlete, but earned his spot on the squad on a team of real bruisers. Takehiko Inoue, the author brilliantly wrote and illustrated the manga over the course of 31 volumes that turned out to be one of the highest selling manga of all time. Rocket News estimated 117 million copies sold as of 2013. Characters in Slam Dunk are also known for wearing some of the most iconic Air Jordan sneakers.
Recently the book inspired the new EP by Sporting Life, the producer (oft-rapper) of RATKING. The Virginia native—New York representer—named his 3-part EP series after Slam Dunk, also creating cover art that mirrors characters from the manga. Sporting Life’s previous album, 55 5’s also incorporated basketball themes on song titles (“Triple Double No Assists,” “Sports Nation,” “A.I. Style”) and his music video, “Badd.” At the top of 2016, Sporting Life released “Move” on Soundcloud with the image of Sakuragi taking a jumper; it was a hint at his subsequent EP series.
Each volume of Slam Dunk features bonus NBA content—profiles on major players. The first was LeBron James back when he first played for Cleveland. At the time, he had yet to win a title, but it predicted “he would win three, four, even five titles,” with the right supporting cast. Recently, rumors are circulating that LeBron will return to play for Team USA when they go for the gold in Tokyo. Not only is Slam Dunk maintaining its relevance to basketball, but if a movie is in the works, then the cycle will be complete for my manga trifecta.