There are so many sports manga that celebrate all different kinds of sports from more popular ones like basketball or soccer to more niche sports like climbing and roller blading. I've often found that some people are hesitant to get into sports manga, because they often think they have to be a fan of that sport to enjoy the series.

I have found though that whether or not I'm a fan of the sport a manga is about, I can still enjoy the series, and sometimes they get me into a sport even when the sport itself couldn't do so. With strong dynamics and interesting personalities, adrenaline-inducing action, and inspirational moments, sports manga is one of my favorite genres to read.

I have everything from basketball manga to martial arts manga on this list, so hopefully there's something for everyone. But, as mentioned above, sports manga is something I feel everyone can enjoy, even if you aren't a fan of sports! I strongly believe there is a sports manga for everyone, you just have to find out which one(s) that is!

That all being said, here are the best sports manga you need to check out now!

Best Soccer Manga

Best Soccer Manga - Blue Lock Manga
Credit: Muneyuki Kaneshiro and Yusuke Nomura

Blue Lock by Muneyuki Kaneshiro and Yusuke Nomura

In the world of sports manga, soccer manga has flew relatively under the radar. That is, until now with new sports manga like Blue Lock entering the scene. The hype is real for this series, and rightfully so, because it's not just a unique take for a football or soccer manga, but it’s a unique stand out in sports manga as a whole. Not only does it focus on one position of the sport, but it’s one that takes a different approach from any other I’ve read before.

So what is Blue Lock about? Blue Lock follows 300 of the best strikers in Japan as they take on the experimental program, Blue Lock, that is designed to create the ultimate striker that'll lead Japan to win their first ever World Cup. It’s like this survival of the fittest, almost prison like setting where they are thrown through various obstacles and challenges. They are ranked from the very start based on their abilities and while this creates animosity between some of the players, it also fosters growth in our characters by pushing them to be better.

When it comes down to it, Blue Lock is entertaining. The way the motion and auras of these players is conveyed through the art is unparalleled. It makes the sports look cool, but I also feel the way that it is drawn is really accurate as well in regards to the movements of the players and their moves. It's thrilling, adrenaline-inducing, but it's also touching at times as well as you see these players pool together to navigate this survival of the fittest setting, while at the same discovering their own reasons for playing the sport and further honing their techniques.

Blue Lock is getting an anime in 2022, so definitely keep an eye out for that as well. I am really looking forward to seeing the action and characters in this manga come to life on screen. The Blue Lock manga is also being printed in English for the first time by Kodansha beginning in the Summer of 2022, so you'll be able to pick up physical copies of the series soon!

Muneyuki Kaneshiro and Yusuke Nomura have also created some of my favorite horror manga of all time that you may want to check out!

Giant Killing by Masaya Tsunamoto and Tsujitomo

Giant Killing by Masaya Tsunamoto and Tsujitomo is a soccer manga that takes a different approach. The main character in this story isn't one of the players, but is instead Takeshi Tatsumi, the team's coach. More specifically, he's a 35-year-old ex-football player, who moved to England to coach before being called back to Japan to coach the team he used to play for.

Tatsumi's favorite pastime is giant killing, where he takes an underdog amateur team and coaches them to victory against premier teams. If you love underdog stories, you are going to love Giant Killing.

Tatsumi is a guy with very unconventional ideas, so he keeps things interesting. As someone who grew up playing soccer, I also have to say it's refreshing to see a coach like Tatsumi that works with his players to further hone and sharpen their individual talents. When you first meet the players of the ETU, they are scattered, lack direction, and feel defeated. But this all changes when Tatsumi comes in and you really see them all come into their own. A lot of series will focus on the battles the teams have to overcome, but Giant Killing delves into the individual struggles each player has to overcome as well.

What's interesting about this story too is that it follows the underdog team. There's nothing quite as exciting in sports as an upset, and watching this team slay giants that are said to be more talented than they are, is rewarding to say the least.

Ao Ashi by Yugo Kobayashi

If you are looking for a soccer manga that is realistic but is still entertaining, look no further than Ao Ashi. Everything the players learn, experience, and overcome in this manga is very accurate down to the drills, the games, the strategies, and the injuries.

But what is Ao Ashi about? Ao Ashi follows Ashito Aoi, a third year in middle school, who meets a J Youth League coach named Tatsuya Fukuda. Even though he's still a diamond in the rough, Coach Fukuda notices his potential and invites him to tryout for his team in Tokyo. But there are twists along the way that make the story in this one even more amazing.

The MC in this story isn't overpowered either. Instead, he's the type that has to constantly practice and work extremely hard to improve himself as a player. As a result, he's someone that many people, including myself, can relate to. Ao Ashi invests you in its story from the get go and it's one of the best football/soccer manga to release to date. It's one of the most underrated sports manga right now, but I hope this changes when its anime releases in April 2022!

Best Basketball Manga

Best Sports Manga - Slam Dunk Manga
Credit: Takehiko Inoue

Slam Dunk by Takehiko Inoue

One can't have a best of list without having arguably the best sports manga of all time on it, Slam Dunk by Takehiko Inoue. Slam Dunk is not simply limited though to just being one of the best basketball manga; It's one of the best manga to release to date. And one can see why with Takehiko Inoue, the mind that also brought us stellar releases like Vagabond and Real, which is also on this list by the way, at the helm. To have not one, but three masterpieces under his belt, is impressive to say the least.

When pressed to choose between these three though, I have a hard time choosing. That being said, there's something about Slam Dunk that's undeniable. It's suspenseful and thrilling, has a great sense of humor, and an unforgettable cast of characters. But it's how he conveys the emotion of the players, whether they are celebrating a win or contemplating a loss, that really sets him apart. These emotions are one's you'll feel as well, so Slam Dunk and the games within the series, really invoke an emotional response.

The team dynamic is a focal point of Slam Dunk and this is one of its strong suits. While most sports manga really hone in on one or two main characters, Slam Dunk highlights the entire cast. You really get behind the teams as a result. As you are reading as well, you feel the passion that the players have for basketball. Not only that, but Takehiko Inoue's passion for basketball is very evident as well.

When someone writes about something they are passionate about and conveys that passion through characters who are just as passionate about it, it's hard not to feel that passion or even develop a passion for it within yourself. The way that Slam Dunk and Takehiko Inoue can connect with you as the reader is truly special.

Kuroko's Basketball by Tadatoshi Fujimaki

Kuroko's Basketball by Tadatoshi Fujimaki is sometimes criticized for being too unrealistic, but this is actually what I love so much about it. If you go in knowing that Kuroko's Basketball has a tendency to be flashy and over-exaggerate things, you will enjoy it much more. For me, it only adds to the series charm, because these seemingly out of these world plays, dunks, and abilities, make Kuroko's Basketball an interesting read.

In this story, there's a group of basketball prodigies called the "Generation of Miracles" that have these almost superpower-like abilities. They aren't inhuman, but it definitely feels like they are when you watch them play. Later on, you find out that there was a phantom sixth man on the team, who just so happens to be our main character Kuroko. He decides to leave the team and join another to prove that he can stand apart on his own. That being said, Kuroko's Basketball is a sports manga with an overpowered main character.

You're left on the edge of your seat time and time again while reading this manga, because you never know what incredible feat someone is going to perform next. As with many sports manga, Kuroko's Basketball has a great sense of humor but it also has a lot of action-packed scenes as well. It's a really well-rounded series with a premise and characters that are anything but ordinary, and this makes it one of the most entertaining sports manga to release to date.

Real by Takehiko Inoue

Takehiko Inoue impresses once again in the sports manga category with Real, a manga about wheelchair basketball. While other sports series focus more so on the games, Real's focus is on its characters; All three of which have been in terrible accidents or have had health issues that left them disabled.

The main character's each have faults of their own, one for instance caused on accident that ruined the life of a fellow student, but they aspire to become better, and you really see them grow over the course of the series. These life-changing events change their perspective and they bond through the sport of basketball.

The art is beautiful, intricate, and highly-detailed, which is something I've come to expect from Takehiko Inoue. Out of all the sports manga I've ever read, Real has the most realistic and best art I've seen. The way he captures and conveys the emotions of characters is beyond anything I've seen before too. You really feel these characters' struggles and, in turn, connect with them as they work to become better people and rediscover their purpose in life through their passion for basketball.

Cheeky Brat by Mitsubachi Miyuki

When one thinks about sports or basketball manga, they don't usually think shoujo or romance, but Cheeky Brat is such a good read that it warrants a spot on this list. It's one of the best sports manga with romance added to its story as well. It's a unique offering in a sea of more action-based series, which I absolutely love, but there are some occasions where I just want something a bit different, and Cheeky Brat offers just that with its unique spin.

The whole setup of the story is different than your average sports manga. Shou Naruse, a basketball player, takes an interest in the manager of the Basketball Club, Yuki Machida. Despite her cold nature and the fact that she contiously pushes off his advances, Naruse continues to try to win her favor. Basketball isn't just a backdrop in this series; It is actually quite forefront in the story. The main characters bond over the sport and their time together on the court.

You have all of those great team-building, motivational moments, trials that have to be overcome that are common to sports manga, but a romantic relationship develops in this story as well. It didn't feel fully like a shoujo, but it also didn't feel fully like a sports manga either, and it melded the two seemingly different genres together in a way that made them feel synonymous.

If you enjoyed Cheeky Brat, you'll probably also enjoy Blue Box by Kouji Miura, which is getting an English translated release in 2022!

Best American Football Manga

Eyeshield 21 by Riichiro Inagaki and Yusuke Murata

When I heard there was an American football manga written by Dr. Stone's Riichiro Inagaki and illustrated by One Punch Man's Yusuke Murata, I knew I had to get it. It's a 37-volume series that has a perfect balance of action and comedy, which make it as inspiring as it is funny. On top of all that, it is an underdog story, which always tend to capture my heart, but none have captured my heart quite as much as Eyeshield 21 and its MC Sena Kobayakawa.

The story follows Sena Kobayakawa, a student at Deimon Private High School that's a target for bullies. One day, he angers them, but he manages to get away from them thanks to his quick speed. This is all witnessed by the quarterback of the Deimon Devil Bats football team and one of the stars of this story, Youichi Hiruma. He recruits Sena to be the team's running back, but he ends up becoming much more than that--- their secret weapon.

You have Riichiro Inagaki's masterful storytelling, which is brought even further to life in the panels by Yusuke Murata's art. He is a master at perspective and that is very present here in Eyeshield 21. But where this story really shines is its characters, which have unique and colorful personalities, and the team dynamics. It's one of the best sports manga to release to date and it's well-worth the read whether you are a fan of American football or not!

Best Extreme Sports Manga

The Climber by Shin-ichi Sakamoto - Best Sports Manga (Rock Climbing Manga)
Credit: Shin-ichi Sakamoto

The Climber by Shin-ichi Sakamoto

Shin-ichi Sakamoto is a manga creator that never ceases to amaze me whether it be through his work on The Climber or on his others, like Innocent and Innocent Rouge. Unfortunately, as of now, The Climber has yet to be translated in English, but it has been translated in a number of different languages from French to Italian. I hope Shin-ichi Sakamoto's works are printed in English one day, because his art and stories are something to behold.

In my opinion, The Climber is one of the best sports manga let alone best manga of all time. Not only does it highlight a sport that's not commonly touched on in manga, climbing but more specifically free solo climbing and later on alpine climbing, it's also done in a way that feels relatable even though the main character is doing these larger-than-life things many of us could hardly fathom doing.

The Climber follows Mori, a guy who likes to keep to himself, who discovers he has a passion for climbing one day when his classmates egg him on to climb the side of the school’s building. He scales the side of the wall with ease and is a natural talent. We also discover he's quite fearless, because he does so without a harness on. But he catches the bug for climbing nonetheless and it awakens something within him and he finds a purpose.

Of course nothing is ever this simple though, because this manga is very psychological as well. Mori won’t just have to overcome the physical mountains that stand before him, but the ones that are in his mind also and this is very relatable.

The story is conveyed a lot through the art, particularly later on in the story because there's quite a bit of dialogue early on, but with art as beautiful as what’s seen in The Climber one can hardly complain. The panels are absolutely breathtaking, with some of the best manga panels I've ever seen in manga, and they invoke an emotional response when viewing them. In turn, they really hone in how these moments must feel to Mori as well. Everything about it is just so well-done and beautifully executed.

The Summit of the Gods by Baku Yumemakura and Jiro Taniguchi

The Summit of the Gods is based on the novel of the same name by Baku Yumemakura and it shines the light on alpinism or mountain climbing. I recently watched a movie called The Alpinist, where the dangers as well as the beauty of the sport were highlighted. You really get to see the passion these individuals have as well, even more so than most given that they are willing to lay their life on the line to do what they love. This is all extremely well-represented in The Summit of the Gods.

While the series is about alpinism, it's more so about the love these climbers have for the sport, the allure of the mountains, and being one with nature. George Mallory and Andrew Irvine were the first to try and climb Mount Everest, but they disappeared, so it is still unknown as to whether or not they reached the summit. The story of The Summit of the Gods picks up in 1993 with a photographer named Makoto Fukamichi, who believes he's stumbled upon Mallory's camera at a antique store. The camera falls out of his possession though to a man that may be Jouji Habu, a retired legendary mountaineer.

With his curiosity peaked, Fukamichi investigates Habu's past, which leads him to greatest height in the world—the summit of the gods. The Summit of the Gods is full of mystery and intrigue, making it a unique stand out in the sports category. It's unlike any other sports manga I've read being that it takes a more realistic approach than most, but it still has all of the elements that make a truly great sports manga.

Best Sports Manga - Air Gear Manga
Credit: Oh! Great

Air Gear by Oh! Great

Air Gear is an anomaly in the world of sports manga. While not rooted in reality by any means, Air Gear highlights the sport of rollerblading in an over-the-top, absurd in the best way possible type of way, so while it's not necessarily an accurate representation of the sport, it's an exciting read that takes rollerblading to a whole new level with the introduction of futuristic motorized rollerblades called Air Treks.

This of course begs the question as to whether or not Air Gear is actually a sports manga, but I think that it is at its core. There are a lot of series that exaggerate a sport or the players abilities to play said sport to make it feel larger-than-life, and I think Air Gear is just an advanced representation of this.

The competitions in this series are adrenaline-inducing, as you watch the characters perform gravity-defying stunts and overcome seemingly impossible obstacles. The aggressive nature of the competitions make this one feel a lot like a battle shonen at times too. Plus, it's an ecchi manga as well, one of the best ecchi manga to release so far by the way, so it has a little bit of something for everyone!

If you are familiar with Oh! Great's other works, such as Tenjou Tenge and Bakemonogatari, you probably already know by now that he is an incredible artist. The premise of Air Gear is enticing, but it's the art that truly sets this one apart. Much like Kengan Ashura or Blue Lock, the characters' strength and abilities are conveyed through abstract forms, which make it an even more a compelling read. Not to mention it's one of those cheesy, action-packed series you just can't help but love.

A lot of the individual volumes of Air Gear are out of print, but some are still available for purchase on Right Stuf. Some of the omnibuses are also available for purchase on their site as well. That being said, it is extremely hard to find most of the volumes, so it may be quicker and more cost effective to buy the full set on sites like eBay.

Best Volleyball Manga

Best Sports Manga - Haikyuu!! Manga (Best Volleyball Manga)
Credit: Haruichi Furudate

Haikyuu!! by Haruichi Furudate

Haikyuu!! by Haruichi Furudate is the best volleyball manga, but it's also one of the best sports manga to release so far. Not just because of its characters, but also because it emotionally invests you in its story. Few sports manga have made me feel as much as Haikyuu!!. You'll laugh, you'll cry, feel victorious but also feel defeated at times as well; Everything an athlete could feel, you'll feel too while reading Haikyuu!!.

The character development in Haikyuu!! is expertly done as well. Haruichi Furudate gave each and every character their moment or moments to shine and you feel connected to them all as a result. The dynamics between the teams as well as the players are also interesting. You have some players who have joined new teams, so what were once their rivals are now their teammates, and this adds even more interest to the story.

Haikyuu!! is one that I feel is a great gateway manga for fans who aren't typically into sports but are looking to explore the world of sports manga, but it's also one that die-hard fans of volleyball will love as well!

Best Racing Manga

Best Sports Manga - Initial D Manga
Credit: Shuichi Shigeno

Initial D by Shuichi Shigeno

Initial D released in the 90's, and to this day, it still reigns supreme as the best car manga to release to date. The story follows Takumi Fujiwara, an 18-year-old that helps out his father at his tofu shop by making deliveries. Every morning he heads out to Mt. Akina in his Dad's AE86 to do so.

Because of this daily routine, he has gained skills in mountain racing and drifting which were further honed day after day while driving to make a delivery at its summit. Takumi's daily life begins to change though when Mt. Akagi's Akagi RedSuns come into town to challenge the local team, the Akina SpeedStars. Also be on the look out for Initial D's sequel MF Ghost, which is getting an anime adaptation in 2023!

Takumi is a thrilling driver to watch, because he thinks out of the box and quickly adapts to any and every situation or challenge. The races are also entertaining and exhilarating, not just because of Takumi but because of the opponents he comes across as well. Each with their own unique style of driving, each and every race feels fresh and the bar is constantly being raised. The races unfold in a way that makes them unexpected and exciting and the cars, whether they are in motion or not, are beautifully drawn.

Whether you are into cars or not, Initial D is a fantastic read. It's one of my favorite manga to ever release and it's an absolute classic through and through. Initial D was first released with English translation by Tokyopop, but they only released 32 volumes of the series and the volumes are now out of print. Recently, Kodansha released all 48 volumes digitally. Here's hoping a print release is announced soon!

Best Martial Arts Manga

Best Sports Manga - Kengan Ashura Manga (Best Martial Arts Manga)
Credit: Yabako Sandrovich and Daromeon

Kengan Ashura by Yabako Sandrovich and Daromeon

In Kengan Ashura something called the Kengan Association, an underground organization made up of influential companies, exists. Whenever they have a conflict, they choose a fighter and battle it out in an underground ring. In his endeavor to become the greatest martial artist, our main character Tokita Ohma becomes the fighter for the Nogi Group. The story follows him as well as his manager, Kazou Yamashita, as they work together to conquer the brutal world of Kengan.

The fights are exaggerated and over-the-top in Kengan Ashura, which makes them thrilling, but yet I still found them to be believable. While still very much rooted in reality, the fighters in Kegan Ashura are larger-than-life characters that have incredible abilities.

Their strength as a fighter is not only emphasized through their appearance and character designs, but the added elements surrounding them whether it be an animal that represents their fighting style, an aura that surrounds them, etc. When it comes to any manga centered around any sport or fighting, this is something I always enjoy, because it showcases their abilities in a more abstract and interesting way.

Holyland by Kouji Mori

Holyland is reminiscent of all of the delinquent stories I enjoy mixed with a story about fighting, more specifically street fighting. The fighting styles in this manga are vast from boxing to Judo, so the opponents that Yuu comes up against force him to think differently, to adapt quickly in the situation, and this makes it interesting and unique from other manga that involve fighting.

For me, Holyland was a very educational experience, because everything is explained well, but its not done in a way that feels sterile at all. The story unfolds beautifully, it gets straight into the thick of things, but still gives you enough back story that you feel connected to the characters.

Holyland's MC Yuu is one that has a somewhat typical back story, you know the kid who gets bullied and wants to become stronger type, but the way he goes about becoming stronger is not so typical at all. He heads out into the streets at night waiting for someone to try something with him and then fights them one on one. He doesn’t back away even though people, including himself, think of him as weak and it’s inspiring to watch him grow over the course of this series.

Eventually he attracts the attention of thugs everywhere and they dub him the “Thug Hunter.” People start recognizing his face and target him, so bigger and stronger opponents come out of the woodwork to challenge him. He also gains the attention of Masaki Izawa, an incredible boxer who hangs out in the streets. He’s astounded by Yuu’s raw talent, but recognizes his flaws and he becomes a mentor of sorts to him, so it’s not just Yuu that make this story but those he meets along the way as well.

Others start recognizing a difference in Yuu, even though he doesn’t even recognize it in himself and eventually he makes friends, most notably Shin who is an incredible guy and awesome character by the way, and as he fights on the streets, he comes more and more to life, but all of this violence of course, has its consequences.

While it's more so a fighting manga with boxing and martial arts themes, Holyland deserves a spot on this list nonetheless. It's one of the best sports manga as well as one of the best manga to release of all time.

Best Sports Manga - Rikudou Manga
Credit: Toshimitsu Matsubara

Best Boxing Manga

Rikudou by Toshimitsu Matsubara

Rikudou is a unique boxing manga that is edgier than most, and I mean that as a compliment. When I call something edgy it’s a positive for me, because not only do I prefer these types of series, but they also tend to breathe new life into a genre and do something that’s unexpected. Not that those that came before it were doing anything wrong, but that they come along and provide a refreshing take. This is something I always look for when I get into a new sports manga, especially a new boxing manga.

I think that’s what I love about Rikudou so much; It excites me, it feels fresh, and it shines a light, and I mean a floodlight, on the dark side to boxing. It’s highly underrated, partially because it's somewhat overshadowed by the classics that came before it, but also because it’s one that I feel a lot of people have yet to hear of. Rikudou is one that would be extremely successful if it were to be released with English translation and it’s the best boxing manga, in my opinion, to release as of late.

The story is about Riku, who grew up amidst drugs and violence his whole life, but his life changed forever the day he met a a former-boxer and yakuza member that taught him how to do a simple punch. This punch saved his life one day when he had to fight against his mom's drug dealer. But rather than just fight him off, he ended up killing him instead. More and more thugs come after him because of this, so he asks the former boxer who helped him to teach him how to fight, and this leads him to the world of pro boxing.

It's hands down one of the best sports manga as well as one of the best boxing manga you can check out! If you enjoy Toshimitsu Matsubara's work, be sure to check out his latest series Kurogane no Valhallian.

Hajime no Ippo by George Morikawa

Hajime no Ippo is a classic boxing manga, and it's especially worth looking into if you are into shonen manga as well. Hajime no Ippo has great character development and it's always entertaining, but it does have a pretty standard shonen setup at times, which isn't a negative, but is something to consider if you like darker, more mature series.

Hajime no Ippo is about a boy named Makunouchi Ippo who gets bullied at school. His life changes when he meets Takamura Mamoru, a pro boxer that sees potential in him and convinces him to join his gym. Over the course of the story, we see Ippo grow into a stronger boxer and person.

The art is pretty good overall, although it does have an older style that may turn some readers off. After all, this manga was first published in 1989, so it's going to look a lot different from more recently published boxing series like Rikudou. The fights are thrilling and they are clear and easy to follow, but the main reason this manga shines so brightly is because of Ippo and his development as a character.

Want more manga recommendations? Check out our favorite ecchi manga and favorite horror manga!