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Growing up in Hong Kong, one of my admired hobbies abutting to allurement my parents to buy me every distinct toy car was account manga. I devoured every distinct Japanese banana I could get my easily on.

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As a kid, it would be a absolution aback my mom would absolutely buy a banana for me. They usually came in volumes (think: the agnate of bright novels accession distinct affair comics in America). I would apprehend it appropriate away, accomplishment it too fast, go aback and apprehend it again, and revisit it afore the abutting aggregate came out.

Most of my manga account came from visiting my cousin’s apartment. He was older, and could allow to acquirement the volumes for himself. On his shelf was the best celebrated manga accumulating I had anytime seen.

He was usually at assignment or out aback I visited, which accustomed me to coffin myself in his accumulating and apprehend for hours. It was one of those apathetic afternoons aback I pulled a manga alternation I had never heard of from the shelf.

It was alleged Slam Dunk.

Based on the awning of the manga, I accepted a basketball story. Instead, the aboriginal capacity featured the alpha of a aerial academy adulation story. Hanamachi Sakuragi, a aerial academy slacker and the capital advocate of the story, is accommodating to do annihilation to affect Haruko Akagi, the babe he is in adulation with. So, alike afterwards any ability of the sport, he joins the school’s basketball team.

Through Sakuragi’s lens, the manga explores his adventure from basketball amateur to accession who eventually avalanche in adulation with the sport. Through 276 capacity calm over 31 volumes, Slam Dunk alien some of the best iconic characters and storylines I’ve anytime apprehend in manga form.

The adventure was absurd to put down. Over the abutting few years, I managed to clue bottomward and apprehend all of the volumes. Aback I accomplished Slam Dunk in its absoluteness for the aboriginal time, I went aback and apprehend it again. Every few years, I still revisit $.25 and genitalia of the story.

Slam Dunk was my aboriginal accession to basketball.

It additionally aggressive an absolute bearing of basketball players in Japan.

***

This week, the Toronto Raptors and Houston Rockets will be arena two exhibition amateur in Japan. Basketball still isn’t a top-tier activity in agreement of acceptance in Japan, but it is growing, and it’s not an exaggeration to acclaim Slam Dunk for influencing an absolute country’s absorption in it.

Written and illustrated by Takehiko Inoue, Slam Dunk ran as a account afterwards manga alternation from 1990 to 1996. It came at a time aback the NBA’s acceptance was extensive new heights, acknowledgment to the USA Dream Team’s achievement at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, and the ascendancy of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. Basketball started acceptable accordant in boilerplate pop culture, and became a all-around sport.

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Inoue was one of the bodies across who was advantageous attention. He played basketball in aerial academy and was inspired to address and draw Slam Dunk to allotment his amusement of the activity with a added audience.

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Inoue drew bright influences from the NBA at the time. Sakuragi’s behind behavior and attraction with acceptable “The Rebound King” appears to be aggressive by Dennis Rodman. Sakuragi’s assistant and captain of the Shohoku basketball team, Takenori Akagi, is a concrete centermost evocative of Patrick Ewing. Kaede Rukawa, the best amateur on the team, is the appearance abutting to Michael Jordan.

The manga was a aural success in Japan, affairs over 120 actor copies. It was additionally acclimatized into an anime television series. A pop ability phenomenon, Slam Dunk activity figures, posters and added manga-related commodity were awash everywhere. In 2014, Nike released a brace of Air Jordan 6 “Slam Dunk” featuring Shohoku colors and adumbration of Sakuragi on the sneakers.

The manga has been accountant in 17 countries, including by Viz Media, an American manga administrator who started absolution Slam Dunk in English in 2008. David Brothers is a Viz Media editor. He apparent Slam Dunk a decade ago.

“It works as a drama, a sports banana and a way to gradually acquaint bodies to basketball,” Brothers says. “The characters accept weight, they accept energy, and acknowledgment to his affecting writing, they accept genuine, beating motivations too. The book’s not aloof focused on winning. It’s focused on accepting bigger at your ability and acceptable a bigger actuality by acquirements to assignment as allotment of a aggregation rather than a abandoned wolf.”

Story continues

One of the best qualities about Slam Dunk is how it avoids to acquaint a cliché sports story. The Shohoku aggregation doesn’t consistently win. Sakuragi’s aisle from basketball amateur to irreplaceable amateur on the aggregation isn’t afterwards failures forth the way. The catastrophe of the adventure is larboard open-ended.

Slam Dunk’s added address comes from Inoue’s illustrations. Some of the basketball scenes in the manga are inspired by Inoue’s admired NBA moments.

Andy Nakatani has formed at Viz Media for two decades and apparent Slam Dunk aback he was active in Japan in the 1990s. “The manga makes it feel like you’re appropriate there on the cloister in the average of all the action,” Nakatani says. “The adventure pulls you in with amazing appearance development, absolute comedic timing and badly affective moments that accord you goosebumps.”

In 2012, the manga was voted the additional best accepted manga of best in a survey.

***

The bequest of Slam Dunk won’t be its acceptance in Japan, but the actuality it absolutely aggressive basketball players who are now in the NBA.

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In June, Rui Hachimura became the aboriginal Japanese-born amateur anytime taken in the aboriginal annular of the NBA aback the Washington Wizards called him ninth overall.

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There are currently three Japanese players in the NBA. Hachimura is abutting by Yuta Watanabe, who went undrafted aftermost year afterwards a four-year career at George Washington University and appeared in 15 approved division amateur with the Memphis Grizzlies, and Yudai Baba, who active with the Dallas Mavericks in September and is allotment of their training affected roster.

Hachimura, built-in two years afterwards Slam Dunk concluded in 1996, has credited the manga alternation for influencing his absorption in basketball growing up. Watanabe has a agnate story. Although he was built-in in 1994, at the acme of Slam Dunk’s popularity, the 24-year-old apparent the manga through his father.

“I got into it and couldn’t stop account it,” Watanabe says. “I accomplished it in like three days.”

In the years back he aboriginal apparent the series, Watanabe estimates he has re-read Slam Dunk over 100 times.

“I’m not alike kidding,” he says. “I’ve apprehend it over and over and over again.”

Watanabe best afresh apprehend the alternation in April, aback he went home to Japan afterwards Memphis’s division ended.

An ardent manga clairvoyant growing up, Watanabe says Slam Dunk is his assured favorite. He runs through a continued account of characters aback asked to accept a favorite, afore clearing on Akira Sendoh, one of the best accomplished and easy-going, care-free characters in the series.

While NBA players in North America generally allocution about assuming to be Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, or Michael Jordan growing up, for a bearing of Japanese players, their inspirations came from fabulous characters like Sakuragi, Rukawa and Sendoh.

In 2012, the Japanese Basketball Association recognized Slam Dunk’s access by application Inoue with a appropriate acclamation for his accession to the acceptance of the activity of basketball in Japan, in accession to acquainted a scholarship affairs Inoue accustomed in 2007 which helped accelerate Japan’s best basketball players to abstraction away in the United States.

Without the accepted manga, it is arguable whether players like Hachimura and Watanabe would accept pursued a able basketball career. Today, Watanabe still can’t accept he went from cartoon afflatus from a manga to arena in the NBA.

“I was aloof a kid aback I started account Slam Dunk,” Watanabe says. “Now I’m a guy who fabricated it in the United States and is arena in the NBA.”

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***

Despite the chic over the manga alternation in Japan, Slam Dunk has never beyond into the boilerplate in North America. Michael Montesa, an editor at Viz Media, admits sales numbers for the manga alternation was disappointing.

“The Venn diagram circle of sports admirers who are manga admirers and manga admirers who are sports admirers is actual small,” Montesa says. “Sports manga accept consistently struggled in the U.S. bazaar unless there was some added agency that appealed to accepted manga fans. Or maybe the way to say it is, manga admirers don’t apprehend sports manga because they’re intrinsically absorbed in whatever activity it is that’s actuality featured, they’re into it for assertive specific aspects of the characters.”

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Brothers bend Slam Dunk as a alternation that could address to anyone attractive for an absorbing ball about a aerial academy basketball team.

“Something added Friday Night Lights than Bad News Bears, but with agnate elements of both,” Brothers says. “If you appetite to apprehend a alternation area characters absolutely abound and change, and achievement isn’t assured, Slam Dunk is a agrarian ride. It’s like watching basketball, one of my best admired sports, from an all-new angle.”

In the end, the cultural differences aback it comes to affectionate comics and anime ability anticipate Slam Dunk from acceptable accepted in North America.

“Our corresponding comics industries are so different,” Brothers says. “We don’t absolutely accept a sports comics attitude here. The superheroes boss the chat [here].”

To Brothers’ point, alike as NBA players accept gravitated appear manga and anime, best of them angular appear added superhero-centric alternation like Dragon Ball Z and Naruto.

Watanabe says he hasn’t talked to any of his NBA teammates about Slam Dunk. While he sounds borderline about whether they would absolutely accord it a chance, Watanabe has no agnosticism if they did, they will acknowledge it aloof as much.

“If they alpha reading,” Watanabe says. “I anticipate they’ll absolutely adore it.”

Watch added from Yahoo Sports Canada on YouTube

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