Thoughts: Summarizing the Shohoku-Ryonan Practice Game in Slam Dunk

Since I’m a basketball fan in real life, it made sense for me to check out a basketball anime, so recently I started watching the ’90s classic Slam Dunk. After the initial exposition and character introductions, the first actual basketball game (except it was a practice game) started in episode 14, and I was super excited. I watched the first episode, which covered the first half, and went off to bed knowing that I’d finish the rest of the game on my next free evening.

…Five episodes later, I was done.

Stretching a single 40-minute basketball game across six episodes seemed excessive to me at first and reminded me of the 25-minute grunting episodes of DBZ I watched as a kid, but in the end it was very entertaining. However, I wanted to break down the game in terms of what actually happened from a basketball perspective. I’ll go through it episode-by-episode below.

Ep. 14: “Super Basketball Match With Ryonan”

Sendoh dunked on Shohoku after faking out Rukawa on the fast break

Start: 0-0, End: 42-50

The game started out with Hanamichi not in the starting five. Immediately, Ryonan’s center and captain Uozumi blocked three consecutive shots from Shohoku’s Kogure, Rukawa, and Akagi. With this momentum, Ryonan jumped to a staggering 19-0 lead with the help of Sendoh, their superstar second-year player.

Fortunately, things started turning around after Rukawa stole a Ryonan alley-oop attempt and led a fast break that finished with an adept hand-off to Akagi for a monstrous Gorilla Dunk. The very next play, Akagi snagged a defensive rebound that led to an easy fast break for Shohoku on the other end. The last play the episode showed was an tip-slam by Rukawa after a deflected shot by Uozomi. From here, we were told that Shohoku made a come back throughout the half and got the game to 42-50 by halftime.

Ep. 15: “Hanamichi Nervously Steps Into the Spotlight”

Hanamichi Sakuragi’s embarrassing first play

Start: 42-50, End: 61-68

As the second half started, the two teams stayed competitive to each other, but after 10 more minutes of play, Shohoku still trailed 61-68. At this point, Uozomi of Ryonan landed a hard elbow on Akagi in an offensive foul and Sakuragi was called in to substitute as center. Unfortunately in his first two plays, Sakuragi was frozen from nerves and first turned over the ball in a traveling violation, and then immediately committed a shooting foul on Uozomi after being faked out.

Ep. 16: “Who is This Guy? Taoka’s Miscalculation”

Sakuragi’s signature defensive move

Start: 61-68, End: 67-70

Fortunately for Sakuragi, Rukawa knocked some sense into him and he began playing with the tenacity and athleticism that makes him a truly unique player. Unfortunately, he still struggled on offense and got his weak layup attempt swatted away by the larger Uozomi. However, his dislike of Rukawa paid off in that it made him never pass him the ball despite Ryonan’s expectations, and led to two shots by Kogure that put Shohoku within three at 65-68.

However, at this point, Sendoh showed his superstar abilities and crossed over Rukawa for an easy layup, putting Ryonan up five again. Rukawa answered in the next play; since he knew that Sakuragi wouldn’t pass him the ball, he readied himself for an offensive rebound and tipped the ball back in after a Shohoku miss. The score was now 67-70.

Ep. 17: “The Rebound King Sakuragi Hanamichi’s Distress”

A put-back dunk by Uozomi after an offensive rebound over Sakuragi

Start: 67-70, End: 72-76

Now that the game was closer, Ryonan began taking advantage of Uozomi’s height and experience over Sakuragi, and the big man dominated Hanamichi on the boards. In the next play, a Ryonan missed shot led to an offensive rebound and put-back, making the score 67-72. On the next play, Sakuragi showed off his jumping ability, snatching a defensive rebound and then later winning a jump ball, but it was no use since his lack of boxing out led to another offensive rebound by Uozomi followed by a dunk to make it a seven point game with less than four minutes to go.

On the next possession, Shohoku got bailed out by a “lucky” three-pointer by Yasuda, making it 70-74. After another failed box-out by Sakuragi, the score was 70-76, but Akagi was back to save the day. He called out Sakuragi for not boxing out and also replaced the exhausted Rukawa, despite his head injury. Akagi immediately scored on Uozomi and Sakuragi was finally able to get a defensive rebound. The score was 72-76.

Ep. 18: “Last 2 Minutes! I’ll Be the One to Defeat Sendoh”

Sakuragi and Rukawa double-teaming Sendoh

Start: 72-76, End: 81-85

With Sakuragi’s defensive rebound, Shohoku went on a fast break that led to another Akagi layup, making it only a two point game. A Kogure three-pointer after a defensive stop gave Shohoku its first lead of the night at 77-76. However, with less than two minutes remaining, Sendoh of Ryonan finally began trying, blowing by Sakuragi and dunking on Akagi for an and-one play that gave Ryonan a 77-79 lead again.

Sakuragi refused to give up, but Sendoh was too much to handle, and the star scored again to extend Ryonan’s lead. On the next play, Kogure assisted Akagi on a layup that made the score 79-81. Sendoh answered right back again, scoring on Sakuragi easily. At this point, Coach Anzai of Shohoku finally put Rukawa back in, and told him and Sakuragi to double-team Sendoh, to the two’s annoyance. The first play didn’t work out so well, as Sendoh passed off to Uozomi for an easy dunk after driving by both of them. Fortunately, Akagi answered with his own dunk, putting the score at 81-85 at the end of this episode.

Ep. 19: “Time’s Up! The Decisive Battle with Ryonan”

The final score: Ryonan wins by 1

Start: 81-85, End: 86-87

This last episode wraps up the last 30 seconds of this epic practice game. After dribbling the ball out for most of the shot clock, Ryonan’s Sendoh took a jump shot, only to be blocked from behind by Sakuragi. After recovering the ball, Sakuragi passed the ball to a teammate out of the corner of his eye, and found out after the fact that unfortunately, it was Rukawa. Rukawa drained a three and made it a one point game, and Sakuragi was torn between the joy of his team winning and the despair of his rival making the shot.

With less than 15 seconds remaining and the score 84-85, Ryonan had the ball, but Akagi cut off a pass and threw it to Rukawa on the run. Sendoh caught up to Rukawa and knocked the ball loose, but Rukawa was able to save it to a trailing Sakuragi who was able to finish the layup to put Shohoku up one. Unfortunately, while Sakuragi was celebrating, Sendoh took the ball coast-to-coast and finished with a beautiful scoop layup to seal the game for Ryonan.

In the end, anime is anime, and even the more “realistic” basketball anime (compared to the more modern Kuroko no Basket) is exaggerated and dramatized in true anime fashion. For example, Shohoku’s last play that led to Sakuragi’s layup only took about 10 seconds of game time but over 15x that in anime time! Speaking of exaggerations and unrealistic games, here’s a fun video I found (not mine) “simulating” the Shohoku-Ryonan rivalry in NBA 2k14:

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