Which NBA players like anime? Meet the stars obsessed with Dragon Ball and Naruto

Joshua Rogers October 10, 2022
Which NBA players like anime? Meet the stars obsessed with Dragon Ball and Naruto
Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

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Here’s all the known NBA players who like anime. The Japanese-style animation has grown enormously in the US, and these NBA stars are big fans.

NBA players dedicate their lives to basketball, sacrificing a lot personally in order to achieve at the very highest level.

However, it’s easy to forget that away from the court and elite competition, they’re just regular folk like everyone else.

The NBA is one of the most diverse and rich leagues in the US, and is constantly taking inspiration from music, fashion and popular culture.

In recent years, we’ve seen a growing number of NBA players get into anime. Anime is an immensely popular style of Japanese film and television animation, characterized by colorful graphics, vibrant characters, pulsating action, and often complex philosophical themes.

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Zion Williamson estimates around 80% of players in the league are into anime

New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson is one of the brightest young stars in the NBA. The former Duke Blue Devil was the first overall pick in the 2019 NBA draft, and in 2021 became the 4th youngest NBA player to be selected to an All-Star game.

In a recent interview with GQ, Zion discussed his love for Naruto, the long-running manga/anime franchise, which he says helped him during his rehabilitation from a foot surgery last year.

However, one particular line in the article stands out: ‘Zion estimates that around 80% of players in the league are into anime; they just won’t admit it.’

It’s hard to know every NBA player who likes anime, as it may not be something they have ever publicly spoken about. However, there are a few famous hoopers – other than Zion – who we know are fans of the genre.

Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images

Which NBA players like anime?

Steven Adams – Memphis Grizzlies

New Zealander Steven Adams is one of the most recognisable players in the NBA. He has often been called ‘Aquaman’ due to his uncanny resemblance to Jason Momoa, who plays the beloved DC hero in the eponymous movie.

In 2016, when he was with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Adams revealed that he was currently watching two of his favorite anime, One Piece and One-Punch Man:

Joel Embiid – Philadelphia 76ers

When he’s not tearing the league up and dominating opposition, perennial MVP-candidate Joel Embiid likes to unwind by watching anime.

In 2018, the 76ers big man was spotted watching anime on his smartphone courtside while his trainer worked on his tight muscles. Specifically, he was reportedly watching Dragon Ball GT.

Tobias Harris – Philadelphia 76ers

Much like his 76ers teammate Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris is a big fan of anime.

He’s also a big fan of Dragon Ball, with Goku being his favorite character. “He was always pushing to take that next step to become a Super Saiyan,” Harris told SLAM. “There are so many life lessons on the show about unlocking your own potential.”

“They explain how you will never be your best self because of your ego and anger,” Harris added. “As a professional athlete, you can definitely relate to that.”

Spencer Dinwiddie – Dallas Mavericks

In fact, Dragon Ball seems to be the go-to anime for most cartoon-loving NBA players. Mavs guard Spencer Dinwiddie is a big fan of the series, and told Slam it was his favorite show growing up.

However, unlike Tobias Harris, Spencer’s favorite character is Vegeta.

“It’s cool to have a character you can identity with,” Dinwiddie explained. “Just identifying with a guy like Vegeta who is always right there, but not quite there.”

Lauri Markkanen – Utah Jazz

Finnish star Lauri Markkanen grew up watching two episodes of Dragon Ball Z every day after school. He was soon hooked, and fluctuated between Goku and Vegeta.

“It was definitely Goku growing up,” Markkanen said. “But once I got older, it was Vegeta. He’s the hungrier guy. He thinks he’s the best and he’s always trying to chase everybody.”

Karl Anthony-Towns and Rudy Gobert – Minnesota Timberwolves

New Timberwolves teammates Karl Anthony-Towns and Rudy Gobert haven’t had much time to gel on the court, but off the court they’ve bonded over their love of anime.

During a recent preseason game, ESPN’s Ros Gold-Onwude said the pair “haven’t played a game together yet, but they have been able to bond over a love of anime.” Gobert has even been spotted wearing a pair of sneakers inspired by the show One Piece.

Towns is such a fan of animation he has recently signed to play Jacques Beau in Mindy Kaling’s animated series Velma.

Thomas Bryant – LA Lakers

Perhaps none take their anime fandom as seriously as Thomas Bryant. According to NBC Sports, he’s “more into the deep cuts, an anime connoisseur, if you will.”

“Don’t even try me on DBZ. I know everything about that. I know everything from Dragonball Z to Dragonball GT to Dragonball Super; all of them. We can go to a whole different level with that,” he told NBC Sports Washington.

As a child, Bryant reportedly used to buy manga books and read the stories over and over. He would often stay up late at night, especially on weekends, to watch anime series, and loved Toonami on Cartoon Network.

Bryant also loves to draw anime, which you can see here.

Other known NBA players who like anime include Lonzo Ball, who released a track called Super Saiyan, De’Aaron Fox, Dennis Smith Jr., and Jordan Bell.

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Joshua is a Senior Sports Writer at GRV Media with over five years of experience in online writing and editing. After receiving a BA (Hons) in Ancient History and an MA in Sports Journalism, he became a writer for a leading social publisher with over 7 million Facebook followers. Joshua then joined Reach PLC, covering the 2018 World Cup for The Mirror Online and regional publications like the Liverpool Echo. He then moved to a social media marketing agency and content studio, Brave Bison, acting as Website Editor for The Hook. Joshua now oversees all sports content on The Focus, specializing in NBA, NFL, F1, and tennis, while also keeping a close eye on his beloved Manchester United.