|Aliases||The Basketball Genius
King of Rebound
Foul Out King
Red Haired Monkey
The Savior of Basketball
|Height||189.2 cm (6'2½")|
|Weight||85 kg (187 lb.)|
|Manga Debut||Chapter 1|
|Anime Debut||Episode 1|
|Japanese Voice||Takeshi Kusao|
|English Voice||Robert Tinkler|
Bambam Labalan (TV5 Dub)
Neil Yu (GMA Dub)
|[v · t · e]|
Hanamichi Sakuragi (桜木 花道 Sakuragi Hanamichi) is the main protagonist of the series. At the beginning of the series, Sakuragi is a slacker, good for nothing other than fighting delinquent, who's the leader of the feared "Sakuragi Legion" (Hanamichi's Army in the English Dub), which consists of his four friends Mito, Noma, Ohkusu and Takamiya. Sakuragi was reluctant to join the team at first because he had no previous background in any sports and thought that basketball was game for kids and losers. Sakuragi's quest for love is nothing but humiliating. He is always trying to ask girls out, but is rejected constantly, the fiftieth rejection occurring at the start of the series. He then met Haruko Akagi, a lovely and friendly basketball fangirl, whom he fell in love with, immediately. Haruko's encouragement led to him to join the Shohoku basketball team. Despite of his hot temper,he proves to be a natural athlete with potential and joins the team in order to impress Haruko that he is worthy of her. However, as a complete beginner, he is not able to keep up with the rest of the team at first, despite his physical attributes (great height, athleticism, stamina, speed and leaping ability). With just 4 months, he has become a fully realized basketball player and is now considered a player that Shohoku cannot afford to lose. Sakuragi realizes that his love for the sports equals of his crush on Haruko. He finds a bitter rival "Kaede Rukawa" who both on the basketball court. Haruko in love with him that makes Sakuragi jealous as a result of mocking or fighting with each other but Rukawa doesn't acknowledge Haruko's crush on him.
From his initial appearance until they lost to Kainan, Hanamichi has a short distinctive pompadour styled red hair with fringes at the center of his forehead and brown eyes. After his personal mock fight with Rukawa and onwards, he shaved his hair into a semi-bald due to his mistake he had made in their battle against Kainan.
He wears a dark blue standard Shohoku winter school uniform from his initial appearance until their battle against Shoyo. Later, he only wears a white short sleeve loose shirt throughout the series until he wears his white short sleeve openly loose button shirt.
During Basketball training, Hanamichi wears a blue tank top which is tucked into his white shorts and wears his white running shoes with two blue linings. He later wears the Nike Air Jordan Basketball shoes after his running shoes got destroyed in the end of the practice match against Ryonan. Later, the color of his tank top changed to black and it was now loose.
His Basketball jersey uniform is red and black and it's alternate red and white.
When he was in Wako Junior High School, Sakuragi's uniform was olive green but in later flashbacks when he fought other delinquents from other schools, his uniform was purple.
Throughout the manga, he is very short-tempered, boisterous, arrogant, aggressive, very rude and immature. He begins regarding himself as a "Genius", even though he has not learned any skills. He also brags himself as the "Rebound King" when his rebounding ability has just started to surface, which was accepted and considered as valid. His most recognizable trait is his red hair and shaves it as reparation for an error that led to a loss in the interhigh tournament against Kainan.
Despite his violent nature and rude personality, Sakuragi has a soft spot for girls and is extremely vulnerable and sensitive to them. This was seen when he was unable to defend himself from Rukawa fan girls' provocations and insults. While talking with girls, Sakuragi always speaks in a formal and polite way. He also calls them using honorifcs, as he always adresses Haruko as "Haruko-san", which is a way to talk to a person with a high status.
He is also a simple minded and a naive person. After their loss in the practice match against Ryonan, He felt a bit depressed, however, as soon as Haruko began to compliment him for his hard efforts in the match, he immediately returned to his senses. Another time when Miyagi explained fakes in basketball, he showed amazement and described it as terrifying for deceiving opponents. His naivety and simple judgement earned him the nickname of "Simpleton King".
He is not the type to accept loss. His persistence started to get into Fukuda when he was totally outplayed at the 1st half of their game though, it was just settled during the practice match against the combined team of Shoyo and Ryonan.
Sakuragi has a habit of making fun of other players by giving nicknames other than their names. He calls Akagi "gorilla or gori" (causing other people to mimic - much to Akagi's irritation), Uozumi "Boss monkey", Kiyota "Wild monkey", Maki "Uncle or Senior", Masahiro "Totem pole", Masashi Kawata "Bald Gori", Mikio Kawata "Meatball", Miyamasu "Alien" and Fujima "substitute". Despite this, the only one doing the same thing to Sakuragi is Kiyota who calls him "red haired monkey". The only one who was not given a nickname by him is Kaede Rukawa who he considers as his rival in basketball and in Haruko, however, he does sometimes calls him a "Fox" or "Sleeping fox" due to his sleepy nature.
In spite of the setbacks he has had to face, Sakuragi displays a great deal of tenacity and determination that carry him through and help reciprocate for his other failings, both on and off the court. He also knows how to carry a will of a teammate. These was shown when he told Kogure of postponing his retirement for a while because of him who is a genius.
As a basketball player, he became a person with a great determination and resolve. Sakuragi began to gain respect from the audience firstly during the latter's dunk against Shoyo, and during the match against Sannoh when he saved the ball from out of bounds in which he injures his back, making the audience cheering for Shohoku instead, managing to win everyone's heart for his determination and resolve. His determination to keep playing despite the back injury was the main factor for Shohoku's victory against Sannoh.
Although his love for Haruko and rivalry with Rukawa are the main driving forces motivating him to succeed in basketball, his injury during the Sannoh match made him realize that he has actually come to love basketball, leading him to give his all for the team and bring them victory.
Sakuragi used to be nothing more than a high school delinquent, who knows only how to fight, and is unpopular with girls, as he ended up rejected 50 times. His comrades Yohei ,Ohkusu, Nozomi and Noma always tease him for his rejections, in which they end up receiving headbutts. Sakuragi also hated basketball, because the 50th girl that rejected him, was in love with a basketball player; considering it to be a game of losers. One day, a friendly and lovely girl called Haruko Akagi approached him and asked him if he likes basketball, Sakuragi immediately falls in love with her and decided to play basketball to please her. She showed him the way around the gym, Haruko informs him about slam dunk, one of the most exiting moves in basketball. After noticing that he can palm the ball, Haruko asked him to dunk the ball, which the latter does by hitting his head into the backboard. Even though he missed his shot, Haruko was impressed by his jump, and convinced him to join the basketball team. Sakuragi is overjoyed after he found a new love, but his happiness is short lived when he found out that Haruko is in love with a guy called Kaede Rukawa, a talented basketball player back in junior high, which left him once again heartbroken. Later, Sakuragi and his gang are challenged by a group of third year students for a fight. Once arriving in the roof, they found the students already beaten by a high school student who turned out to be Rukawa, the guy that Haruko has a crush on. Sakuragi, overwhelmed with anger and jealousy, introduces himself to Rukawa. Haruko, eventually arrives at the scene and notices that Rukawa is bleeding. Believing Sakuragi is responsible, Haruko scolded the latter, calling him horrible. After Rukawa coldly rejected Haruko's help, Sakuragi beated Rukawa this time for hurting her feelings. Despite that, Haruko declared that she hates him, which left him emotionally heartbroken, in which he nearly tried to commit suicide only to be halted by his comrades. On his way, he met two basketball players as he headbutted both until he met Takenori Akagi who punches the two player's head and Sakuragi hitted him with ball on his face, insulting basketball, which caused Akagi to challenge him in one-on-one handicap match. Sakuragi is easily outmatched after Akagi scored 9 baskets, until Haruko intervenes and urged Sakuragi to stop embarassing himself. Believing that she is cheering for him, Sakuragi managed to snatch the ball from Akagi, and tearfully regained his senses after Haruko really cheered for him. Sakuragi eventually won the match by a slam dunk, and reconciled with Haruko. Sakuragi began to humourosly mock Akagi until he realized that he is in fact Haruko's older brother. After that, Sakuragi officially joins the basketball team in order to surpass Rukawa and earn Haruko's love, however as he is completely a beginner, he had to learn the basics such as dribbling, much to his annoyance. After a week, Sakuragi got into a fight with Akagi, because he couldn't take the pressure of being bullied by him, doing a lot of basics so he decided to quit basktetball. However, Sakuragi soon rethinks about his previous decision, and realized that he wanted to return once again. He eventually returns to the team, when others suggested that he should learn something other than dribbling, Akagi agreed and gave another basic training of passes. While Sakuragi was at first annoyed, but neverthless he accepted it with joy. Some time later, a judo man called Tatsuhiko Aota, a childhood friend of Akagi and a guy who also has a crush on Haruko, wanted to recruit Sakuragi in his judo team because of his athleticism and his brute strength. He wanted even to force him to enter Judo by using Haruko's pictures to bribe him, but Sakuragi ultimately refused, and told Aota that he's going to play basketball because he is a basketball player. Motivated by his words, Akagi decided to teach Sakuragi layups, Sakuragi found it boring, calling it a commoner's shot. However, he found himself unable to score even one and ended up fighting with Rukawa, which Akagi suspended them from practice. The day after, Sakuragi went to the baskteball court practicing layup, but with no result. He is eventually found by Haruko, and she offered him to teach him layups since it was the only move she was good at. After several attempts, Sakuragi realized its trick and succeeded in scoring his frst layup, much to his happiness not only at scoring a layup but ending up training with Haruko. After Anzai informs the team of their incoming practice match against Ryonan High, Sakuragi spent the night before the match with Akagi, learning the Rebound. The day of the match, Sakuragi was first angry because he wasn't selected as a starter, but Anzai reassured him that he will play because he is the "Secret Weapon". During the practice match and the start of 2nd half, Sakuragi demonstrates his troublemaking antics such as injecting Coach Taoka's butt, changing the players scores and overhearing Coach Taoka's plans for the game as well as personally confronts Sendoh who laughs at his troublemaking antics. All those antics makes Akagi angrily punches him in the head to take him back to the bench.
After Akagi got injured in the face, Sakuragi finally entered in his place. He was at first anxious at his surroundings as well as injuring Uozumi from falling into the ground, but only a kick from Rukawa caused him to regain himself. He amazed everyone in the court by his skills despite being a beginner, as he successfully took the ball from Uozumi and outrebounded him, he even managed to block Sendoh's shot and scored his first 2 points with a layup. In the end, Shohoku lost the match after Sendoh scored the decisive points. Refusing to accept loss, Sakuragi wanted to keep playing, but his running shoes were completely worn out. The next day, he was completely depressed of his loss until Haruko comforts him and praised him for his efforts, quickly regaining his usual self. Haruko suggested that Sakuragi should buy basketball shoes. After school, Sakuragi went with Haruko to buy his shoes, believing it to be a date, much to his happiness. Soon after, Sakuragi met Ryota Miyagi, another member of Shohoku, well known for his speed and quickness as a point guard. At first they were at bad terms, because Miyagi believed Sakuragi was dating Ayako, his crush. But soon, they found friendship, after realizing how both of them are unlucky in love. Later, Shohoku were confronted by Hisashi Mitsui and his gang, who forced them to fight his gang, so they will be disqualified to enter the tournament. After Sakuragi and his gang defeated Mitsui and his gang, it was revealed that Mitsui was once a basketball player, formerly MVP who quitted because of his leg injury. After Mitsui redeemed himself that he wanted to play Basketball thanks to Anzai's call, Shohoku finally achieved completed their selection of members.
The road to the Interhigh has finally began for Shohoku. During the first matches, Sakuragi used to be the worst player of Shohoku, as he was known for fouling out during each game. During 4 games, he fouled out with a total of 20 fouls, which earned him the nickname of "King of Fouls". Despite that, Shohoku managed to easily win these 4 matches. The 5th match was against Shoyo High , who was considered as the 2nd representative of Kanagawa last year. During this match, Sakuragi was for the 1st time selected as a starter in this match. he played a major role in this match, scoring his first 2 points under a layup, outrebounding Toru Hanagata who is considered as a strong rebounder for Shoyo, and in the end scored an epic dunk, much to everyone's surprise. Unfortunately, the dunk was invalid due to the offensive foul and Sakuragi was once again fouled out for the 5th time. But neverthless, he gained respect from the audience for his determination. Eventually Shohoku managed to defeat Shoyo with a score to 62-60. After the match, Sakuragi was at first frustrated due to fouling out, but after dunking the ball at the gym, Sakuragi realized that he is improving a bit and Haruko managed to light up his mood by telling him that he became famous, showing him a newspaper where Sakuragi's dunk was shown on it. After defeating Shoyo, Shohoku's last round to enter the Interhigh has finally began. Shohoku's first opponent is Kainan High, the king of Kanagawa for 16 years. During this match, Sakuragi improved at such speeding rate, he scored against Nobunaga Kiyota under a layup, faking a shot; completely tricking him. He even managed to block Nobunaga and Soichiro Jin's 3 point shot. He even showed his rebounding prowress, which was a factor for Shohoku's scoring chances. He later challenged Shinichi Maki with a dunk, and the latter purposely fouled , aware that he can't make free throws. But to his surprise, Sakuragi scored his 2 free throws by shooting them underhanded, which surprised Maki. Sakuragi simply told him he will return the humiliation 10 times. Sakuragi finally managed to score his first dunk during the last minutes in the match. However, during the last seconds, Sakuragi made a small mistake, passing the ball to Kazuma Takasago, mistaking him as Akagi, which left him very shocked. The match ended with Shohoku's first loss, and Sakuragi was left emotionally in tears, with Akagi consoling him. The day after the match, he didn't show up at school, he was still depressed about his mistake, believing that he was responsible for his team's loss. Haruko showed up to comfort him, at first he refused to listen, but when she told him that his match will be unforgettable since he scored his first dunk and that even geniuses make mistakes, he felt a bit grateful to her, but still felt that he was at responsibility for his team's loss. On his way to the school's gym, he was initially challenged by Kicchou Fukuda by convincing one of his friends but only refuses by headbutting them due to his depression. At night, he went to the school's gym and encountered Rukawa who finished training, Sakuragi found how weird he is saying nothing about his loss, but Rukawa rebuffed at Sakuragi's protest, telling him his mistake won't affect the outcome of the match, and that his efforts were beyond everyone's expectations. Rukawa instead blames himself, since he couldn't continue the match because of his explosive scoring strength took a toll on his stamina during the 1st half. Believing that Rukawa belittled him, the two engaged in a fight, blaming themselves for their team's loss. The day after, Sakuragi returned to his former self in an unknown way, and to everyone's surprise, he even shaved his hair into a semi-bald, which made everyone including his teammates to burst into laughter. However, all of his classmates including Mitsui's gang are always looking at Sakuragi's hair in which Anzai was impressed on his new look.
For the incoming matches against Takezato and Ryonan; Akagi taught Sakuragi how to shoot under the basket, wanting him to be part of Shohoku's offense. Sakuragi showed up a bit late in the match against Takezato, due to practicing his shots the morning of the day of the match, but neverthless Shohoku managed to won without him. Despite their win, their coach Anzai was later taken to the hospital due to being suffered from a heart attack and Akagi discovers it was Sakuragi and hewas the one who rescued and took Anzai to the hospital which causes him to remember the time when he was still a delinquent and wanted to help his father who has heart problems. But it fails when he is forced to fight delinquents in other schools leaving his father to die from his heart problems. From that point, Sakuragi's reasons of saving Coach Anzai is to never meet the same fate as his father when he suffers a heart attack.
Shohoku's last opponent before entering Inter High was Ryonan. During the match, Sakuragi managed to suprise everyone once again with his fast growth. Firstly, he surprised Yayoi Aida and the referee of the match by making a basket interference foul, that was never made in a high school match before. Aida commented that his jumping ability is beyond high school level. Secondly, he suprised everyone when he scored the first two points of Shohoku under the basket, surprising both of Moichi Taoka of Ryonan and Riki Takato of Kainan. He even successfully blocked Uozumi's dunk, and scored a free throw underhanded. However, near the end of the first half, he was defeated by Kicchou Fukuda, unable to stop his alley oop, and left him bleeding from his forehead after he fell into the ground. Sakuragi felt humiliated at his loss, but soon in the second half, he made the decision to help the team win the match after treating his forehead wound. He managed to score two points under the basket and 2 points under layup. He even managed to trick Uozumi into comitting his fourth foul, forcing him to leave the court; weakening the defense of Ryonan. During the last minutes, he successfully stopped Fukuda and Sendo from scoring, and also blocked Uozumi, which surprised Taoka who disregarded him earlier as a threat. Eventually, Sakuragi scored a stuning dunk that completely sealed Ryonan's victory. The match finally ended with Shohoku's victory and qualification to the Inter High tournament.
Prior to the IH tournament, Sakuragi went along with Maki and Kiyota to see the level of opponents he is going to face in the tournament. He learns of Dai Moroboshi, the ace of Aiwa, and was interested in facing Hiroshi Morishige of Meioh, after he was knocked down by him when he purposely tried to bump into him. Some time after, Sakuragi challenged an ambitious Rukawa on a one-on-one match. Rukawa easily defeated him, which left him very shocked. However, he soon regained his senses, after Miyagi and Mitsui reminded him of his opponents in the tournament.
Before their training for the Inter High, Miyagi, Mitsui, Rukawa and Sakuragi became lacklusters because of their training which makes Akagi to let them stay at his house for their make-up exams with the help of Ayako and Kogure. Sakuragi can't focus too much due to Akagi's presence even pranking him by using a black permanent marker as retaliation. Only he could study hard when Haruko and Ayako are in his side. After that, the group passed the make-up exams. Sakuragi is revealed he got cheated with Aota during the exams and his reason to passed it.
10 days before the Inter High tournament, Anzai taught Sakuragi the concept of shooting, by making him shoot 20 000 jump shots and it was his favor for rescuing him when he suffers a heart attack. Sakuragi, along with the support of Haruko, his gang friends and Anzai successfully completed his training. His intensive training left his basketball shoes worn out, so he had to go along with Haruko to buy new basketball shoes, much to his happiness. When he bought the second shoes, the owner of the basketball shoes is actually a former basketball player and is often berated by Akagi from mistaken the Shohoku's name 2 years ago. He even recognizes Haruko as his sister since he didn't recognizes her from the beginning when Sakuragi bought his first shoes. After buying his second shoes, Sakuragi along with the rest of Shohoku took the Shikansen to Hiroshima to enter the tournament. In the anime before they travel to Hiroshima, they were tested by Shoyo and Ryonan players in a practice game as they demonstrated their heavy training in Shizuoka and Sakuragi's jump shot training by Anzai.
Shohoku, ranked as a C rank team faced their first opponent in the Inter High, who was Toyotama of Osaka that was ranked as an A ranked team. Shohoku managed to win against Toyotama with a score of 91-87, in which Sakuragi scored 6 points, 2 of them being a jump shot, amazing his teammates and even Kainan. The second round was against the strongest team and the defending champion for 3 years; Sannoh High. Everyone in Shohoku was feeling nervous about the strength of their opponent, Sakuragi realized that the crowd was only rooting for their opponent, so he challenged them with a dunk, jumping all the way from the free throw line, but ended up failing, much to his embarrasement. Neverthless, Masashi Kawata and Eiji Sawakita of Sannoh were impressed by his jumping ability. Kawata asked Sawakita if he can jump like him, which Sawata replied that he can't. Shohoku regained its composure thanks to Anzai's inspiring words. Shohoku returned to the court, full of determination, and Sakuragi this time succeeded in his dunk, shocking everyone, and gave the ball to Sannoh, saying he was giving them a hello. The most difficult match for Shohoku eventually began, and the first one to score was Shohoku thanks to Sakuragi's first alley oop, shocking the crowd, Sannoh and every team that came to see the match. Sakuragi also managed to score with his face after Sawakita blocked Miyagi's layup and the ball hitted Sakuragi's face and went straight to the net. As Shohoku is having the advantage in the first half, Goro Domoto, the coach of Sannoh sent Mikio Kawata to mark Sakuragi. At first, Sakuragi was having trouble against Mikio's weight and height, unable to stop him. However, thanks to Akagi's instructions, Sakuragi immediately realizes that Mikio can only score under the basket. Sakuragi immediately restrained his movements and managed to score twice over him, giving Shohoku the lead in the first half. In the second half, after Sannoh showed their true strength, by dominating with a 20 points lead over Shohoku, Anzai subbed Sakuragi for Kogure, Sakuragi at first angry because he believed that Anzai gave up on the game, but Anzai instead explained him that he believed that if Sakuragi grabs the offensive rebounds, their chance for a comeback will appear. Everyone on the bench, gave their confidence and their faith in Sakuragi. After entering the court once again, motivated by his friends, stood on the top of a table, and declared to the crowd that he'll be the one to defeat Sannoh. After returning to play, he told his teammates that they will not lose, and when his teammates taught how impossible that would be, Sakuragi simply told them that their common knowledge of basketball isn't working against him, because he is just an amateur. Sakuragi was then matched against Masahiro Nobe, who is a strong rebounder of Sannoh. Sakuragi manages to outrebound him and scored 4 points that reduced Sannoh's lead. Eventually, he outmatched Masahiro in rebounding thanks to his jump and speed, and thanks to that, Shohoku began to make a comeback. Domoto ordered Kawata to mark Sakuragi in order to stop him from rebounding. Sakuragi was pleased that they sent the best center of basketball, so they could stop him. Despite that, Sakuragi was to hold up against Kawata, as he successfully stopped his alley oop and made him miss his shot after staying in the air for a long time; in which Kawata realized that he can't compete with him in jumping. After Rukawa decided to pass the ball to his teammates so they could have a chance of changing the flow of the game, Sakuragi mentally told Rukawa to pass the ball to him. After Rukawa successfully bypass Sawakita, Sakuragi accidentally crashed into him. Everyone thought Sakuragi got in his way, but in reality Sakuragi waited him to pass the ball to him at 45 degrees to the right, since it is there where his jump shots have a higher rate of success. When Sawakita bypassed Rukawa, Sakuragi managed to stop Sawakita by making the latter foul against him. Sakuragi told Rukawa that all debts are solved.
During the last minutes of the match, Sakuragi made an epic save, throwing himself, saving the ball from out of bounds and crashing on the table of the sidelines. Everyone was shocked at Sakuragi's save and began to wonder if he was okay, since he showed no sign of movements. Eventually, he stood up, much to everyone's suprise. The save that Sakuragi made, made the crowd cheered for Shohoku despite in the beginning they were rooting for Sannoh. As soon as he resumed to play, Sakuragi noticed that his back is starting to hurt him, and as soon as he keeps playing, it's started to hurt much more. After Sannoh took their timeout, Ayako noticed Sakuragi's injury and asked him if he was hurt in which he told her that his spine is hurting him a bit, shocking Ayako. After realizing the nature of the injury, Ayako told Sakuragi that his injury concerns a Player's Life; meaning he may not be able to play basketball again. However, Sakuragi quickly rebuffed Ayako's thoughts saying that he is immortal and that they never should compare him to a normal person. However, as soon as he keeps playing, the pain in the back grew stronger. Kawata noticed his injury, and warned him to not push himself and think about his future, but neverthless warned him that he will not hold back once he is angry. After Akagi successfully tricked Kawata into fouling him after he attempted to dunk, the ball hitted the rim, but Sakuragi answered back with a powerful dunk, shocking everyone. However, his dunk is invalid due to being shot after the whistle. Sakuragi finally collapsed from his injury, and was subbed out by Kogure. While unconscious, Sakuragi began to wonder if this is really the end of his basketball life. He began to remember every moment and every achievement he accomplished since he started playing basketball. When he thought that it's finally over, he suddenly remembered Haruko's first words to him "Do you like Basketball ?". Realizing his true feelings for basketball, Sakuragi immediately regained conscioussness, hold both of Haruko's shoulders, confessing to her his love for basketball, and indirectly somehow revealed his love for her as well, telling her he isn't lying unlike the first time when he only said yes because of his love for her. The sudden confession made everyone surprised, while Haruko was blushing and was left speechless after hearing his confession.
Sakuragi immediately asked for a substitution, however Anzai canceled the sub, telling Sakuragi how he noticed his injury, and didn't want Sakuragi to make a mistake he'll regret it for the rest of his life. Sakuragi, determined to play, told Anzai that his days of glory are over and that right now it's his moment of glory that he should never missed it. He was also encouraged by Rukawa to enter, after the latter purposely fouled to let him back on the court. Before entering, Sakuragi thanked Anzai and told him he was finally able to make his decisions to change the flow of the game. After entering, his teammates were worried about him, but quickly mocked them for being worried to play without him, much to their annoyance. Despite the pain in his back killing him, Sakuragi encouraged his teammates to win the game. Sakuragi's performance despite the injury was really crucial during the last minute of the game. He managed to block Mikio's shot, which enabled Mitsui to score a 3 point and one free throw due to being fouled. He even amazed everyone, when he successfully blocked Sawakita's dunk from behind. He also made the decisive pass to Rukawa after the latter was blocked by Kawata, passing the ball to him, choosing his love for basketball over his rivalry with Rukawa, which enabled Rukawa to score the leading point. After Sawakita took the lead away from Shohoku, Rukawa in the last two seconds passed the ball to Sakuragi, who scored the winning shot, much to everyone's shock. The match finally ended with Shohoku defeating Sannoh by 79-78, Sakuragi and Rukawa celebrated their victory together with a high five for the first time in their life, before resuming their rivalry once again. Yayoi Aida and her partner took picture of Shohoku, as it is the first team to defeat the champion Sannoh. However, their picture didn't make it into the next cover, as Sakuragi was sent into rehabilitation for his back injury, and Shohoku who was exhausted from their match against Sannoh, easily lost to Aiwa in the 3rd round.
Some time later, Sakuragi on the beach is reading a letter from Haruko, who informed him of everyone's situation. He learned that Miyagi is the new captain, Shintai University's basketball scholarship to Akagi was withdrawn after their loss to Aiwa and she became the second manager of Shohoku. He was also pleased that Haruko's first job as a manager is to keep weekly correspendance with him until he comes back. He also learned from her that Rukawa became a member of All Japan Junior Team. As he is reading the letter, he coincidentally encounters Rukawa training on the beach, showing him his All Japan uniform. Sakuragi simply thought that Rukawa was chosen as his replacement because he is injured. Sakuragi's doctor arrived and told him that it was time for his treatment, she asked him if he can bears it, which the latter told her that it was a silly question. It was revealed then that Haruko in her letter, wished him good luck in his rehabilitation and that once he is finished, she'll be waiting for him; implying that she started to have feelings for him. Sakuragi walked away, telling himself that he'll be waiting for the baskteball he loves so much, because he is a Genius.
In Slam Dunk : 10 Days after, Sakuragi sent a letter to Haruko, informing her of his rehabilitation, and the fact that he is the Rehabilitation King, much to Haruko's joy. At the end of the chapter, Sakuragi is reading her returned letter, informed by everyone's situation once again. Haruko told the latter that she is desperately waiting for his return as the Rebound king once again. Then, his doctor approached him, and informed him of a Japanese player entering the NBA in America. While most people considers entering the NBA is impossible, she told Sakuragi that those who said it was impossible never tried the challenge for themselves. After Sakuragi was advised by his doctor to challenge a new level of rehabilitation, he told her that he will be the next one to go to America. When his doctor told him if he could make it, Sakuragi immediately told her that he can, because he is a Genius.
At first, he can only do dunks and lay-ups but under Akagi's training, his rebounding prowess became the main support for the team, which earned him another nickname now known throughout all of the Kanagawa prefecture because of this, "The king of Rebounds". Then with Coach Anzai's training, he is able to finish 20,000 shots in a week to further improve his shooting range. Despite this, Mito notes that standing at 45 degrees to the right gives Sakuragi higher success rate at shooting jump shots.
Jumping Power and Rebounding
As seen and witnessed by Haruko and Hikoichi, the skills Sakuragi really excels at is his jumping, speed and power. Masashi Kawata of Sannoh notes that he has never seen a person with that kind of leg power. The height of his jump is incredibly high as noted by Coach Takato of Kainan High, as he was able to jump back to block Sawakita's dunk attempt and stop the alley-oop to Masashi, despite falling to the floor. His jumping ability makes him a formidable rebounder under the tutelage of Akagi. With this, he is more than enough to outrebound strong centers such as Toru Hanagata, Jun Uozomi and Masahiro Nobe of Sannoh. Coach Domoto was even forced to put Masashi Kawata into him just to stop him from rebounding. Despite the obstacle put upon him, he is still able to hold on to his rebounding against the big men of Sannoh, which became as one the key factors that Shohoku made a comeback victory.
He gained his abnormal strength from his fights as a delinquent and some power training that hardened him before playing basketball. Akagi notes that Sakuragi is much stronger than Jun Uozumi of Ryonan despite being smaller. This was shown when he easily threw Koshino Hiroaki of Ryonan in their practice game, when the latter attempted to take the ball from him. He is also noted for being strong as Akagi says that in a battle of strength, no one can beat him. He is able to hold his own against Mikio Kawata who weighs 130 kg.
Speed and Stamina
Beside his jumping power and strength, he is also fast as he can catch up to defend, combined with his large amount of stamina. These were tested when Totsuka Tetsuya of Ryokufu High School challenged him in a battle of speed. However Totsuka 's stamina got the best of the latter as he tires out first while Sakuragi continues to run back and forth. Even Sendoh of Ryonan, considers Sakuragi's endless stamina as a huge threat, ater noticing that despite everyone reaching their peak in the second half , Sakuragi acts as if the match has barely started showing no sign of tiredness.
Sakuragi has difficulty facing off against a weak opponent as he is unable to show his true skills and abilities. Mito notices this when Yoshinori Miyamasu of Kainan subs in as Sakuragi starts to miss shots. Another weakness of Sakuragi for the majority of the series is that his shooting presence was not highly accurate which changed just before the Nationals. He is also a weak on-ball defender and can easily fall for fakes, however, his athleticism somehow makes it up for it. His arrogance and daydreaming often cause the ball to hit his face while in a game, leaving him unaware of a pass. This is also the main reason he doesn't succeed in his plots and always end up being an embarrassment for the team.
"I love it very much. This time i'm not lying." Sakuragi's confession to Haruko.
Sakuragi's love for Haruko makes him a better player as well as a person throughout the series. However, she does not reciprocate his feelings until the end of the manga, when he is in rehabilitation due to his back injury during the match against Sannoh. He is initially taken aback by her big crush on Rukawa, but still tries to win her by motivating himself to learn more on basketball. Sakuragi always listens to her due to his deep affection for her, and Haruko never hesitates to help him when he is in trouble, and cheering him up when he's feeling depresed. Haruko's faith in Sakuragi's potentiel is what motivates the latter into improving his carrer as a Basketball player, as she believes he would be the savior of the Basketball team. During the match against Sannoh, while unconscious because of his injury in the back, Sakuragi begin to remnicise everything he learned since he started playing Basketball and begin to lament himself how his career would end because of his injury. Suddenly, he remembered the first reason he started to play basketball; when Haruko asked him if he likes basketball. Acknowledging that the first reason he played basketball was his love for her not for basketball itself, Sakuragi immediately regains consciousness and hold both of Haruko's shoulders confessing his love for basketball, telling her he isn't lying this time; revealing both his love for basketball and indirectly his love for her at once, which made Haruko speechless, as she blushed as his sudden confession.
The relationship between the two began to improve after the end of the Inter-High Championship, while Sakuragi is in rehabilitation to recover from the injury from his back, Haruko begins to write him letters every week infroming him of everyone's stiuation. She encouraged Sakuragi to try his best to recover and once he's done with his rehabilitation, she 'll be waiting for him; implying that she started to have feelings for him.
The two players are polar opposites of one another. But Rukawa is pretty much what Sakuragi wants to be: skillful in basketball and popular with women. The two dislike each other , as Sakuragi finds him a bitter rival in Basketball and Haruko whom she is interested in, while Rukawa finds him annoying and always gets irritated at his arrogance and immaturity, calling him Dou Aho (idiot), which angers Sakuragi more. However, deep inside, Rukawa appreciates Sakuragi's hustle and deterrmination to play, and also knows that he can use his skills for better use, instead of wasting his time against him, During their ultimate match against Sannoh, Rukawa intentionally fouled to have Sakuragi back in court. The two of them threw their dislike for each other aside during the match as Rukawa made a decisive pass to Sakuragi's victorious shot. The two of them celebrated their victory together with a high five, before resuming their rivarly once again
Takenori is Haruko's older brother and the captain of the basketball team. Sakuragi's initial encounter with Takenori was terrible and awkward at first when he headbutted both players upon his arrival especially during the one-on-one basketball duel where Sakuragi embarassed him in shame and defeating him physically by shooting the ball in a slam dunk to knock him down until he realizes it was Haruko's older brother. Sakuragi does its best to apologize for his previous actions despite his faults as Takenori accepted his apology due to his sister's request. In every practice game or the entire basketball game whenever Sakuragi does his troublemaking antics to his teammates, other players from other schools especially coaches such as Moichi Taoka and showing his level of arrogance. Takenori is often seen punching directly on Sakuragi's head. This also applies to Shinichi Maki from Kainan when he punches Kiyota's head whenever he does troublemaking antics and the embarassment towards his teammates. He also punches Sakuragi's head multiple times when he made a prank by putting a black mark all over his face using the black permanent marker. Overall, Sakuragi still respects him as his Captain or addresses him as Gori.
The initial encounter between Miyagi and Sakuragi was horrible, as Miyagi beats Sakuragi when he mistakenly thought that he is dating his crush Ayako. It even became worse when thay found out that they are teammates of Basketball, as the two would always fight for trivial matters. However, they quickly overcame it after they found that that they share a lot in common; they have been rejected by girls quite often and decides to play basketball for the sake of their crushes. Since then, the two began to get along with each other, and became close friends. As Miyagi would often teaches Sakuragi the techniques of basket, and while on court the two of them would always team up to score decisive goals. He is the only person apart the Sakuragi gang to call him by his first name "Hanamichi", while Sakuragi calls him "Ryo-chin". In both English and Filipino Dub, Sakuragi calls him by his first name "Ryota".
Sakuragi has a few rivals in both anime and movies and his rivals are similar to his personality as well as his troublemaking antics and being fouled out in the game with the exception of both Oda and Fukuda who outplays him in the first half of the game against Ryonan.
Rango is the center player from team Tsukubu during the second movie. Rango meets Sakuragi after gaining a crush towards Haruko who practices basketball all by herself as he saves her ball by shooting the basketball dunk while in a motorcycle helmet. They started their rivalry when Sakuragi angrily headbutts him after seeing him had a crush on Haruko as he also headbutts him in retaliation after Sakuragi's friends discovered that Rango is able to withstand Sakuragi's headbutt just like both Rukawa and Akagi. During the best of 8 game before facing Shoyo, He makes fun out of Sakuragi while he's on the bench and later when he replaces Kogure to play the game, He and Sakuragi are seen bickering when they wanted to face Rukawa after the latter calls them two idiots. Sakuragi manages to get another rebound but knocking Rango to the ground results him in getting a fifth foul and ends up being fouled out. In the end of the movie, Rango congratulates them for winning as Haruko arrives to praise Sakuragi's team victory as both ends up fighting each other just for Haruko. In the anime series, Rango can be seen grunting when Sakuragi knocks him through the ground and gains him the fifth foul which it was seen in the second movie. Sakuragi also calls him as the "Golden-Haired Monkey" before team Tsukubu takes their time-out.
Oda is the center player from team Takezono and Sakuragi's rival in the first movie during the practice game between Takezono and Shohoku and also studies in the same middle school as Sakuragi along with his gang and Yoko Shimamura which is a 50th girl that Sakuragi ends up getting rejected due to her crush on Oda. Their rivalry can be very intense as seen in the movie where Oda angrily berates Sakuragi for his initial actions as a delinquent which Sakuragi initially dislikes about basketball or others are mentioning it until he notices Sakuragi's basketball potential when risking his life to save the ball from getting out of bounds several times much to the audience, players and all of Oda's female supporters' surprise despite they make fun of him during the first half of the practice game. In both Episodes 48 and 49 in the anime series, Sakuragi visits Takezono High along with his gang to visit Oda at night after hiding from his female supporters who are strictly guarding outside the school and notices his right ankle injury after getting slipped from a sweat on the floor during their basketball practice and also became worried to see Yoko upset when Oda secretly does not want to tell them about his ankle injury. Despite their support during their battle against Kainan, Sakuragi angrily scolds Oda for getting too much pride for himself in trying to beat Kainan and forgetting his own dreams with Yoko after he was collapsed from his ankle injury much to the Takezono players including their captain's shock and surprise. After Takezono lost to Kainan, Sakuragi finally ended their rivalry with Oda while telling him that they will settle their battle one day and also tells him to get over his ankle injury before Yoko tells him that she and Oda will give them support in their battle against Kainan much to the latter's disappointment.
Kiyota is another rival to Sakuragi and his troublemaking antics and his personality closely resembles to him in which he calls Sakuragi as the "Red-Haired Monkey" as the latter calls him as the "Wild Monkey". Both characters shared the same jersey #10 but their positions in playing basketball are different. They are trying to make a rival towards Rukawa. However, their antics cause both captains Akagi and Maki by punching them to their heads and they apologized for the embarassment of both of their teams before the start of their basketball match. This also happens after the national eliminations in Kanagawa, where Sakuragi joins up with him and Maki to watch a basketball match between both Meioh and Aiwa in Aichi as both are seen bickering with each other when they met. Later after Meioh wins against Aiwa, he and Sakuragi are booing at Hiroshi Morishige and his teammates for their victory.
Fukuda became Sakuragi's rival when he wanted to challenge him to a basketball match by convincing one of his friends to challenge him but the latter refuses by headbutting them due to his depression after their loss against Kainan. In the match against Ryonan, he and Sakuragi challenged to a loop-sided match resulting in the 1st half where Sakuragi attempts to stop him for an alley-oop but failed as he was knocked off the ground. He tells him that he won and his injured forehead continues to bleed before they take him back on the bench. In the 2nd half, a persistent Sakuragi retaliates and managed to contain him though it was just settled in the practice match between Shohoku and the combined team of Shoyo and Ryonan.
Morishige is the super rookie from Meioh High School and also similar to Sakuragi who is also being fouled out in the game due to his physical immense strength and clumsiness of getting a technical foul when he's hanging on the ring after bumping both Aiwa players with a massive slam dunk. This raises Sakuragi's fighting spirit who wanted to challenge him after watching his match against Aiwa. In his case, he causes him to injure Aiwa's ace, Dai Moroboshi during their match due to his physical immense strength. After the game, Sakuragi intentionally bumps him (to test his physical strength) but ended getting knocked down on the ground, which raised his fighting spirit even more. Because of this, he became one of Sakuragi's goals in the Nationals, though their respective teams never met. However in the manga, both teams finally met in the Nationals.
It has been mentioned in the anime about Hanamichi’s father, whom he calls old man had a heart attack, just as he arrived home. But Hanamichi couldn’t do anything for him because he was stopped by 8 high school students and was forced to fight. This delayed him and was unable to get an ambulance for his father. This flashback was shown after Coach Anzai had his heart attack, reminding Hanamichi of his past. As nothing was mentioned of his father after that, he is presumably dead.
-"It's the middle of the Spring, yet my heart is still in the Winter."
-"I'm the Basketball genius, Sakuragi Hanamichi."
-To Tatsuhiko Aota : "I'm going to play Basketball, because i'm a Basketball player."
-"It's not too late to change ourselves and have a meaningful life."
-To Takenori Akagi: "Basics are important. Isn't that right, Gori ?"
-To Kicchou Fukuda: "A Genius is 99% of talent, and 1% of effort."
-To Kiminobu Kogure:" Megane-kun, your retirement got extended, thanks to this genius here."
-To Shohoku High : "You guys' common knowldege about Basketball , doesn't work against me... Because i'm just an amateur."
-To Haruko Akagi (confessing his love for Basketball): "I love it very much. This time i'm not lying."
-To Anzai: "Hey old man, when were your years of glory.. When you won the nationals ? Mine is... Mine is Now!"
-To Anzai:"Old man, i was finally able to do what you told me to , i was finally able to change the game, to be decisive, needed."
-To Kaede Rukawa: " The left hand is just for holding the ball."
-"I'll be waiting for the Basketball i love so much, it's all because i'm a genius."
- He is considered to the main member of troublemakers, along with Rukawa, Miyagi and Mitsui, due to his violent, brute strength in his fighting history.
- He could've broke the High School record in number of rebounds against Tsukubu High School if not called for a charging foul due to his physical contact with Koichirou Rango, which knocked the latter down the floor.
- Sakuragi is based on NBA player Dennis "The Worm" Rodman because of his rebounding and his dyed hair (it was red at one point). They both share the same jersey number. Rodman wore number 10 during his time with the Detroit Pistons and later on, the San Antonio Spurs. Rodman was a fierce defender while Sakuragi is somewhat a weak on-ball defender as he is easily thrown off with a feint. He was better at shooting and jumped higher than Rodman. The rebounding style of Rodman was different from that of Sakuragi’s who rebounded with his jumping ability, whereas Rodman get the rebounds using his physical mass or chipping the ball until he gets it. However, when he was matched up against Masahiro Nobe of Sannoh, he utilized his jumping power combined with chipping the ball and totally outrebounds the latter. The bigmen of Sannoh got a hard time rebounding because of him. Coach Anzai pointed this as his 'true ability'.
- There were many coincidences during Rodman’s career that paralleled Sakuragi’s journey through basketball. The Chicago Bulls were the counterparts of the Shohoku team, a clear reference since the two teams jerseys were completely identical. Rodman did play for the Bulls, but interestingly only began in 1996, which was the year “Slam Dunk” ended in. There was also an incident in the same year where Rodman headbutted referee Ted Bernhardt; a recurring gag throughout the series was Sakuragi’s deadly headbutt, used most often on his own gang or on his enemies whenever he's infuriated. Their personality changes were completely opposite. While Sakuragi has learned to control his temper on basketball as the series progresses, that was not the case for Rodman. Rodman changed completely into a bad boy that often get into on-court fights, always picking up technical fouls and gets ejected. His dyed hair and tattoos shows the complete change in his personality.
- Sakuragi's capabilities and drive to win have contradicted the predictions of Coach Taoka of Ryonan and Coach Domoto of Sannoh, which led to their teams' losses. Taoka disregarded him as a threat for he is just a mere beginner in basketball and considers him as a major weakness for Shohoku. Coach Domoto, on the other hand, disregarded him because he was hurting his back and would not be able to do more, which is supposedly a 5 on 4 situation in their favor. It is also because Domoto wanted to prevent Coach Anzai from having a timeout, which a substitution will surely be done.
- Sakuragi has similarities with Kuroko no Basuke's Taiga Kagami. Both are red-haired, power forwards, jump high and wear the same jersey #10. But Kagami is more skillful than Sakuragi as he can shoot anywhere and even shoot 3-pointers. Kagami also has signature skills due to the manga's concept, as every player has their very own signature skills. But Sakuragi has a stronger physique and stamina than Kagami.
- Sakuragi's confession to Haruko during the match against Sannoh, is considered as a double confession. "I love it very much.", which refers to his love for basketball. "This time i'm not lying", in which he indirectly reveals his love for her since the first reason he started playing Basketball was his affection for her.
- It is presumed that after the game against Sannoh, Coach Anzai didn't let him play against because of his injury in the back. Because of his absence, Shohoku was easily trashed by Aiwa.
- Former PBA basketball player, Marc Pingris is the Filipino version of Hanamichi Sakuragi when he plays basketball in every PBA seasons and cups as well as his funny antics. In the upcoming 2018 remake version of the anime, he will go on to voice Sakuragi in the ABS-CBN dub.
- His personality is almost similiar to Naruto Uzumaki of the Naruto series.