Published: December 20, 2021
Are you looking for some great books about basketball? Our list features several interesting and inspiring reads about men's basketball including memories from players, tips from pro coaches, and several on the history of some of the best teams ever.
You'll read about players such as Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, and Magic Johnson. Books about or by some of the greatest N.B.A. coaches like Phil Jackson and Steve Kerr also made the list.
Read on for some great insights into this popular game around the world.
Written by: Phil Jackson
Published: May 21st, 2013
The most successful coach in N.B.A. history, Phil Jackson has collected eleven championship rings as head coach. His unmatched coaching career is documented in Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success.
Phil Jackson's success can be attributed to his team building and leadership philosophy. He builds a strong team by surrounding himself with intelligent people and have complementary skill sets. Phil also believes that it is essential that each person on the team know their role and do it well to leave an imprint on the game even if they don't score or rebound or block shots, etc. He also adds Eastern mysticism such as mediation to beyond the average coach.
This book is unlike any other in regards to how a person can grow throughout their life if they are willing to continue educating themselves and exploring the world.
Written by: Terry Pluto
Almost everyone knows about the N.B.A. in today's world, but did you know that there used to be a second league? In 1968, the National Basketball Association merged with its rival league, the American Basketball Association. The A.B.A. was a ragtag league of undersized players and innovative rule changes that became a breeding ground for future N.B.A. superstars like Julius Erving and George Gervin.
But it also had shady owners who ran shady teams in small-town arenas across America – most notably Red Auerbach's nemesis Larry Brown, who built his dynasty in New Mexico. Now author Jonathan Abrams tells us about their stories in this hilarious, touching book.
Written by: David Halberstam
Published: October 12th, 1981
Written by one of the most respected nonfiction writers in history, David Halberstam focuses on the 1977 – 1978 Portland Trail Blazers basketball and their ups and downs during the season. No question being a professional athlete comes with a lot of perks. The money, the fame, and the adoration from fans can make for a sweet life.
But as this book shows, there are also some significant downsides to the job. Athletes face intense pressure to win, and when they don't live up to expectations, they can face sharp criticism from fans and the media.
The ethical concerns, the owners are trying to use their athletes as objects, the apparent injuries that players must go through, and so much more than just a season. As Halberstam illustrates through in-depth profiles of several N.B.A. stars, life as a pro athlete is never easy. It's full of highs and lows, and those who succeed must be prepared to work hard and fight through the tough times.
Written by: Bill Simmons
Published: October 27th, 2009
If you love sports or just love to laugh and have a great read, then this is the book for you. Bill Simmons is well known to ESPN fans as The Sports Guy and always has excellent takes on sports and everything relating to them.
This book features analysis on the N.B.A. according to Bill's perspective, with some background information about the league's history included. It also includes interviews with various basketball legends like Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who share their insight into the game they love so much.
It also examines "great" debates such as who was the most outstanding player, the greatest team ever, and so much more.
Written by: Larry Bird, Earvin "Magic" Johnson, and Jackie MacMullan
Published: November 1st, 2009
Larry Bird and Magic Johnson were some of the best players in N.B.A. history. They also had some of the most entertaining on-court rivalries, with constant trash talk and bold predictions. For many years, this game was theirs; they were always at each other's throats, never backing down from a challenge. Each player won multiple championships and M.V.P. awards. Their teams hated each other and respected each other because they played so often.
But when Magic retired early due to H.I.V., and Larry Bird could barely play because of injuries, it seemed like that era was over for good. Jackie MacMullan decided to investigate what happened to these two rivals after retirement in her new book When the Game Was Ours. With Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and others, you will see these relationships evolve before your eyes.
Written by: Jay Williams
Published: November 11th, 2014
Jay Williams is a successful and well-known athlete who had it all. He was an All-American at Duke University and won two NCAA Championships. He then played for the Chicago Bulls and was supposed to be the heir apparent to Michael Jordan.
But Jay's life took a turn when he crashed his motorcycle into a light pole in September 2002. That accident left him paralyzed from the waist down. This memoir chronicles how Jay dealt with his injury and rebuilt his identity as an athlete, businessman, husband, and father of four children.
Williams also writes about the dark side of the N.B.A., including unethical behaviors including drugs, gambling, and more. It is about as insightful of life you can get from someone who had it all and lost it only to regain the person he always wanted to be.
Written by: Kobe Bryant, Marc Gasol, with an introduction by Phil Jackson
Published: February 28th, 2020
Have you ever wondered what goes on in the mind of a professional athlete? How do they approach the game and their opponents? Kobe Bryant, who not only did he play for 20 years in the N.B.A., but he was also an all-star 18 times and won 5 world championships, dives deep into his mentality during games and offers insights that may surprise you in his book The Mamba Mentality: How I Play.
If you're interested in learning more about what makes top athletes successful, be sure to check out this book. In it, Bryant discusses how he prepares mentally and physically for competition, handles defeats and victories, interacts with teammates and coaches, and much more.
It may give you the edge you need to improve your playing style. Sadly, Kobe and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna died in a helicopter crash along with seven other people on January 26, 2020.
Written by: Idan Ravin
Published: May 1st, 2014
This book will give you insight into basketball's best minds to determine what makes them tick. Idan Ravin is known as the “hoops whisperer," although he never played or coached in college or the pros, he still figured out how to work with the best. With over twenty years of experience in the game, he has managed to navigate his way through N.B.A. locker rooms and on-court conversations; he realized it’s about being versatile.
These are stories from players who have made their mark on the league for all sorts of reasons: Some by filling in when injuries strike, others by redefining their games or becoming stars before our very eyes. You will hear stories from N.B.A. legends such as Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Stephen Curry, James Harden, and many more whose names and lives he changed for the better.
Written by: Sam Smith
Published: January 1st, 1992
Michael Jordan is one of the most famous athletes in history. He's also one of the most polarizing figures. Some people love him, some hate him, and some are ambivalent about his legacy. Since Smith had unlimited access to the team during the 1991-1992 N.B.A. Championship, The Jordan Rules is a deep dive into all things Michael Jordan. This includes his rise to success on the court (and off) and how he was able to be such a dominant force in sports for over two decades.
It's full of fascinating insights into Michael Jordan and the N.B.A. Championship in 1991-1992. This includes anecdotes from those who knew him best: family members, friends, coaches, teammates, and competitors. This book will teach you more about the man than any other biography ever could- the good and bad- and provide a glimpse into what made him tick on his way to becoming one of the most iconic figures in history.
Written by: Shea Serrano, Reggie Miller, and Arturo Torres
Published: October 2017
Questioning the basketball prowess of current players and pondering over former greats is a pastime as old as the game itself. In his new book, Basketball (and Other Things), Shea Serrano brings together some of the most interesting questions posed by readers on his popular Twitter account. One of the greatest shooters of all time, Reggie Miller has co-written this book with incredible illustrations by Arturo Torres.
With insights from N.B.A. legends and Serrano's unique perspective, this book is a must-read for any basketball fan. Whether you're curious about LeBron James' place in history or want to know who the best player of all time is, how much a shot should be worth depending on its location and difficulty on the court, and more, this book has you covered.
These are just some of the weird questions that you’ll get answers to, so grab a copy and get ready to learn something new about your favorite sport!
Written by: Mark Kriegel
Published: February 1st, 2007
Pete “Pistol” Maravich was unlike any other player of his time. He averaged 44.2 points a game while in college and continues to be a star in the N.B.A. His shaggy hair, messy socks, and smooth as silk shot made him one of the best in the league since he rarely missed. However, a dark side included his father, who didn't seem to care about his son other than what he could accomplish. His thoughts of suicide and his belief in Christianity saved him from them.
He was also known as “The Great White Hope” since he was in a primarily set league with African Americans, but he disliked that title intensely. He just wanted to be a player and respected for that, not for his race. Part of his way of dealing with this was drinking to excess while being vegetarian to keep himself healthy and ready to play.
Simply stated, Pistol Pete was a contradiction until he died at the very young age of 40 years old.
Written by: Jeff Pearlman
Published: March 4th, 2014
In his new book, Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s, acclaimed sports journalist Jeff Pearlman takes readers on a fascinating behind-the-scenes tour of one of professional basketball's most successful teams. Drawing upon extensive interviews with key players and personnel, Pearlman provides an up-close look at the personalities that drove the Lakers to five championships in nine seasons.
From Magic Johnson's relentless drive to win to Pat Riley's strict love coaching style to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's unyielding pursuit of excellence and more. Some of the lesser-known exploits include their rivalries between them and other teams and inside the team, their sexual escapades, drug use, and Magic Johnson's diagnosis of H.I.V. This is a must-read for all Lakers fans.
Written by: Jack McCallum
Published: July 10th, 2012
In 1991, a basketball dream team was assembled. The most significant players in the world – Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and Charles Barkley – came together to compete in the Olympic Games in Barcelona. This is the story of that team, as told by Jack McCallum, who was there to witness it all.
These players were legends in their own time, and their skills have only grown with age. If you’re a fan of basketball (or even if you’re not), this book is worth a read.
It will make you appreciate these iconic athletes even more than you already do. You will learn about their discussions about the perfect way to play basketball, the personalities and how they could work together, even though they were rivals when otherwise on the court, and the fun they had while playing together.
There will never be another team like this as they were the originals and brought everything to the court to destroy the competition.
Written by: Harvey Araton
Published: October 18th, 2011
Madison Square Garden in New York used to be known as "The Garden" back in the day. This is where the story of the 1970s Knicks was powerful, and no other teams could compare to them. These players included the slick Walt Frazier, the bruiser Willis Reed, and the to-be U.S. Democratic State Senator of New York who also ran for president.
This is a fun look at their craziness, fun times, and incredibility to dominate the league. It is both inspiriting, touching, and hilarious as Araton brings their stories to life in this book. Not only will you enjoy them, but you'll feel as if you've been transported to a whole different time.
Written by: Brook Larmer
Published: November 3rd, 2005
It's no secret that China is a powerhouse in the sports world. With over 1.3 billion people, the country has a massive population to draw from when recruiting athletes. But what many people don't know is how the Chinese sports empire was built – and how it continues to grow. In his new book, journalist Brook Larmer takes us inside the fascinating story of China's rise to dominance on the global stage.
From Beijing's concerted effort to win gold medals at any cost to the emergence of homegrown stars like Yao Ming, this book reveals everything you need to know about China's push for sporting supremacy. Some of the insights are ones such as Yao having to quit school at age 13 to focus on basketball, the ways that the Chinese government made sure that only the best players from their country to the U.S.A. so they could be respected and bring glory to their country.
It is a compelling story with the pressure and sometimes racist abuse that Yao had to deal with in the states.
Written by: Jonathan Abrams
Published: March 15th, 2016
In this book, he explores these players' careers and personal stories who went straight from high school to N.B.A. superstardom. Some of these include Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and a few others who have both excelled, while others rapidly failed due to the strain, either physically or mentally, or both.
They came up in a time when people began questioning whether or not it was fair for these kids to skip college and enter into such a lucrative pro career so quickly.
Abrams looks at how they could dominate on the court and the off-the-court activities that made them household names around America. He also reflects on their impact on society during this period - especially with race relations in sports, marketing/merchandising potentials, and other aspects that changed basketball.
Written by: Andre Iguodala and Carvell Wallace
Published: June 25th, 2019
After Allen Iverson retired, Andre was supposed to become the team's savior. However, that wasn't the best role for him in basketball because, "I always felt like I was the sixth man on a team of five.” Instead of letting that stop him, Andre has become one of the most accomplished and versatile players in N.B.A. history. He has been named an All-Star four times and won two gold medals as part of Team U.S.A. during his ten-year career with the Philadelphia 76ers, Denver Nuggets, and Golden State Warriors.
In this memoir, he shares anecdotes from his childhood to the present day—from overcoming obstacles as a young father growing up in rough neighborhoods to playing for Team U.S.A. at both Olympic Games and winning numerous N.B.A. championships with the Golden State Warriors.
Andre also discusses how he uses his fame to help the less well off, run his own company, and doesn't shy away from the difficult race-related issues in the United States.
Written by: Kirk Goldsberry
Published: April 30th, 2019
This is unlike any other book on this list because it doesn't spend time discussing individual stats, games won, egos, and how many rivalries there are on each team and across the N.B.A. Instead, this one looks at how metrics explicitly changed the game of today's N.B.A.
What do we mean by metrics? Sprawball gives a very concise answer: It is about how analytics, diagrams, and studies have shown the best way to play basketball. Instead of just passing once or twice and then taking a shoot, this book examines how teams now pass more often than ever, sometimes up to 6 or more per 24-second play.
It also looks into the stars who first put this style into play, such as Stephen Curry, Lebron James, Draymond Green, and others. Sprawball is innovative and unselfish, and that is why it is now such a joy to read about in this book.
Written by: Bill Bradley
Published: April 1st, 1976
Bill Bradley is a retired N.B.A. player who spent ten years in the league and played the New York Knicks the whole time. His book, Life on the Run, takes readers through his life as an athlete. It includes stories about how he overcame obstacles to win two N.B.A. Champions with them.
However, it also reveals some not-so-glamorous aspects of professional sports. Some of these include how it can be challenging to maintain relationships with family and friends, constantly being harassed by the press when you lose, and racist attacks by fans against his African American teammates.
His moral backbone and experiencing these events were some reasons he ran for government and was elected as a Democratic U.S. Senator three times.
Written by: Tim S. Grover
Published: April 16th, 2013
Tim Grover is a legend in the world of sports. He has trained some of the most famous athletes to play basketball, including Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. His training methods are legendary, as he transformed these high-profile players into unstoppable forces on the court. Tim's philosophy during his time was that "the only thing you can control is your effort." Good things will happen for you if you give your all at every practice and game.
In his book Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable, Tim reveals how he helped many other pro athletes reach their full potential through hard work, dedication, and even well-directed anger--even if they were not sure what it was that they wanted from themselves or others.
If you're going to get everything you want in your life, this book will help you find the directions and skills to do it.
Written by: Mirin Fader
Published: August 10th, 2021
No one thought that Giannis "The Greek Freak" Antetokounmpo would change only the N.B.A., let alone the world's vision of what is possible for someone who will never give up. His story is unlike any others since he was born in Athens, Greece, and lived a very un-MVP life having to deal with poverty and selling items on the street to survive.
Since the Greek government was very anti-immigrant at that time, it was difficult for him first to start playing as teams wouldn't take him. Filathlitikos took a chance, and it was quickly apparent that his talent was far superior to anyone else in the league.
The N.B.A. has scouts all over the world and quickly realized that he was incredibly talented. Because of that, the Milwaukee Bucks drafted him in the first round of 2013. People expected him to be a good player, but no one expected him to be the worldwide phenomenon that he is now.
This book chronicles his career up to the point when he won his first M.V.P. and N.B.A. Championship. You will read about both the joyous and challenging moments, and will come away amazed by his persistence no matter the circumstances.
Written by: Phil Jackson & Hugh Delehanty
Published: October 19th, 1995
As one of the most successful coaches in sports history, Phil Jackson has won more championships than any other N.B.A. coach. He shares many valuable lessons on leadership and spirituality that can be applied to all areas of our lives - not just sports! What I found especially interesting was how deep into Buddhism Coach Jackson goes in this book.
His discussion about Buddhism, karma, and reincarnation is one of the reasons that he became so successful because he could use it to help relax his players, his coaches, and himself. But there were many more insights from Sacred Hoops that impacted his life and how he coached, changed the lives of his players, and continue to influence today's coaches and players as they've learned from him.
Sacred Hoops is a memoir of legendary coach Phil Jackson's time with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers and the nine N.B.A. Championships. However, the main focus is on his spiritual lessons learned from coaching basketball and how they influence his life after retirement.
Written by: Pat Riley
Published: September 1st, 1993
In a pretty much 180-degree direction of coaching, we give you this book by Pat Riley. Pat was famous for his greased back hair, Armani suits, and slick style that fit right in with the 80s Lakers. In this book, Pat Riley offers readers a roadmap to success based on the principles that have guided him throughout his career. He draws on stories from his days as a player and coach in the N.B.A. to illustrate how best to apply these principles in all areas of life.
Whether you're looking to improve your teamwork skills at work or simply seeking some advice on being a better spouse or parent, this book has something for you. It is an excellent read, along with Phil Jackson's Sacred Hoops, in a different way, even though both allow you to win and become the best you.
Written by: Leigh Montville
Published: July 13th, 2021
Most don't remember when the N.B.A. was nothing like the multi-billion dollars sport it is now. When this series happened, it was just a growing league, and the players were just fighting to survive. So, in 1969, the N.B.A. Finals pitted Wilt Chamberlain and the Philadelphia 76ers against the Boston Celtics and their star player, Bill Russell. The Celtics had won 10 out of the last 12 Championships, and the Lakers were upstarts.
This matchup was dubbed "The Battle of The Titans" due to the height difference between Wilt and Russ - Chamberlain stood over 7 feet tall while Russell was just over 6 feet. Despite their height difference, these two players put on an incredible show in what would become one of the most exciting N.B.A. Finals series ever played.
In the end, Chamberlain's 76ers emerged victorious in one of the best series ever. Between these two teams, eight players in the N.B.A. Hall of Fame would end up players.
Written by: Scott Howard-Cooper
Published: June 15th, 2021
If you love basketball, you will love Steve Kerr, even if you hate his team, The Golden State Warriors, because he is known for his class, elegance, and grace under fire. His starting was different from most as he was born in Beirut and moved back and forth from Los Angeles since his father was a professor. His father became President of the American University of Beirut, but was assassinated by terrorists.
Finding out this type of horror may have caused someone else to fall apart and give up, but it only strengthened Kerr's drive to succeed. Colleges mainly overlooked him since he was too short and slow, but he never gave up. He finally made it to the N.B.A. and famously made the last-second shot that Michael Jordan passed to him to win the trophy.
Now, as the Warriors coach, he uses his calm, his class, and his original coaching ideals to make him one of only two coaches to lead a team to five consecutive championships.
Written by: Scottie Pippen and Michael Arkush
Published: November 9th, 2021
Probably one of the divisive memoirs about basketball that has been released in years is Pippen’s Unguarded. He talks openly about his difficult childhood and the tragedies that occurred as he grew up. The stories include his time with the Chicago Bulls and winning 6 N.B.A. championships. And how he became a secondary player besides the best basketball player in the world, Michael Jordan.
And that is where the book becomes so interesting: Unlike most memoirs, where people have mostly nice things to say and talk about fun events, Pippen goes against the grain. He shows how he felt he was misused and misunderstood by the team, the coach, and the fans.
Instead of holding back, he rips into the characters of Michael Jordan, other players, coach Phil Jackson, and pretty much anyone he feels didn't treat him with respect. If you want drama and the brutal truth, according to Scottie Pippen, this is the book for you.
Written by: Jeff Pearlman
Published: September 22nd, 2020
With Shaq, Kobe, and coach Phil Jackson, the Lakers could have won every single championship when they played together. However, as we know, egos get involved, people feel slighted, and the unity needed for a team to work together can quickly fail. That is why this team was a three-ring circus, as everyone wanted things to be a certain way, and that rarely was the same.
This threesome was together from 1996 to 2004, winning three championships together. Pearlman does a great job of finding out all the joyous and triumphant moments of this team, but all the dark side. These include yelling, attacking each other in the public light, and actual physical fights. By the end, the circus would shut its tent when Shaq would play for the Miami Heat starting in 2005.
Written by: Dwyane Wade
Published: October 2020
Dwayne Wade is a professional basketball player who has won three N.B.A. championships. The Miami Heat drafted him in 2003, and he has played his entire career for that team. Wade is a thirteen-time All-Star, three-time N.B.A. champion, the M.V.P. of the 2006 N.B.A. Finals, and an Olympic Gold Medalist. He has accomplished everything any player could wish to do.
However, Wade is so much more than just numbers and titles. He came from the rough side of Chicago to the big time. He is a man who is devoted to his wife Gabrielle Union, a star actor in her own right, and his family. He is a man who has dedicated himself to charity work and helping the less fortunate. This book has over 200 photos from the famous Bob Meletus.
Written by: Ben Golliver
Published: May 4th, 2021
Starting in March of 2020, the N.B.A. shut down because of a positive test for COVID by the Utah Jazz's Rudy Gobert. At that point, no one, even the commissioner, didn't know how to salvage the season. So, over the next 4-months, everyone worked together to save the season and play "inside a bubble" so they'd be safe.
The bubble was located at Disney World, unlike anything that the N.B.A. had to deal with before. Players and reporters would be stuck in hotels, have daily testing, and do everything they could to stay in the bubble so the games could be played. It is a fantastic read, and you get an idea of how eerie it was for the players to have fun in front of empty stands and how they had to adjust to these extreme limits.
Written by: Syl Sobel and Jay Rosenstein
Published: April 14th, 2021
Do you say you've never heard of the Eastern Professional Basketball League? Well, you aren't the only one, and if you know about it, you probably are one of the only ones who do. This league ran from 1946 to 1978 and was known to be a ragtag bunch of guys running up and down the court in smoky gyms. The league only had about 100 players, all seemingly not entirely up to the level of the N.B.A., so they went here instead.
This book is about much more than a basketball league that the N.B.A. took down, but more about the times and how they affected the players, coaches, and the owners. An example of this is the N.B.A. limiting talented black players to coming up because of unspoken quotas to keep white players in charge.
Another was the rampant gambling and, among other fun and sometimes dangerous, exploits by all involved. Players, coaches, fans, and referees were interviewed so that this book would be as honest as possible.