Basketball is one of the most popular sports in the world, and it has inspired many great writers to pen down their experiences, observations, and thoughts on the game. From memoirs of legendary players to stories of underdogs, the basketball genre has it all. In this article, we have compiled a list of 33 must-read basketball non-fiction books that every basketball fan should read. We also compiled bried summaries and personal notes as applicable.
Table of Contents
- The Breaks of the Game by David Halberstam
- When the Game Was Ours by Larry Bird and Earvin “Magic” Johnson
- The Jordan Rules by Sam Smith
- Shaq Uncut by Shaquille O’Neal
- The Last Shot by Darcy Frey
- The Art of a Beautiful Game by Chris Ballard
- The Miracle of St. Anthony by Adrian Wojnarowski
- Playing for Keeps by David Halberstam
- The Book of Basketball by Bill Simmons
- The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama by Gwen Ifill
- Hoop Dreams: A True Story of Hardship and Triumph by Ben Joravsky
- Drive: The Story of My Life by Larry Bird
- Second Wind: The Memoirs of an Opinionated Man by Bill Russell
- The Soul of Basketball: The Epic Showdown Between LeBron, Kobe, Doc, and Dirk That Saved the NBA by Ian Thomsen
- When March Went Mad: The Game That Transformed Basketball by Seth Davis
- Dream Team: How Michael, Magic, Larry, Charles, and the Greatest Team of All Time Conquered the World and Changed the Game of Basketball Forever by Jack McCallum
- Bill Russell: My Life, My Way by Bill Russell
- Tall Tales by Terry Pluto
- Foul!: The Connie Hawkins Story by David Wolf
- The Punch: One Night, Two Lives, and the Fight That Changed Basketball Forever by John Feinstein
- Wooden – A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections on And Off The Court by John Wooden with Steve Jamison
- Shoe Dog by Phil Knight
- Basketball: A Love Story by Jackie MacMullan
- Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success by Phil Jackson
- Showtime by Jeff Pearlman
- When the Garden Was Eden: Clyde, the Captain, Dollar Bill, and the Glory Days of the New York Knicks by Harvey Araton
- Wooden on Leadership by John Wooden and Steve Jamison
- My Losing Season by Pat Conroy
- Basketball (and Other Things) Shea Serrano
- Leading With The Heart: Coach K’s Successful Strategies for Basketball, Business, and Life by Mike Krzyewski
- Basketball Junkie: A Memoir by Chris Herren
- Basketball on Paper: Rules and Tools for Performance Analysis by Dean Oliver
- The Sixth Man: A Memoir by Andre Iguodala
- Loose Balls: The Short Wild Life of the American Basketball Association by Terry Pluto
- Practical Modern Basketball by John Wooden
- Heaven is a Playground by Rick Telander
- Sum it Up: 1098 Victories, A Couple of Irrelevant Losses and Life in Perspective by Pat Summitt
- Becoming Kareem by Kareem Abdul-Jabaar
- They Call Me Coach by John Wooden
- We Changed the Game by Robert Netolicky, Robin Miller, and Dick Tinkham
- Basketball Diaries by Jim Carroll
- A Good Man: The Pete Newell Story by Bruce Jenkins
- The Carolina Way by Dean Smith
- Runnin’ Rebel: Shark Tales of “Extra Benefits”, Frank Sinatra and Winning It All by Jerry Tarkanian and Dan Wetzel
- Giant Steps: The Autobiography of Kareem Abdul-Jabaar by Kareem Abdul-Jabaar and Peter Knobler
- The “Last Amateurs” by John Feinstein
1. The Breaks of the Game by David Halberstam
David Halberstam’s classic book, The Breaks of the Game, takes readers on a journey through the 1979-80 season of the Portland Trail Blazers. Halberstam, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, provides an in-depth look at the players, coaches, and owners of the team, as well as the larger context of the NBA at the time.
Halberstam’s writing is as gripping as any thriller, and he captures the essence of the game with incredible detail. He covers everything from the struggles of the team’s star player, Bill Walton, to the inner workings of the Blazers’ front office. The book also explores the challenges of being a professional athlete, from the physical toll on the body to the psychological pressure of performing at a high level.
David Halberstam is a serious writer and he can paint a picture intensely with his words. In a world of soundbyte and clickbait journalism, David stands out to me for his passion for writing and also for basketball.
2. When the Game Was Ours by Larry Bird and Earvin “Magic” Johnson
Few rivalries in sports have captured the public’s imagination like the one between Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. In When the Game Was Ours, the two basketball legends come together to recount their storied careers and the rivalry that defined them.
The book takes readers on a journey from their early days in college to their epic battles in the NBA Finals. Along the way, Bird and Johnson share their personal stories, including their struggles with injuries and the pressures of fame. The book also explores the cultural impact of their rivalry, which helped to popularize the NBA and cemented basketball’s place as one of the most beloved sports in America.
There were three players we all emulated to be and roleplayed in our games at Bush Park, Queens. 1. Bernard King of our beloved Knicks. 2. Magic Johnson. 3. Larry Bird. It was mind boggling that we would emulate Larry’s shooting form and passing, but it was Larry and those weapons that kept our beloved Knicks from advancing each year in the playoffs.
3. The Jordan Rules by Sam Smith
Michael Jordan is widely regarded as the greatest basketball player of all time, but his success on the court was not always smooth sailing. In The Jordan Rules, journalist Sam Smith provides an inside look at the Chicago Bulls’ championship season of 1990-91, including the challenges that Jordan faced on and off the court.
Smith’s book offers a fascinating glimpse into Jordan’s leadership style and his relationships with his teammates, as well as the tactics used by opposing teams to try to stop him. The book also explores the role of coaches and management in building a championship team, making it a must-read for anyone interested in the inner workings of professional sports.
As a Knicks fan, I would like to tell you all that I was no Michael Jordan fan. He took over Larry’s spoiler role ruining our playoff advances. I do want to note that the “Jordan Rules” that the Detroit Piston Bad Boys instituted were really an affront to the game in my opinion and why the league let them do it is beyond me. I am glad the league has enforced the rules of basketball over the rugby match that was the Detroit way.
4. Shaq Uncut by Shaquille O’Neal
Shaquille O’Neal is one of the most dominant players in NBA history, and in Shaq Uncut, he tells his story in his own words. The book covers O’Neal’s journey from his childhood in Newark, New Jersey, to his championship runs with the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat.
Along the way, O’Neal shares his unique perspective on the game, as well as his personal struggles and triumphs. The book is filled with hilarious anecdotes and behind-the-scenes stories that give readers a glimpse into the life of a professional athlete.
I have had the opportunity to play basketball with Shaq at both the Manhattan Beach Spectrum Club and also once at Live Oak Park. He was kind, fun, intelligent and hilarious. He had a childlike joy and commitment to fun that I admired. Including his riding his 6 foot remote control skateboard at 20mph down the Strand in Hermosa Beach… in the midst of a Laker playoff run.
5. The Last Shot by Darcy Frey
The Last Shot is a gripping true story of high school basketball in Coney Island, New York. The book follows four players from the Abraham Lincoln High School basketball team, who dream of playing in college and the NBA.
Frey’s book explores the challenges that these young athletes face, including poverty, crime, and the pressures of being in the public eye. The book also provides a fascinating look at the politics of high school sports, as coaches, recruiters, and agents compete for the players’ attention.
I read this book at about 25 and it brought back great memories of my NYC playground basketball days. This book is an award winner and it obvious the book is about Stephon Marbury and his basketball upbringing.
6. The Art of a Beautiful Game by Chris Ballard
In The Art of a Beautiful Game, sports journalist Chris Ballard explores the aesthetics of basketball. The book delves into the nuances of the game, from the way players move on the court to the strategies that coaches use to win. Ballard examines how the game has evolved over time, and he shares stories of some of the game’s greatest players, including Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.
The book also explores the cultural impact of basketball, from its roots in urban America to its global popularity today. Ballard’s writing is both insightful and entertaining, making this book a must-read for basketball fans and anyone interested in the intersection of sports and culture.
Our slogan at my basketball training business is Passion | Purpose | Power. Chris Ballard always brings his passion for the game to paper and “Art of a Beautiful Game” is a masterpiece.
7. The Miracle of St. Anthony by Adrian Wojnarowski
Adrian Wojnarowski’s The Miracle of St. Anthony is a heartwarming true story of high school basketball coach Bob Hurley and his team at St. Anthony High School in Jersey City, New Jersey. The book follows the team’s quest for a perfect season and a state championship, and it explores the challenges that the players and their families face on and off the court.
Wojnarowski’s book is a testament to the power of sports to unite communities and inspire individuals. It’s also a moving portrait of a dedicated coach and his players, and the sacrifices they make to achieve their dreams.
I have not read this one, but did watch the documentary years ago on Netflix. It is a compelling story and also can highlight some of the cultural differences in coaching today and then.
8. Playing for Keeps by David Halberstam
David Halberstam’s Playing for Keeps is a masterful account of Michael Jordan’s rise to basketball superstardom. Halberstam provides a detailed portrait of Jordan’s early years, including his time at the University of North Carolina and his first few years in the NBA.
The book also explores the larger cultural and economic forces that helped to shape Jordan’s career, including the rise of the sneaker industry and the globalization of sports. Halberstam’s writing is engaging and insightful, making this book a must-read for anyone interested in the history of basketball.
9. The Book of Basketball by Bill Simmons
Bill Simmons’ The Book of Basketball is a comprehensive guide to the history of the NBA. The book covers everything from the game’s early years to the modern era, and it includes profiles of some of the game’s greatest players and coaches.
Simmons’ writing is witty and irreverent, and he brings a fan’s perspective to the game. The book also includes a number of charts, graphs, and statistical analyses, making it a valuable resource for anyone interested in the history of basketball.
Bill Simmons is becoming more famous for his Podcast but we should remember his writing is top notch as well.
10. The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama by Gwen Ifill
Gwen Ifill’s The Breakthrough is not strictly a basketball book, but it includes a fascinating chapter on the role of basketball in African American culture. Ifill explores the history of the game in the black community, and she examines the ways in which it has served as a symbol of pride and resilience.
The book also includes profiles of several prominent African American politicians, including Barack Obama, whose election as president was a major milestone in American history. Ifill’s writing is thoughtful and incisive, making this book a must-read for anyone interested in the intersection of sports, politics, and race.
Brought hoops to the White House. Say no more.
11. Pistol | The Life of Pete Maravich by Mark Kriegel
Ben Joravsky’s Hoop Dreams is a classic work of sports journalism, chronicling the lives of two young basketball players from inner-city Chicago as they chase their dreams of playing in the NBA. The book provides a searing portrait of poverty and inequality in America, as well as a stirring account of the power of sports to inspire and uplift.
Joravsky’s writing is powerful and evocative, and his storytelling is as gripping as any novel. The book was later turned into an award-winning documentary film, cementing its place as a classic of American sports literature.
12. Drive: The Story of My Life by Larry Bird
Larry Bird is one of the most iconic basketball players of all time, and in Drive: The Story of My Life, he tells his story in his own words. The book covers Bird’s childhood in rural Indiana, his legendary college career at Indiana State, and his storied tenure with the Boston Celtics.
Bird’s writing is candid and unvarnished, and he doesn’t shy away from discussing the challenges he faced both on and off the court. The book also includes insights into Bird’s coaching career and his philosophy on leadership, making it a must-read for anyone interested in the game of basketball.
This dude and memories of his daggers against the Knicks still make me cringe every time I see his mug on TV. My man Stan recommended this one!
13. Second Wind: The Memoirs of an Opinionated Man by Bill Russell
Bill Russell is one of the most accomplished players in NBA history, with 11 championships to his name. In Second Wind, Russell provides a first-person account of his life and career, from his upbringing in Louisiana to his time with the Boston Celtics.
Russell’s writing is sharp and insightful, and he doesn’t hold back when discussing his experiences with racism and discrimination. The book also includes anecdotes about Russell’s relationships with his teammates, as well as his thoughts on the state of the game today.
I think the real value in most of Bill’s books is tales of leadership struggles. Of adversity, and advocacy. And having the courage to stand up. I mean, this guy has to go down as one of the greatest leaders of basketball history. I have really enjoyed watching the Bill Russell documentary on Netflix and highly encourage that too!
14. The Soul of Basketball: The Epic Showdown Between LeBron, Kobe, Doc, and Dirk That Saved the NBA by Ian Thomsen
Ian Thomsen’s The Soul of Basketball is a gripping account of the 2010-11 NBA season, which saw four of the game’s biggest stars – LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Doc Rivers, and Dirk Nowitzki – compete for a championship. Thomsen provides an insider’s look at the personalities and motivations of these players, as well as the larger context of the league at the time.
Thomsen’s writing is both insightful and engaging, and he captures the drama and intensity of the season with skill and nuance. The book also includes insights into the league’s business model and its impact on the game of basketball.
15. When March Went Mad: The Game That Transformed Basketball by Seth Davis
In When March Went Mad, sports journalist Seth Davis provides a blow-by-blow account of the 1979 NCAA championship game between the Michigan State Spartans and the Indiana State Sycamores, which featured a matchup between two of the game’s greatest players – Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.
Davis’s writing is lively and engaging, and he captures the excitement and drama of the game with skill and precision. The book also includes profiles of both Johnson and Bird, as well as a broader history of college basketball in the 1970s.
I loved Seth’s biography “Wooden” and look forward to reading this one!
16. Dream Team: How Michael, Magic, Larry, Charles, and the Greatest Team of All Time Conquered the World and Changed the Game of Basketball Forever by Jack McCallum
The 1992 United States men’s Olympic basketball team, known as the “Dream Team,” is widely regarded as one of the greatest sports teams of all time. In Dream Team, Jack McCallum provides a behind-the-scenes look at the team’s formation, training, and ultimate victory.
McCallum’s writing is engaging and insightful, and he captures the personalities and motivations of the team’s legendary players with skill and nuance. The book also explores the impact that the Dream Team had on the global popularity of basketball, making it a must-read for anyone interested in the sport’s history.
17. Bill Russell: My Life, My Way by Bill Russell
In My Life, My Way, Bill Russell provides an intimate look at his life and career, from his early years in Louisiana to his time with the Boston Celtics. Russell’s writing is candid and unflinching, and he doesn’t shy away from discussing his experiences with racism and discrimination.
The book also includes insights into Russell’s relationships with his teammates, as well as his thoughts on the state of the game today. Overall, My Life, My Way is a powerful testament to Russell’s legacy as one of the greatest basketball players and humanitarians of all time.
I will say it again: LEADERSHIP.
18. Tall Tales by Terry Pluto
In Tall Tales, sports journalist Terry Pluto tells the story of the NBA’s greatest big men, including Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Shaquille O’Neal. The book explores the unique challenges and pressures that come with being a dominant center in the league, as well as the personalities and motivations of these legendary players.
Pluto’s writing is engaging and entertaining, and he provides plenty of behind-the-scenes anecdotes and insights into the game. Whether you’re a fan of the old-school big men or the modern stars of the league, Tall Tales is a must-read for any basketball enthusiast.
I have always noted that big guys have it tough. I feel like short coaches tell big players to fight, get rebounds, get their teeth knocked out defending the rim, and then to pass it to the little guys so they can shoot and dribble and play. I am glad that the game is evolving from that and we have bigs with multiple skill sets now and coaches that permit it.
The other way bigs have it tough is that every time they fail… everyone says: “Man, if I was that tall I would have dunked that.” And everytime they excel, it is credited to the fact they are a genetic freak lottery winner. In other words, they don’t get the credit for their skills and hard work that they deserve. That said, still trying to get over that time Wilt dissed me for asking for an autograph while on the beach. 🙂
19. Foul!: The Connie Hawkins Story by David Wolf
Special thanks to my man and former University of Maine at Fort Kent basketball teammate Bob Carey for bringing this one back to my attention.
In Foul!, David Wolf tells the story of Connie Hawkins, one of the most gifted and controversial players in the history of basketball. Hawkins was banned from the NBA in the 1960s due to allegations of point-shaving, but he ultimately cleared his name and went on to become a star in the American Basketball Association. It tells us a lot about the crooked system and how it hurt so many and still does.
Wolf’s writing is both informative and engaging, and he provides a thorough and nuanced portrait of Hawkins and his legacy. The book is a fascinating look at a talented player who overcame significant adversity to achieve greatness on the court.
My friend and ABA superstar Bob Netolicky tells some great Connie Hawkins stories over breakfast tacos, but the first thing he always mentions is that he loved the way Hawk held a ball, mesmerizing both his opponent and the crowd. And that Bob always tried to emulate that. Glad we have Bob and his knowledge gained from playing against all time greats helping in our Austin Basketball training gym!
20. The Punch: One Night, Two Lives, and the Fight That Changed Basketball Forever by John Feinstein
In The Punch, John Feinstein tells the story of a violent altercation between two NBA players – Rudy Tomjanovich and Kermit Washington – that changed the course of their lives and the game of basketball. The book explores the aftermath of the incident, including the impact it had on both players’ careers and the larger culture of the league.
Feinstein’s writing is both gripping and insightful, and he provides a detailed and nuanced account of the events surrounding the punch. The book is a must-read for anyone interested in the intersection of sports and violence, and the impact that such incidents can have on the game and its players.
I grew up in a violent house, violent neighborhood, and went to a violent junior high school also known as “Rikers Prep.’ And despite the conditioning to violence, every time I see “the punch” a nauseous wave roll over me.
21. Wooden – A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections on And Off The Court by John Wooden with Steve Jamison
“Wooden – A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections on and Off the Court” is a heartwarming and insightful book by legendary basketball coach, John Wooden. In collaboration with Steve Jamison, Wooden shares his wisdom and philosophy on leadership, success, and life.
The book is filled with inspiring stories from Wooden’s life and coaching career, providing a window into the mind of one of the greatest coaches of all time.
His approach is grounded in the importance of character, integrity, and hard work, emphasizing the need to focus on things within our control. Wooden’s lessons go beyond basketball, offering valuable insights into relationships, personal growth, and achieving one’s goals.
“Wooden” is a timeless and inspiring read that reminds us of the power of a positive attitude and a strong work ethic. It’s a must-read for anyone who wants to learn from one of the greats and become a better person both on and off the court.
22. Shoe Dog by Phil Knight
“Shoe Dog” by Phil Knight is a candid and inspiring memoir that chronicles the founding and growth of Nike, one of the most iconic brands in the world. Knight shares his journey from selling shoes out of the back of his car to building a multi-billion-dollar company with a global presence.
His story is full of setbacks and challenges, but Knight’s perseverance and passion for his vision shine through. He offers valuable insights into entrepreneurship, leadership, and the importance of taking risks. The book is also a tribute to the people who helped him along the way, from his early business partner to the team of employees who helped build Nike into the powerhouse it is today. “Shoe Dog” is a must-read for anyone who wants to be inspired to follow their dreams and create something truly remarkable.
I read this book in Playa del Carmen while in an infinity pool that was overlooking the beautiful turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico. I loved this book… and Mexico!
23. Basketball: A Love Story by Jackie MacMullan
Basketball: A Love Story by Jackie MacMullan is a fascinating book that delves deep into the history and culture of basketball. The book features over 500 interviews with players, coaches, and other figures who have shaped the game over the years. MacMullan explores the many different aspects of basketball, from the early days of the sport to the modern era, covering everything from the NBA to college basketball and beyond.
Throughout the book, MacMullan shares stories of triumph and heartbreak, highlighting the human side of the game. She also provides a detailed look at the evolution of basketball, including changes in the rules, the development of new technologies, and the rise of international players. The book is a must-read for anyone who loves basketball, as it provides a comprehensive and entertaining look at the sport and the people who have made it what it is today.
24. Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success by Phil Jackson
Phil Jackson is one of the most successful coaches in NBA history, with 11 championships to his name. In Eleven Rings, Jackson provides a first-person account of his life and career, as well as his philosophy on leadership and success.
The book includes insights into Jackson’s coaching strategies and his relationships with some of the game’s greatest players, including Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Shaquille O’Neal. Overall, Eleven Rings is a valuable resource for anyone interested in the art of coaching and the secrets of success.
I am still trying to forgive Phil Jackson for:
- Killing us (me and my fellow Knicks fans) as the Bulls Coach
- His horrible tenure and performance as Knicks GM
25. Showtime by Jeff Pearlman
“Showtime” by Jeff Pearlman is a captivating book that tells the story of the Los Angeles Lakers during their golden era in the 1980s. Pearlman’s writing style draws readers in with colorful anecdotes and insider perspectives from players, coaches, and other key figures. He paints a vivid picture of the Lakers’ team culture, on and off the court, and explores the personal lives of some of the team’s most famous players. The book showcases the Lakers’ thrilling, fast-paced style of play that earned them multiple NBA championships. “Showtime” is a must-read for fans of basketball history and anyone who wants to relive the excitement of one of the most memorable teams in NBA history. Pearlman’s account is both insightful and entertaining, making it an enjoyable read from start to finish.
If you liked the HBO documentary “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty” then check out this book!
26. When the Garden Was Eden: Clyde, the Captain, Dollar Bill, and the Glory Days of the New York Knicks by Harvey Araton
In When the Garden Was Eden, Harvey Araton tells the story of the New York Knicks’ championship season in 1972-73. The book provides a detailed and fascinating look at the personalities and strategies that made the Knicks one of the most dominant teams in NBA history.
Araton’s writing is both informative and engaging, and he captures the excitement and drama of the season with skill and nuance. The book is a must-read for anyone interested in the history of the NBA and the cultural significance of sports in America.
Dude… I love this book and these guys!
27. Wooden on Leadership by John Wooden and Steve Jamison
“Wooden on Leadership” is a comprehensive guide to leadership principles from one of the greatest coaches in sports history, John Wooden. In collaboration with Steve Jamison, Wooden shares the insights and lessons he learned during his legendary career coaching the UCLA Bruins.
The book is full of practical advice on how to become a better leader, emphasizing the importance of character, integrity, and effective communication. Wooden’s philosophy centers around the idea of leading by example and setting high standards for oneself and others.
He also stresses the importance of continuous learning and improvement, encouraging readers to adopt a growth mindset. “Wooden on Leadership” is a timeless and inspiring read for anyone looking to become a more effective leader, both on and off the court.
28. My Losing Season by Pat Conroy
My Losing Season” is a deeply personal memoir by Pat Conroy, in which he reflects on his time as a basketball player for The Citadel, a military college in South Carolina. Pat also authored “Lords of Discipline”, “The Great Santini”, “Prince of Tides” and “Beach Music.’ Yeah, Pat was one literary baller.
Conroy’s account is raw and honest, detailing the struggles he faced both on and off the court during his senior year. The book is a tribute to Conroy’s teammates and their unwavering dedication to the game, despite the overwhelming odds they faced.
As a writer, Conroy’s lyrical prose captures the beauty and pain of basketball and the human experience. “My Losing Season” is a powerful reminder that sometimes our greatest lessons come from our biggest defeats. It’s a must-read for anyone who has ever faced a challenge and come out the other side stronger.
I have always loved Pat Conroy’s books and was shocked to hear he played at Citadel. This is a great book, but like his other books, Pat really dives all into pain and suffering. Only read this if you and your predicament can handle that!
29. Basketball (and Other Things): A Collection of Questions Asked, Answered, Illustrated by Shea Serrano
In Basketball (and Other Things), Shea Serrano takes a playful and irreverent approach to the game of basketball, answering a wide variety of questions about the sport with humor and insight. The book also includes whimsical illustrations by Arturo Torres.
Serrano’s writing is both entertaining and informative, and he provides a fresh and unique perspective on the game of basketball. The book is a must-read for anyone looking to approach the sport with a sense of fun and curiosity.
30. Leading with the Heart: Coach K’s Successful Strategies for Basketball, Business, and Life by Mike Krzyzewski
In “Leading with the Heart,” legendary basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski shares the strategies that have led him to success both on and off the court. Krzyzewski’s approach emphasizes the importance of building strong relationships and instilling a sense of purpose in his players.
He shares stories from his time coaching the Duke Blue Devils and the USA Men’s National Basketball Team, highlighting the lessons he’s learned about leadership and teamwork. Krzyzewski’s philosophy is grounded in the idea of “servant leadership,” where the leader’s primary goal is to serve the needs of the team.
The book is filled with practical advice for anyone looking to become a better leader, whether in sports, business, or life. “Leading with the Heart” is an inspiring and insightful read that offers a glimpse into the mind of one of the greatest coaches of all time.
31. Basketball Junkie: A Memoir by Chris Herren
Chris Herren’s memoir, Basketball Junkie, offers an intimate and candid glimpse into his tumultuous battle with addiction and his remarkable path to recovery. As a standout athlete hailing from Fall River, Massachusetts, Herren earned a reputation as a star player at Boston College and the NBA.
With unflinching honesty and raw vulnerability, Herren delves into the dark underbelly of his personal struggles, exposing the demons that nearly destroyed him. Despite the gravity of his addiction, Herren’s story is ultimately a testament to the remarkable resilience of the human spirit.
In a world that often shies away from discussing the realities of addiction and mental health, Basketball Junkie is a much-needed reminder of the importance of confronting our innermost struggles. Herren’s powerful narrative serves as a beacon of hope, inspiring readers to persevere in the face of adversity and never give up on their own journey to recovery.
32.Basketball on Paper: Rules and Tools for Performance Analysis by Dean Oliver
“Basketball on Paper” by Dean Oliver is a groundbreaking work that brings statistical analysis to basketball. Oliver’s approach involves breaking down the game into individual possessions and analyzing each one. His “Four Factors” model focuses on shooting, turnovers, rebounding, and free throws as the key components of winning basketball.
He also introduces new metrics such as “Effective Field Goal Percentage” and “Player Efficiency Rating” to measure a player’s overall impact on the game. The book is filled with detailed examples and case studies, making it a must-read for both casual fans and serious analysts.
“Basketball on Paper” is a fascinating look at the game behind the game and a valuable resource for anyone interested in understanding the nuances of basketball performance analysis.
33. The Sixth Man A Memoir by Andre Iguodala
In “The Sixth Man: A Memoir,” Andre Iguodala shares his journey from growing up in a poor neighborhood to becoming a three-time NBA champion. Iguodala’s memoir explores the behind-the-scenes moments of his basketball career, including his time with the Philadelphia 76ers and the Golden State Warriors.
He shares his struggles with injuries and the challenges of being a “sixth man” player, coming off the bench and contributing to the team’s success. Iguodala also delves into the mental and emotional aspects of the game, discussing his experiences with racism and the importance of mental health in sports. “The Sixth Man” is a captivating and honest memoir that offers a unique perspective on the world of professional basketball.
Andre has become a major player in the business world with his own venture capital group. ON court lessons have served him well off the court too!
34. Loose Balls: The Short, Wild Life of the American Basketball Association by Terry Pluto
In Loose Balls, Terry Pluto provides a colorful and entertaining history of the American Basketball Association (ABA), a rival league to the NBA in the 1970s. The book explores the personalities and eccentricities of the ABA’s players, coaches, and owners, as well as the league’s innovations and innovations.
Pluto’s writing is both informative and engaging, and he captures the freewheeling spirit of the ABA with skill and humor. The book is a must-read for anyone interested in the history of basketball and the impact of the ABA on the sport.
35. Practical Modern Basketball by John Wooden
Practical Modern Basketball” by John Wooden is a timeless guide to the game of basketball. Wooden’s coaching philosophy emphasizes the importance of fundamentals and team play, and this book provides practical advice on how to develop both. Wooden’s writing is straightforward and easy to follow, making it an essential resource for players and coaches at all levels.
The book covers a wide range of topics, from individual skills like shooting and ball-handling to team strategies like zone defense and fast breaks. Throughout the book, Wooden’s love for the game and dedication to excellence shine through, inspiring readers to strive for greatness both on and off the court.
I didn’t have a basketball trainer. I didn’t have a basketball coach. I had the playground of New York and I had this book. And I can tell you I was pretty darn lucky.
36. Heaven is a Playground by Rick Telander
“Heaven is a Playground” by Rick Telander is a gripping and immersive account of street basketball in the 1970s. The book follows the author’s experiences playing pickup games in a rough Brooklyn playground, where players from all walks of life come together to compete and connect.
Through Telander’s vivid descriptions and personal anecdotes, we get a sense of the intense physicality and competitive spirit of street basketball, as well as the social and cultural dynamics at play. The book also explores the broader themes of race, class, and urban life in America, providing a nuanced and multifaceted view of the world of street basketball.
Overall, “Heaven is a Playground” is a must-read for anyone interested in the history and culture of basketball, as well as anyone looking for a compelling and engaging story about life on the streets.
Thanks to my man and brother Rusty Smith in Maine for reminding me of this gem! My Heavens included Bush Park Queens, Central Park Courts, the occasional foray into West Fourth Street Cage, and all over Manhattan, Brooklyn and beyond.
37. Sum It Up: 1,098 Victories, A Couple of Irrelevant Losses, and a Life in Perspective by Pat Summitt
Pat Summitt, the legendary women’s basketball coach, wrote a memoir titled “Sum It Up: 1,098 Victories, A Couple of Irrelevant Losses, and a Life in Perspective.” The book is a reflection on Summitt’s career, which included eight national championships and over 1,000 career wins at the University of Tennessee.
In the book, Summitt shares her personal journey, including her battle with Alzheimer’s disease, and offers insights into her coaching philosophy and leadership style. Sum It Up” is a moving and inspiring read that showcases Summitt’s impact on the game of basketball and her legacy as a coach and mentor to generations of athletes. It’s a must-read for anyone who wants to learn from one of the greatest coaches in sports history.
38.Becoming Kareem by Kareem Abdul Jabaar
This recommendation comes from the world’s greatest librarian Tara Walker Leone at Bowie High School in Austin Texas. Tara is a friend and also a Fierce mama of two basketball players Lucia and Ella. Her words on Kareem and the book: “Not only is he an outstanding athlete but an activist and overall cool human! Plus he writes YA mystery books.”
“Becoming Kareem” is a captivating memoir by basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. In the book, Abdul-Jabbar shares his personal journey from growing up in Harlem to becoming one of the greatest basketball players of all time. He reflects on the challenges he faced as a young black man in America and the role basketball played in his life.
The book also delves into Abdul-Jabbar’s spiritual journey and his conversion to Islam. Throughout the memoir, Abdul-Jabbar’s writing is both insightful and engaging, offering a unique perspective on the world of sports and the broader social issues of his time.
“Becoming Kareem” is an inspiring read that shows the power of perseverance and the importance of staying true to oneself. It’s a must-read for basketball fans and anyone looking for a story of triumph over adversity.
39. They Call Me Coach by John Wooden
They Call Me Coach” by John Wooden is a timeless and inspiring memoir of one of the greatest coaches in the history of basketball. In the book, Wooden shares his insights and philosophies on coaching, leadership, and life, drawing on his experiences coaching the UCLA Bruins to 10 national championships in 12 years.
Through personal anecdotes and reflections, Wooden offers practical advice for aspiring coaches and leaders, emphasizing the importance of character, teamwork, and hard work. The book also provides a glimpse into Wooden’s personal life, including his upbringing in Indiana, his relationship with his wife Nell, and his deep commitment to faith and family.
Overall, “They Call Me Coach” is a must-read for anyone interested in the art of coaching and the principles of leadership, as well as anyone looking for a powerful and inspiring story about one of the most beloved figures in sports history.
40. We Changed The Game by Robert Netolicky, Robin Miller, and Dick Tinkham
Changed the Game is a captivating memoir that offers an inside look at the American Basketball Association (ABA) and its impact on professional basketball. The authors, who were all players and executives in the ABA, share their personal experiences and provide a unique perspective on the league’s history.
The book is filled with stories of the ABA’s colorful characters, including legendary players such as Julius Erving and George Gervin, as well as the league’s innovative and sometimes controversial practices. The authors also share their own experiences, from Netolicky’s early years playing for the Indiana Pacers to Tinkham’s role in the merger of the ABA and NBA.
Beyond the entertaining anecdotes, the book provides a fascinating look at the ABA’s impact on the game of basketball. The league introduced several new rules and innovations, such as the three-point shot and the use of a red, white, and blue ball, that have become staples of the modern game.
We Changed the Game is a must-read for anyone interested in the history of professional basketball, offering a unique and personal perspective on a pivotal moment in the sport’s evolution. The book is also a testament to the hard work and dedication of the players and executives who helped shape the ABA and pave the way for the NBA as we know it today.
41. Basketball Diaries by Jim Carroll
Basketball Diaries by Jim Carroll is a raw and powerful memoir that chronicles the author’s teenage years growing up in New York City in the 1960s. The book takes the form of a diary, with Carroll documenting his experiences with basketball, drug addiction, and sexuality.
Carroll’s writing is both honest and poetic, painting a vivid picture of the gritty and often dangerous world he inhabited. He writes about his love for basketball and the sense of escape it provided, as well as his descent into heroin addiction and the destructive relationships that resulted.
The book is a stark portrayal of the challenges faced by young people in urban America, and Carroll’s story serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of drug use and the importance of seeking help.
Despite the heavy subject matter, there is a sense of hope that runs throughout the book. Carroll’s love for writing and music provided a lifeline, and he eventually found a path to recovery and success as a writer and musician.
Basketball Diaries is a powerful and important work that offers a unique perspective on the struggles faced by young people in America. Carroll’s writing is both haunting and beautiful, making this a book that will stay with readers long after they finish the final page.
I went to High School in this area… Greenwich Village, NYC and while I had my own wild experiences, I did not run with a crowd this wealthy. One point reading this book taught me was that drugs were a horrible choice with horrible consequences that did not know color or socioeconomic backgrounds. I lived in Long Island City/Astoria in Queens and went to Xavier Academy in Manhattan. And drugs were owned the lives of far too many kids on all ends of economic spectrums. Thankfully for me, I fell in love with basketball and viewed drugs as a detractor from that. I ended up choosing basketball. Thanks to my friend Rob Crook for recommending Basketball Diaries for this list.
**Parents should beware that while I don’t think this book glamorizes drug use, you may want to scan it and read other reviews before letting your kids read this one. **
42. A Good Man: The Pete Newel Story by Bruce Jenkins
This recommendation comes to us from Coach Neal Cobleigh in Massachusetts, a man I have come to respect for his sharing of knowledge and also his lifelong love of learning and teaching the game. Take a look at his bookshelf photos he shared and zoom in for many more ideas than this article can share:
A Good Man: The Pete Newell Story is a biography of one of the most successful and influential basketball coaches of all time. Written by author Bruce Jenkins, the book tells the story of Pete Newell’s life, from his childhood in California to his years as a coach and mentor.
Newell is known for his innovative coaching style and his ability to develop players into champions. He coached at several universities, including the University of San Francisco and the University of California, Berkeley, where he led the Golden Bears to a national championship in 1959.
The book also covers Newell’s work as a talent evaluator and coach for the United States Olympic team, where he helped lead the team to a gold medal in the 1960 Olympics. He later worked as a consultant and mentor for several NBA teams, including the Golden State Warriors.
Throughout the book, Jenkins emphasizes Newell’s commitment to his players and his passion for the game of basketball. He also highlights Newell’s dedication to teaching and mentoring young coaches, and his role as a pioneer in the development of the modern game.
Overall, A Good Man: The Pete Newell Story is a fascinating and inspiring biography of a basketball legend. It offers valuable insights into the history of the sport and the qualities that make a great coach and mentor.
43. The Carolina Way by Dean Smith
This recommendation comes to us from my friend and Fort Kent, Maine Community High School Varsity Boys Head Coach Chad Cyr. One of my favorite places in the world!
Carolina Way is a book about the life and legacy of legendary basketball coach Dean Smith, written by the coach himself. The book provides an inside look into the principles and values that guided Coach Smith throughout his career, and how they helped him build one of the most successful college basketball programs in history.
Coach Smith emphasizes the importance of teamwork, discipline, and integrity, both on and off the court. He shares stories and anecdotes from his career, including his experiences coaching Michael Jordan and other legendary players.
Throughout the book, Coach Smith emphasizes the importance of treating others with respect and dignity, regardless of their race, religion, or background. He also discusses his involvement in social justice issues, including his support for the Civil Rights Movement and his opposition to the Vietnam War.
Overall, Carolina Way is a heartfelt and inspiring book that offers valuable lessons on leadership, teamwork, and moral courage. It is a must-read for basketball fans, coaches, and anyone interested in the principles of success and personal integrity.
44. Runnin’ Rebel: Shark Tales of “Extra Benefits,” Frank Sinatra, and Winning It All by Jerry Tarkanian and Dan Wetzel
This recommendation comes to us from my man Fletcher Brown – Coach of the Chandler Gilbert Community College Women’s Basketball Team. He also recommended Pat Riley’s Winner Within, but I personally found so much hypocrisy in that book that I am boycotting it. (and it has nothing to do with me being a bitter Knick fan- hah!)
Runnin’ Rebel: Shark Tales of “Extra Benefits,” Frank Sinatra, and Winning It All is a memoir by legendary basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, written with the help of sports journalist Dan Wetzel. The book tells the story of Tarkanian’s career, from his early years as a coach in high school to his success at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV).
Tarkanian is known for his unconventional coaching style and his success in building winning teams. He led UNLV to four Final Four appearances and a national championship in 1990. Along the way, he faced controversy and criticism over allegations of recruiting violations and other issues.
The book provides a behind-the-scenes look at Tarkanian’s coaching methods and the challenges he faced both on and off the court. He shares stories of his players, including future NBA stars like Larry Johnson and Stacey Augmon, and his relationships with celebrities like Frank Sinatra.
Throughout the book, Tarkanian emphasizes his commitment to his players and his belief in their potential for success, both on and off the court. He also reflects on his own personal struggles, including health issues and the loss of his son.
Overall, Runnin’ Rebel is a compelling and entertaining memoir that offers a unique perspective on the world of college basketball. It is a must-read for fans of the sport and anyone interested in the stories of coaches who dared to be different.
45. Giant Steps: The Autobiography of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar & Peter Knobler
Thank you to my man and former college teammate and roomie Jim McCloskey for this recommendation! Jim averaged 14 rebounds per game one year at 6’2 so Jim was actually the best rebounding mortal man I knew without genetic gifts of the bigs in the rest of the nation approaching those numbers. Jim also loves all the Bill Russell books mentioned above.
Giant Steps: The Autobiography of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is a fascinating and inspiring memoir by one of the greatest basketball players of all time. Written by Abdul-Jabbar himself, with the help of writer Peter Knobler, the book tells the story of his life and career, from his childhood in New York to his retirement from the NBA.
Abdul-Jabbar is known for his iconic skyhook shot and his remarkable career achievements, including six NBA championships and six MVP awards. But the book also delves into his personal life, including his struggles with race, religion, and identity.
Throughout the book, Abdul-Jabbar reflects on the challenges he faced as a black athlete in America, including racism and discrimination. He also discusses his conversion to Islam and his activism on behalf of social justice causes.
What makes Giant Steps truly remarkable is Abdul-Jabbar’s eloquent and introspective writing style. He shares his thoughts and feelings with candor and sincerity, inviting readers to connect with his journey on a deeper level.
Overall, Giant Steps is a must-read for basketball fans, history buffs, and anyone who appreciates a good autobiography. It offers valuable insights into the life of one of the most remarkable athletes of our time, as well as the broader issues of race, religion, and social justice that have shaped our world.
46. “The Last Amateurs” by John Feinstein
🏀 Are you a relentlessly motivated athlete on a quest to elevate your game to greater heights and glean inside secrets of college basketball? 🙋♂️ Well then, cast your eyes upon “The Last Amateurs” penned by the esteemed John Feinstein. 📚 This literary masterpiece provides a glimpse into the realm of Division I basketball in the Patriot League, where academics hold equal footing with athletics.🏫 If you are going to college to get an education, and layering basketball on top, this seems like a great read for you. Special thanks to Coach Craig Swannack of Dripping Springs High School Basketball for this recommendation.
Feinstein masterfully chronicles the odysseys of numerous teams and their players, proffering an intimate view of the ebbs and flows of college basketball. 🏀 He unfurls the complexities of juggling academics and athletics, the white-hot pressure to succeed on and off the hardwood, and the daily grind of college hoops.⛹️♂️
One of the greatest takeaways from “The Last Amateurs” is the remarkable power of teamwork and camaraderie.🤝 The athletes and coaches alike illustrate the potency of collective effort and mutual support to reach the pinnacle of their aspirations.🏆
However, the book also exposes the murky underbelly of prominent college basketball programs, emphasizing the importance of uprightness and integrity over raw talent.💪
To summarize, “The Last Amateurs” is an indispensable read for aspiring college basketball players and enthusiasts.📖 It presents a fresh and enlightening perspective on the game, sure to inspire you with the indomitable spirit of these amateur athletes. So grab a copy posthaste and prepare to be captivated! 💥
Conclusion & Takeaways
In conclusion, these 33 must-read basketball non-fiction books offer a wealth of knowledge and insights into the game of basketball. Not the original amount of books for this was 33… but has grown to 46 and we are still counting.
Thanks for all the recommendations from my friends and also the Basketball Coaching FB Group I look forward to getting more research from.
From memoirs of some of the game’s greatest players to historical accounts of the sport’s evolution, these books provide a multifaceted and comprehensive view of basketball’s rich history.
But these books aren’t just for basketball enthusiasts. They offer valuable lessons and takeaways for players looking to improve their skills and understanding of the game. From the importance of leadership and teamwork to the role of perseverance and resilience, these books offer practical and actionable advice for anyone looking to become a better player.
To get the most out of these books, it’s important to approach them with an open mind and a willingness to learn. Take notes as you read, highlight key passages, and reflect on how the lessons and insights can apply to your own game. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting out, these books offer a valuable resource for anyone looking to take their game to the next level.
So whether you’re looking to gain a deeper understanding of basketball’s rich history, or seeking practical advice for improving your skills, these 33 must-read basketball non-fiction books are a valuable resource for anyone looking to enhance their knowledge and passion for the game.