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The Best Basketball Books – 20 Books You Need To Read!

You are a big basketball fan and you are looking for a new book to read? I got you covered!

Check out my favorite basketball books:

The Book of Basketball – Bill Simmons

Price: $11.79
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as of 12/01/2021 2:17 PM EST
As a longtime listener of the BS Report podcast, I just had to read this book. And I wasn’t disappointed! The ​book delivers an insane amount of information about the history of the NBA including a list of the best players spanning more than 300 pages!

There’s also fun chapters like “The What-if game” where he goes into questions like: “What if Detroit took Carmelo Anthony over Darko Milicic?” or “What if Len Bias hadn’t overdosed” and another one where he settles the argument: “Wilt Chamberlain or Bill Russel?”

At times it can become a bit dry ​as you will be bombarded by statistics of players and references across sports and pop-culture which can become hard to follow if you are younger or didn’t grow up in the US. Overall this is the perfect book if you want to know more about the history of the NBA and US basketball in general!


Pacific Rims – Rafe Bartholomew

Did you know that the Philippines are maybe the most basketball-crazy country on earth? Before I read this book I had no idea!​

Price: $17.00
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as of 12/01/2021 2:17 PM EST

“Pacific Rims” follows Rafe Bartholomew’s journey through the island exploring its love for the game of basketball and coming up with really interesting insights into the culture of the Philippines.

He spends a complete season inside the locker room of a professional basketball team, talks to politicians who promise brand new basketball courts to poor areas in exchange for votes, and follows a traveling basketball show like the Harlem Globetrotters (except they don’t play Globetrotters vs Generals but Midgets vs Transsexuals!!!)

Needless to say, this book is a must-read if you want to know more about the strange obsession of the Phillippines with basketball!


The Last Shot – Darcy Frey

Price: $15.99
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as of 12/01/2021 2:17 PM EST
“The Last Shot” is a book about life on the playgrounds of Coney Island, an area filled with crime, poverty, and despair. In a situation like this, basketball becomes the last chance to escape this life, get a college education, or make big money in the NBA.

We follow four young basketball players who are blessed with a lot of athletic talent, discipline, and the ultimate will to make it out of the ghetto. It shows their struggle with inadequate schooling, desperate family situations, and the brutal world of college recruiting.

If you liked the documentary “Hoop Dreams” then you are also going to love this book!


Brave Dragons – Jim Yardley

Price: $16.95
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as of 12/01/2021 2:17 PM EST
This is the story of former NBA coach Bob Weiss trying to bring the basketball style of the NBA to the worst team in Chinese basketball. Needless to say: things don’t quite work out the way they should.

This is an intriguing look into Chinese society and what happens if one tries to bring American individualism to a country that is heavily shaped by communism where collectivism rules. This book is less about the day to day of a basketball coach and more about how different cultures and ways of thinking shape the game of basketball.

I thought this was a fascinating book that gave me a look through the lens of something familiar (basketball) into a country that is completely different compared to western countries.


Can I Keep My Jersey – Paul Shirley

Price: $17.00
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as of 12/01/2021 2:17 PM EST

I first learned about Paul Shirley when he wrote a Blog during the 2004-2005 NBA season for the Phoenix Suns. As a twelfth player, he barely played but he provided an unbelievably entertaining and honest look behind the curtain of the NBA. He later wrote for Bill Simmons Page 2 on ESPN about teams, players, media, cheerleaders, and even topics outside of the athletic sphere.

In his first book “Can I keep my jersey” he tells about his life as a professional basketball player in countries like Russia, China, Greece, and Spain. He experiences different countries, basketball philosophies, and even a Russian Christmas party with two male strippers 🙂

If you ever wondered what it would be like to have a friend who is a professional basketball player then this is the book for you!


The Mamba Mentality – Kobe Bryant

Price: $13.87
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as of 12/01/2021 2:17 PM EST
This large-format coffee table book gives you a nice insight in Kobe’s passion for basketball and his meticulous study of his craft.

It’s not a traditional biography but a collection of stunning photographs by the Hall of Fame photographer Andrew D. Bernstein with short self-contained stories. You’ll learn about Kobe’s steps to prepare mentally and physically, how he studied his opponents and how he played through injuries.

This book is an unprecedented look behind the curtain of Kobe’s career and a must-read for every fan!


The Dream Team – Jack McCallum

Price: $15.79
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as of 12/01/2021 2:17 PM EST
In 1992, the NBA sent its players to the Olympic games for the first time – the Dream Team was born. Featuring Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley it was (and still is) the most talent assembled in one team.

Jack McCallum had the unique opportunity to ride along with the Dream Team and details what happened in practices, games, and locker rooms.

There are chapters on how the players were picked, why Isiah Thomas didn’t make the team, and an account of the famous intra-squad game dubbed “The greatest game nobody ever saw”.

Also, check out Jack McCallum’s podcast “The Dream Team Tapes” if you can’t get enough of the best basketball team of all time!


Basketball (and Other Things) – Shea Serrano

Price: $19.99
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as of 12/01/2021 2:17 PM EST
Shea Serrano is a podcast host, a writer on Bill Simmon’s “The Ringer”, and a very popular personality on Twitter with over 400.000 followers.

His third book centers around questions like “What year was Michael Jordan the best version of Michael Jordan?”, “Who’s the greatest dunker in NBA history” or “How many points should [shot] actually be worth?” and gives unconventional, hilarious, and insightful answers.

First released in 2017, this book became a #1 New York Times bestseller thanks to its witty humor, beautiful illustrations by Arturo Torres, and a reading recommendation by Barrack Obama!!


SprawlBall – Kirk Goldsberry

Price: $12.28
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as of 12/01/2021 2:17 PM EST
The shot distribution in the NBA has changed dramatically in recent years. Mid-range jumpers are basically outlawed and innovative teams like the Houston Rockets try to focus on layups and three-pointers.

Kirk Goldsberry combines stunning visuals, in-depth analysis, fun, behind-the-scenes stories, and gee-whiz facts to chart the modern basketball revolution.

If you are a basketball nerd like me and you enjoy statistics and analytics, then this is the perfect book for you!


The Breaks of the Game – David Halberstam

Price: $14.45
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as of 12/01/2021 2:17 PM EST
Bill Simmons thinks this is the best sports book of all time – who am I to argue?

David Halberstam was a Pulitzer Prize-winner and wrote more than 20 books about American life and history – almost all of them bestsellers.

The “Breaks of the Game” focuses on one grim season (1979-80) in the life of the Bill Walton-led Portland Trail Blazers, a team that only three years before had been NBA champions. We follow Blazers Hall of Fame head coach Jack Ramsay trying to lead a declining team through injuries, player selfishness, salary complaints, team chemistry problems.

This book is a true classic and a must-read for every fan of NBA history.


Miracle of St.Anthony – Adrian Wojnarowski

Price: $15.99
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as of 12/01/2021 2:17 PM EST
Nowadays, Adrian Wojnarowski is probably the most well-connected reporter in the world of basketball and known for his Woj-bombs where he tweets the latest trades and news from the NBA.

Back in 2006, he wrote one of the best basketball books chronicling Hall of Fame coach Bob Hurley working miracles in St. Anthony High School trying to lead a dysfunctional team through a gripping and heartrending season.

This book reads like a novel – once you pick it up it’s really hard to put down again!


Basketball: A Love Story – Jackie McMullan, Rafe Bartholomew & Dan Klores

Price: $13.41
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as of 12/01/2021 2:17 PM EST
This book is a riveting oral history of the game of basketball and told through interviews with basketball legends like Kobe, Lebron, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Dr. J, and many more.

There are chapters about the NBA, college basketball, women’s basketball, and even the ABA is featured. These chapters are short and self-contained, you can pick up this book at any time and just read a few pages without being lost. If you are a basketball junkie you won’t get enough of the inside stories from the greats of that era – you’ll feel like you are eavesdropping on history.

A must-read for anyone who loves the game!


Eleven Rings – Phil Jackson

Price: $15.99
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as of 12/01/2021 2:17 PM EST
Phil Jackson is arguably the best coach in the history of the NBA and won six rings with Michael Jordan’s legendary Bulls and five more with Kobe’s Lakers.

In this book, Phil details each championship season from beginning to end and gives you a different perspective on what it takes to win a championship in the sports world. You’ll learn about the similarities between Kobe and Jordan, the reasons for the Kobe / Shaq feud, and how Phil formed a bunch of individuals into championship teams.

You’ll also get a look into the world of Zen Buddhism, Phil’s leadership style, and how he handled the difficult personalities on his teams.

If you are only remotely interested in NBA history, this is a great read!


Tanking to the Top – Yaron Weitzman

Price: $24.99
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as of 12/01/2021 2:17 PM EST

Sam Hinkie was the general manager of the Philadelphia 76ers from 2013 to 2016 and oversaw what became famous as “the process”.

For years, the team intentionally lost as many games using a bold plan to get to first by becoming the worst.

Ultimately, this strategy led to high draft picks that turned into superstars Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, but also disappointing selections like Markelle Fultz or Jahlil Okafor.

Hinkie was pushed out less than three years into his reign by a demoralized owner, a jealous CEO, and an embarrassed NBA.

Drawing from interviews with nearly 175 people, Tanking to the Top brings to life the palace intrigue incited by Hinkie’s proposal, taking readers into the boardroom where the Sixers laid out their plans, and onto the courts where those plans met reality.


Loose Balls – Terry Pluto

Price: $15.89
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as of 12/01/2021 2:17 PM EST
The ABA was founded in 1967 as a challenger to the NBA and is known for the colorful red-white-blue ball, the introduction of the 3-point line, and the invention of the dunk contest.

Loose Balls is the definitive and most widely respected oral history of the ABA. It’s a wild ride through some of the wackiest, funniest, strangest times ever to hit pro sports—told entirely through the words of those who played, wrote, and connived their way through the league’s nine seasons.


Seven Seconds or Less – Jack McCallum

Price: $15.86
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as of 12/01/2021 2:17 PM EST
The 2005 / 2006 Phoenix Suns were one of the most fun teams in NBA history. Led by 2x MVP point guard Steve Nash and coach Mike D’Antoni the Suns featured a run and gun offense that led the league in points per game, field goal percentage, and three-point attempts.

Jack McCallum spent the whole season as an “assistant coach” and provides a fascinating fly-on-the-wall look at how coach Mike D’Antoni and his staff led an injury-plagued team to the Western Conference Finals. Having access to everything from locker room chats to coaches’ meetings allows us the get a unique look at how an NBA team really works.


The Three Ring Circus – Jeff Pearlman

Price: $14.99
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as of 12/01/2021 2:17 PM EST

The story of the Lakers dynasty from 1996 through 2004, when Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal combined—and collided—to help bring the Lakers three straight championships and restore the franchise as a powerhouse

In the tradition of Jeff Pearlman’s bestsellers Showtime, Boys Will Be Boys, and The Bad Guys Won, Three-Ring Circus is a rollicking deep dive into one of sports’ most fraught yet successful pairings.


The Jordan Rules – Sam Smith

Price: $15.59
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as of 12/01/2021 2:17 PM EST
Sam Smith was featured heavily in the awesome ESPN documentary series ″The Last Dance″ about Michael Jordans final season with the Chicago Bulls.

In “the Jordan Rules” he wrote the inside story of the 1990/1991 season that changed everything for Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. After losing in the playoffs to the “Bad Boys” Detroit Pistons for three consecutive years, the Bulls finally broke through and swept the Pistons in the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals, on the way to their first NBA championship.

The candid portrayal of Jordan’s relationship with teammates, his obsession with being the leagues leading scorer, and his refusal to pass the ball in crunch time created a lot of drama when it was released.

Even almost 30 years after its initial release, this book is still a must-read if you want to learn more about Michael Jordan.


The Last Season – Phil Jackson

Price: $6.99
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as of 12/01/2021 2:17 PM EST
Nine-time NBA Champion coach Phil Jackson knows all about being in the spotlight, about high-profile, high-pressure seasons coaching gigantic personalities through adversity and controversy in the middle of a media hothouse in which every move is another headline, another installment in the soap opera. But nothing, not six championships with the Bulls of Michael Jordan, Dennis Rodman, and Scottie Pippen, not three previous championships with the Lakers of Shaq and Kobe, had quite prepared him for the only-in-Hollywood high-wire act of the Lakers’ 2003-2004 season.

In The Last Season: A Team In Search of Its Soul, Jackson tells the full inside story of the season that proved to be the final ride of this great Lakers dynasty.


When the Garden was Eden – Harvey Araton

Price: $12.69
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as of 12/01/2021 2:17 PM EST
In the tradition of The Boys of Summer and The Bronx Is Burning, New York Times sports columnist Harvey Araton delivers a fascinating look at the 1970s New York Knicks—part autobiography, part sports history, part epic, set against the tumultuous era when Walt Frazier, Willis Reed, and Bill Bradley reigned supreme in the world of basketball.

Perfect for readers of Jeff Pearlman’s The Bad Guys Won!, Peter Richmond’s Badasses, and Pat Williams’s Coach Wooden, Araton’s revealing story of the Knicks’ heyday is far more than a review of one of basketball’s greatest teams’ inspiring story—it is, at heart, a stirring recreation of a time and place when the NBA championships defined the national dream.


These are my favorite books about basketball! Did I miss a great one? Let me know, I am always looking for new and interesting books!

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