For those who need a little something extra to get them through the winter months (not to mention COVID), it might be time to expand your basketball library. Evaluating the “best basketball books” is similar to the debate among the top ten players of all time. Everyone has different tastes and opinions.
As part of this list, the goal was to create a mix of different basketball types, from streetball to NCAA to NBA, as a player, a coach, and a fan. If you have read them, please feel free to comment, and if you have one that you think fans will enjoy, you are more than welcome to add it to the list.
Written By: Phil Jackson
Officially, he could have titled the book Thirteen Rings if you included the two titles that he won as a member of the New York Knicks. As a coach, Phil Jackson was fortunate enough to have teams that featured some of the greatest NBA history players, such as Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol are either in the Hall of Fame or soon to be enshrined. With six rings coming by way of the two Chicago Bulls three-peat championship teams and five more from his time with the LA Lakers, Jackson takes fans on a journey through the eyes of one of the greatest coaches in basketball history. While he may have had help with organizing the x’s and o’s, what made Jackson special was his ability to successfully manage and blend the egos and personalities involved with each of his teams.
Larry Bird, Earvin Magic Johnson: When The Game Was Ours
Written By: Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Jackie MacMullan
Their rivalry started during their respective time at Michigan State and Indiana State and carried forward throughout their time in the NBA. While there have been many sports rivalries, few captured the audience and passion for the game more than Magic Johnson’s Lakers versus Larry Bird’s Celtics. Opposites in nearly every sense of the word, when it came to their characteristics and style of play, the one similarity that they shared was their immense passion for competition and winning. Unofficially credited with changing the NBA landscape to becoming a mainstream sport, these two Hall of Fame legends are arguably found on any hoops fan’s Mount Rushmore. While they were enemies on the court, neither would likely have had their success without the other.
Written By: Shae Serrano
You know all of those “what if” questions that you either come up with and keep to yourself are maybe share with a friend, and they end up looking at you like you have two heads? Well, Serrano was brave enough to present many of those questions to fans in the form of one of the most original basketball books you will ever read. From pickup games to the NBA, from one era to another, no matter how realistic or farfetched the idea, Serrano has uniquely and creatively put it in this book. Although some of the content is a little over the top, including James Harden as an action movie star), other debates such as how long Kobe Bryant was the best player in the NBA get broken down into justifiable facts and reasons almost make you agree with him. The great thing about this book, unlike some others, is that you can flip to any topic you want and avoid the others (not that you will).
Written By: Bill Simmons
If there is one book that nearly every basketball fan owns, it is this one, and if by chance you are one of the rare individuals that do not have a copy, it is a must-add for any collection. Created by legendary sportswriter Bill Simmons, The Book of Basketball is like the bible of hoops. Whether you read it from front to back or you jump randomly through the pages, it is an easy read and one that is done through the eyes of a fan, not a typical sports reporter. It is a lengthy read with over 700 pages of content filled with enough pop culture and analytics to keep anyone from the average NBA fan to the most diehard happy. While he has continued his Book of Basketball thoughts via The Ringer website, fans have been hoping for an updated print version ever since the original was released in 2009.
Written By: Kobe Bryant
The late Kobe Bryant’s life was always one of curiosity, both from the player and the fan. As one of the most accomplished and celebrated NBA players of all time. Throughout his twenty-year Hall of Fame career, Bryant’s intense competitive focus led him to five NBA titles, eighteen All-Star selections, fifteen All-NBA teams, two Olympic gold medals, and an MVP award. Whether you loved him or disliked him, it is hard to argue the drive and passion that Bryant played with, often to a fault, because many of his teammates didn’t share the same intensity level. In this coffee table book filled with stunning photographs, Kobe lets fans in on some of the detailed steps he took to become arguably one of the greatest athletes of all time.
Written By: Tim Grover
Back in the day, everyone wanted to be “like Mike,” whether by imitating his on-court moves or his clothing or mannerisms. One of the keys to Michael Jordan‘s success was his work with famed trainer Tim Grover. As the creator of Attack Athletics, Grover has worked with hundreds of sports and business professionals both physically and mentally to help them achieve greatness. For those looking to find detailed insight into players’ preparation and training tactics such as Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Dwyane Wade, the book will leave you wanting more. However, what it does give you is a breakdown of the various levels of a competitor. Unlike other motivational books, Grover speaks very bluntly and straight from the hip, a strategy that served him well when dealing with elite level athletes and executives who are used to having “yes men.” Everyone needs an eye-opener and not have a sugar-coated opinion, which is what Grover completely avoids in this book.
Written By: Rick Telander
We all know that New York is the mecca of basketball, especially when it comes to the playground game. For Telander, his journey through Brooklyn during the mid-1970s connected readers to the lives of playground legends and future NBA professionals. While every city around the world has it’s own local legends. This book makes you feel like these guys are just like the same crew that you run with at your local park or school. Filled with the highs and lows of inner-city hoops, Telander gives readers a true to life view of how the love of the game can take you in different directions. Even if you have read this book before, chances are you will enjoy it the second, third, and fourth time through.
Written By: Mitch Albom
Collectively they may have been the most talented group of freshmen and sophomores never to win an NCAA championship. But where they failed, they succeeded in creating a culture and phenomenon that took over the basketball world. While the Michigan Wolverines would fail in their quest to cut down the nets after appearing in back-to-back March Madness finals, the impact that these five young men had on the game would change the landscape of basketball forever. Author Mitch Albom leads readers on the journey that the five young men took through the recruiting stage, to their early struggles on campus to finally coming together on the court and creating a “Beatles’ like atmosphere that the NCAA and basketball purists weren’t ready for. While Kentucky would start five first-year players during the 2013-14 and 2017-18 seasons, they fell well short of matching the original Fab Five’s legacy.
Written By: Darcy Frey
Just as Rick Telander did for New York outdoor hoops, Frey does for the high school scene in his early nineties tale of future NBA star and Cooney Island legend, Stephon Marbury, and his friends. From life in the Lincoln High School classroom to living in the projects to bouncing around to various offseason tournaments, Frey tells the tale of the real-life hardship and successes that each of these young basketball players experiences. While together, they teamed up to bring victory to Lincoln, individually, they all had their various struggles and failures of achieving their personal goals. When you look beyond basketball, which for many young athletes, it is hard to do, the challenges of living in the inner city become more apparent with each chapter of the book.
Written By: Chris Ballard
They knew where the best run in the city could often be a challenge for someone looking to play a pickup basketball game. Whether it be outside or at the local rec center or a private gym in the middle of nowhere, finding the best game in town can sometimes be challenging, especially for tourists. When Ballard and his buddies traveled across the United States, compiling a list of the cream of the crop of places to play, they did all basketball fans a huge favor. Call it a road map of sorts, the four gym rats hit up 166 cities over seven months to gather information on this “basketball GPS”. So the next time you have to take a business trip or family holiday, make sure you have your gear and a copy of this book!
Written By: Mark Titus
We often search for books about our favorite basketball stars, hoping to discover the secrets to their success and learn about their journey to greatness. This book is the exact opposite. As the proud creator of “ClubTrillion” (one of the unique stat lines in the game’s history), Mark Titus, a former Ohio State Buckeye, takes readers on an adventure. This adventure is through the eyes of the guy who hangs out with the BMOC’s, but sits way down the other end of the bench when it comes to game time. This unique, wild, and hilarious look at one of the NCAA’s elite basketball programs from the guy’s perspective at the end of the bench is a must-read for any basketball fan looking to take a break from the typical superstar rags to riches story.
Written By: Jeff Pearlman
While the Boston Celtics are equally as successful as championship banners, there may not be a more compelling story than that which takes place in Hollywood. Whether it was the Showtime era, The Lake Show, the current LeBron era, or any of the downtimes in between, being a Laker player and fan has been a roller coaster ride of epic proportions. However, none of those matched the eight-year period in which Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant were wearing the purple and gold. Despite their constant bickering, trade threats, physical altercations, and hostility, the two NBA Hall of Fame players (along with Phil Jackson and a cast of relatively patient teammates) managed to return the Lakers to championship glory by dominating the NBA on route to three straight championships. Filled with several “what if?” stories, this is a must-read for hoop fans and a trip down memory lane for all Lakers faithful.
LeBron James: The Rise of a Star
Written By: David Lee Morgan
From high school hoops to #1 NBA draft pick. An inside look at LeBron James’s youth and high school years, when he was basketball’s hottest young prospect, poised at the brink of superstardom. Sportswriter David Lee Morgan covered the LeBron phenomenon from the beginning and had unequaled access to LeBron, his family, and close friends.