100 Basketball Books to Read Before You Die
The average American reads 5 books per year.
Which means -- if you’re a coach, player, or fan of basketball with a love of reading -- you better find your reading glasses, grab a coffee, and get started as soon as possible.
Because this big list of basketball books is going to take you 20 years to get through.
This mega library includes:
- Leadership books from world-class coaches
- Autobiographies by the NBA’s greatest players
- Books that dive deep into basketball’s society-influencing history
And many more…
The following basketball books can teach you leadership skills, give you insight into what life was like in the 60’s and 70’s, challenge you to think about everything differently, or can simply provide you with hours of entertainment on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
In no particular order...
The 100 Best Basketball Books
- by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (then Lew Alcindor) was recruited to UCLA by John Wooden in 1966. He played for Coach Wooden for the next 3 years, and during that time they developed a friendship that would last for the next 50 years. Written by Kareem, this book details the many life lessons he picked up from Coach Wooden that shaped him into the man he is today. It’s a touching story that shows the big impact a basketball coach can have on a player.
- by John Wooden
One of the best basketball books on leadership that you’ll ever read. It’s filled with common sense advice that will help you manage and lead any team or organization. There are many personal stories from Coach Wooden which are linked back to the main leadership qualities spoken about towards the start of the book. Another fantastic Wooden book.
- by Mike Krzyzewski
Another leadership-focused book from Coach K, who is the head coach at Duke University. A fun read, and there are many little coaching gems you’ll pick up throughout the book. The main focus is that there’s much more to basketball than what happens on the court. With the right coaching, players can learn lessons that will serve them well throughout life.
4. “Boys Among Men: How the Prep-to-Pro Generation Redefined the NBA and Sparked a Basketball Revolution”
- by Jonathan Abrams
In 2005, the NBA introduced a new rule requiring players to attend college for at least one year before they’re eligible to get drafted. The question of whether that was a good or bad rule change is the topic of this book. While there have been some players who made the jump and their professional careers didn’t turn out as planned (Kwame Brown, Eddie Curry), there have been plenty of players who skipped college and turned into some of the greatest players of all time (LeBron James, Kevin Garnett). The author does a great job explaining the pros and cons on both sides of this story.
- by Roland Lazenby
Many people claim that this is the #1 book to read if you want to learn about the inner workings of Michael Jordan. Starting with a deep look into his family history, you’ll learn all about his love for competition and what drove him to achieve incredible feats on the basketball court. At 720 pages (21 hours if you listen to the audiobook), it’s an incredibly long. But even the most die-hard Jordan fan will learn something new from this book.
6. “The Miracle of St. Anthony: A Season with Coach Bob Hurley and Basketball's Most Improbable Dynasty”
- by Adrian Wojnarowski
A true story. Based in Jersey City, this book follows St. Anthony High School’s head coach, Bob Hurley, through a difficult basketball season. Coach Hurley has managed to build a powerful basketball tradition at a school that usually attracts kids who experienced difficult childhoods. Using a “tough love” coaching style that some may disagree with, we’ll witness the team overcome adversity with the help of they disciplined-focused coach.
by Mark Kriegel
Pistol Pete’s father, Press Maravich, pushed him to become the best basketball player he could be from a very early age. This resulted in Pistol Pete practicing 8 - 10 hours every day, on a father-son mission to be the first million-dollar basketball player. This book details that difficult journey. From averaging an incredible 44.2 PPG at LSU, to his tragic early death at age 40 while playing a pick-up basketball game.
- by Jack McCallum
The author of this book was lucky enough to spend the full 2005 - 2006 season with the Phoenix Suns. Led by the 2-time MVP, Steve Nash, they were one of the most exciting teams in the league to watch at the time. It’s an entertaining read that mainly focuses on their playoff run. You’ll get a real look into the emotional side of an NBA season, and you’ll hear more about Mike D’Antoni’s “7 Seconds or Less” offense
- by Larry Bird, Earvin Johnson, Jackie MacMullan
Get a behind the scenes look into the lives of two of the greatest players of all time. The book starts in their college days, documenting the 1979 NCAA Championship Game that kicked off their rivalry. We then hear about their successful NBA careers with the Lakers and Celtics, including the unfortunate endings for both as Magic was diagnosed with HIV and Bird couldn’t overcome his many back injuries. A great read for all NBA history fans.
- by Pat Summitt
The legendary Pat Summitt became the head coach of the Tennessee Lady Volunteers at just 22 years of age. Over the next 38 years, she won 1,098 games, including 8 national titles. At the time, this made her the winningest coach in NCAA history (for both men and women). This book details that journey. Starting with her early life growing up in a log cabin with a “tough love” family, all the way until her battle with Alzheimer’s. You’ll learn about her coaching methods, how she motivates, and the impact she had on thousands of players.
- by Mike Krzyzewski
This is based on the 2008 US Olympic Basketball Team and focuses on leadership and team-building strategies. It’s more of a self-help book than a recap of the Olympics. Coach K shares his views on how to build and lead a team, and also speaks about the bumps in the road they experienced along the way and what he learned from them.
12. “The Legends Club: Dean Smith, Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Valvano, and an Epic College Basketball Rivalry”
- by John Feinstein
If you’re a UNC, Duke, NC State, or overall college basketball fan - this book will take you on a fun ride down memory lane. It documents the story of 3 of the best college basketball coaches we’ve ever seen (Dean Smith, Mike Krzyzewski, and Jim Valvano) as their teams competed against each other over many years.
- by Phil Jackson
This is Phil Jackson’s thoughts on coaching the Los Angeles Lakers through the 2003 - 2004 season. The main thing most coaches will take away from this book is how difficult it can be to manage a team, especially when you’re coaching two feuding NBA superstars. There’s a big focus on Shaq and Kobe’s fighting throughout the book, as well as his thoughts on other issues that often arise throughout an NBA season.
- by Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant is one of the smartest players to ever play the game. Few players have equaled his dedication to basketball and drive to be the best. In this book, Kobe gives insight into the “mental” side of the game. How he prepares for games, how he scouts his opponents to determine the best ways to attack them, how he battles through injuries, etc. The book contains a lot of photos, but there’s plenty of deep content for players to learn from.
- by Mitch Albom
The Michigan Wolverines “Fab Five” in the early 90’s featured an all-freshman starting lineup, something completely unheard of in college basketball at the time. The players - Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Chris Webber, Jimmy King, and Ray Jackson - battled through a lot of adversity as they revolutionized the game with their baggy shorts, black socks, and trash talk.
- by Shaquille O'Neal
This is a light-hearted autobiography about one of the most iconic basketball players of all time - Shaquille O’Neal. The 4-time NBA champ and perhaps the most physically imposing player of all time shares many personal stories from his 19-year career, making sure to add a dash of humor on every page.
17. “Personal Foul”
- by Tim Donaghy
Here’s a basketball book that’s a little different from the others in the list. In “Personal Foul”, former NBA referee, Tim Donaghy, breaks down the true story behind the betting scandal that shocked basketball fans across the globe. This book will open your eyes to all the corruption that has happened in the past and can potentially happen again in the future.
- by John Wooden and Steve Jamison
Another John Wooden book to add to your reading list. This book is shorter than the rest and is more a collection of observations, insights, and wisdom that Coach Wooden has picked up throughout his life. Flick open any page of the book and you’ll surely find a little piece of wisdom that you can immediately apply to your life. A quick read.
- by John Feinstein
Through the 1985-1986 college basketball season, John Feinstein followed the Indiana Hoosiers and their controversial head coach, Bob Knight, documenting everything that happened behind the scenes. It’s a fascinating and interesting read, where we see both the good and bad in Coach Knight (with the bad outweighing the good, IMO).
- by David Halberstam
This is different than most MJ books. While there are many specific stories of his career, this book focuses more on the impact that Michael Jordan’s career had on American society and the rest of the world. Since Jordan entered the league in 1984, the sports industry was flipped on its head, with much more focus being put towards entertainment and marketing.
- by Alan Steinberg and Bill Russell
Bill Russell wrote this book to share the story of his close relationship with Red Auerbach; the cigar-loving coach, GM, and president who played a big role in the Boston Celtics dynasty for over 50 years. In the 10 seasons between 1956 and 1966, Bill and Red dominated the NBA winning nine out of ten championships. You’ll learn how these two strong personalities were able to work together and build a strong friendship due to the respect they had for each other.
- by Jeff Pearlman
Led by Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the Los Angeles Lakers were given the nickname “Showtime” as they dominated with their uptempo style of play. They quickly became must-watch TV as they won 5 championships between 1980 and 1988. This book will share details of the rivalries they faced as well as all the off-court drama.
- by Dean Oliver
This book is a great place to start if you’re looking to learn more about advanced statistics and basketball analysis. Despite the difficult topic, Oliver does a great job making complex statistics easy to understand for even a casual basketball fan.
- by Phillip Hoose
In 1955, the Indianapolis’s Crispus Attucks High School because the first all-black team to win a racially open basketball championship tournament. They were led by Oscar Robertson. This is a powerful story that discusses not only basketball, but the difficulties that African American people experienced in the 40’s and 50’s.
- by Red Auerbach
With nine NBA championships under his belt, Arnold “Red” Auerbach is one of the most successful basketball coaches of all time. In this book, you’ll read his main biography. It’s a must-read for all NBA history fans, as Red shares his thoughts on his own journey and also his thoughts on many popular stars including Wilt Chamberlain, Bob Cousy, Larry Bird, Bill Russell, and Michael Jordan.
- by John Taylor
If you’re looking to dig into some 50’s and 60’s NBA history, this is the book for you. The author shares stories of the NBA’s first big rivalry: Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain. They had two very different styles of play. Wilt dominated with his strength and scoring, while Russell led his team with unselfishness and defense. An entertaining read about an important era.
- by George Dohrmann
This book will open your eyes to how corrupt and dangerous the current youth basketball system is. The author, George Dohrmann, tells the story of a team from 4th grade to high school. Led by a player who was given the title of the best 6th grader in the nation, Demetrius Walker, we’re shown what goes on behind the scenes at the grassroots level as adults battle to profit off young players who show potential.
- by Jim Yardley
An interesting book that tells the story the Shanxi Brave Dragons, a struggling basketball team in China. They hired former NBA coach, Bob Weiss, and recruited former NBA player, Bonzi Wells, in an attempt to copy the American basketball model. A fun story that shows you how the differences in culture (and the language barrier) made this transition difficult.
29. “Don't Put Me In, Coach: My Incredible NCAA Journey from the End of the Bench to the End of the Bench”
- by Mark Titus
The author of the book, Mark Titus, was a walk-on for Ohio State and amazingly holds the school record for the most career wins. An incredible feat considering he scored a grand total of 9 points in four seasons. In this book, he shares many ‘unique’ stories about what it’s like to be on an NCAA basketball team from a player’s perspective.
- by Geno Auriemma
In this fairly unheard of book, Geno Auriemma (who is one of the best coaches in men’s or women’s college basketball) shares his journey leading the University of Connecticut to 11 national championships. You’ll get insight into his coaching style and philosophy, and hear about how he’s able to motivate players and hold them accountable while building strong relationships.
- by John Stockton
A legitimate autobiography by one of the greatest NBA players of all time. John Stockton grew up in Spokane, attended the University of Gonzaga, and was then selected by the Utah Jazz in the first round of the NBA draft. This book will share that journey, with Stockton humbly acknowledging those who helped him along the way.
- by Reggie Miller
Reggie Miller was either loved or hated by most NBA fans through the 90’s. He was a terrific shooter, but his trash-talking abilities were just as strong. This entertaining book is a great read for those who want to get into the head of an NBA player and learn more about the day-to-day grind that they go through.
- by Caron Butler
Caron Butler had one of the most unique paths to the NBA. Growing up in Racine, Wisconsin, Butler was immediately surrounded by gang culture and got involved at a young age. This inspiring book explains how he was able to escape that world through basketball and hard work.
- by George Karl
If you’re looking for an incredibly honest autobiography from a coach who has been around the NBA for a long time, this book is for you. With 1,175 wins to his name, George Karl is one of the most successful coaches in NBA history. In this book, he doesn’t hold when sharing his thoughts and feelings about the players he coached and the state of the NBA today.
- by Jay Wright
Jay Wright has been the head coach of Villanova University for nearly 20 years and is one of the most respected coaches in the game. This book is based on their 2015 - 2016 season, which is the year they won their first National Championship trophy. You’ll learn about Coach Wright’s path to becoming a college head coach, the leadership secrets he uses to develop a winning culture, and how he leads a team through adversity.
36. “Bleeding Orange: Fifty Years of Blind Referees, Screaming Fans, Beasts of the East, and Syracuse Basketball”
- by Jim Boeheim
Coach Boeheim has been part of the Syracuse basketball since 1962 when he first stepped on the court as a freshman player. This book shares his entire history there. From playing with Dave Bing in the 60’s, to winning a national championship with Carmelo Anthony in 2003.
- by Gary Pomerantz
Bob Cousy and Bill Russell combined to lead the Celtics to their first 6 NBA Championships from 1957 - 1963. The book focuses on Bob Cousy’s early life, the on-court magnificence of Cousy and Russell as they kicked off the Celtics dynasty, and then transitions to their off-court relationship. With the main theme being Cousy’s regret not doing enough to help Russell fight racism that was so common in that era of basketball.
- by Roy Williams
This autobiography tells the story of Roy Williams’ journey to becoming head coach of the University of North Carolina. He spent 10 years as an assistant at UNC, 15 years as head coach of the Kansas Jayhawks, and then returned to his alma mater in 2003. Along with learning more about his life in basketball, you’ll learn what he did to build championship-winning programs.
- by Jon Gordon
While not basketball-specific, I wanted to include at least one book from Jon Gordon to add to my list of must-read basketball books before you die. Within these pages, you’ll find many stories that will teach you how to bring out the best in your basketball team. A great read for anyone who wants to improve or lead.
- by Bill Bradley
Bill Bradley was a member of the New York Knicks during the 60’s and 70’s. Playing with many all-time greats like Willis Reed, Walt Frazier, and Dave DeBusscere, he helped lead the Knicks to 2 championships in his ten-year career. While this may sound like a dream to many, there are many difficulties that come with being an NBA player, such as: traveling all over the country, playing several times per week, and the loneliness that comes with being away from friends and family. This book gives a great perspective on the day-to-day life of a professional athlete.
41. “Operation Yao Ming: The Chinese Sports Empire, American Big Business, and the Making of an NBA Superstar”
- by Brook Larmer
Most people don’t realize that Yao Ming was “created” by the Chinese government. His two incredibly tall parents were encouraged by Chinese officials to start a family, with the hope of creating a generation of talented basketball players. A fascinating book about Yao’s rise to fame and the differences in Chinese and American culture.
- by Idan Ravin
Despite not playing basketball past high school, Idan Ravin became one of the most sought after basketball trainers in the world. He’s worked with many NBA superstars like Steph Curry and Chris Paul. This book discusses his journey. Ravin gets specific with how he helped certain athletes, and gives us insight into how he connects with and motivates the players he works with.
43. “The Sixth Man”
- by Andre Iguodala
At the time this book was published, Iguodala was the sixth man on the Golden State Warriors. You’ll get an insight into his background and journey to the NBA. Much of the book is dedicated to things he believes need to change in the college and NBA system. Not paying players in college, his thoughts on the media, and the bias of referees.
- by Jay Williams
Williams was the 2nd pick in the 2002 NBA draft. After three seasons at Duke and only one season with the Chicago Bulls, Williams had a motorcycle accident that resulted in permanent leg damage and ended his promising NBA career. This is a heartbreaking autobiography about a career that was cut short and the transformation he made following the crash.
- by Larry Bird
Of the three books on this list about Larry Bird, this is the least well known. You’ll learn how he led turned around the Indiana Pacers and led them to the Conference Finals on the way to being named the Coach of the Year. It also includes some reflection on his time as a player, the medical problems that forced him to retire, and what forced him to leave Boston and go to Indiana.
- by Buster Olney
In 2008, Coach Don Meyer - who won 923 games as a college head coach - had an unfortunate car accident that resulted in an amputated left leg. This is the story of how that accident, along with a cancer diagnosis, changed his view on life. It’s an inspirational story about the importance of connecting with family and friends and making the most of the time we have left.
- by Rick Majerus
An autobiography by one of the most unforgettable coaches in college basketball. This is the story of how Majerus grew up in Sheboygan and then climbed the ranks to the head coach of Utah University. It features many stories about players and coaches, and you’ll learn how a tough-minded, authentic coach holds their players accountable.
- by Gary M. Pomerantz
On March 2nd, 1962, Wilt Chamberlain achieved what many thought was impossible. He scored 100 points in a professional basketball game. After interviewing 250+ people, the author has put together a detailed book on not only the one hundred point game, but Wilt’s life and the NBA. A fascinating look at an era that had barely any coverage at the time.
49. “Golden Days: West's Lakers, Steph's Warriors, and the California Dreamers Who Reinvented Basketball”
- by Jack McCallum
Jerry “The Logo” West is the common link between two of the greatest basketball teams of all time - the 1970’s Los Angeles Lakers and the current-day Golden State Warriors. This book captures the story of both franchises and explains how West played his part in building them both into championship teams.
- by Jack McCallum
Before the 1990 - 1991 season, everyone knew the Boston Celtics had a good shot at taking home the Larry O’Brien trophy and securing their 4th championship of the Bird era. But multiple injuries and a dash of bad luck resulted in a second-round exit in the playoffs. This is a riveting read about the decline of the Celtic’s iconic trio of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parish.
- by Michael Leahy
At the age of 38, Michael Jordan made his final return to the NBA as a Washington Wizard for two seasons. These turned out to be arguably the most difficult seasons of his career. In this book, the author gives a different view of MJ than we’re accustomed to. The problems he had with teammates and the front office, and the difficulties he had trying to replicate the success he had in the past.
- by John Feinstein
The author takes us into the lives of the coaches and players in the “Patriot League”. A small division one conference made up of Lafayette, Lehigh, Bucknell, Colgate, Holy Cross, Army, and Navy. The people in this league aren’t playing / coaching for money or fame, they’re passionate players and coaches who are competing for the love of the game.
- by Charles Barkley
Charles Barkley has never been one to shy away from a controversial discussion. This book shares his opinions on a broad range of topics. You’ll hear his thoughts on becoming famous, how to spend money, issues with race, and more. As always, his opinionated and brutally honest voice come through which makes for an entertaining read.
- by Jalen Rose
Jalen Rose has a very interesting story. From growing up in a difficult neighborhood to being a trash-talking member of the “Fab Five” at Michigan, to a 13-year NBA career, to his current role as an analyst for ESPN. In this collection of opinions, you’ll learn what it’s like to be an NBA player, his thoughts on college basketball, and more.
- by Phil Jackson and Charley Rosen
This book is co-authored by Phil Jackson and Charley Rosen who alternate chapters, which turns out to be less annoying than you’d suspect. They both talk about their early days in coaching, basketball philosophies, and more. Jackson shares his thoughts on the Lakers’ first championship and the triangle offense which will interest many coaches.
- by Jerry West
Jerry West’s impact on the NBA is matched only by a few people in history. He’s the logo, played in eight NBA finals, and was an All-Star every year he played. But his life had many difficulties, too. He was abused by his father, lost his brother at a young age, which resulted in him suffering from depression for most of his life. This book tells his story.
- by Alejandro Danois
In the early 1980’s, Dunbar High School in Baltimore had four future NBA players in their starting lineup. Those players were Muggsy Bogues, Reggie Williams, David Wingate, and Reggie Lewis. In this true story, we learn how each player worked hard to create a better life for themselves through hard work and dedication to basketball.
- by Gene Wojciechowski
On March 28, 1992, Duke and Kentucky matched up in a contest that would go down as one of the greatest games in college basketball history. But there’s much more to this game than Laettner's game-winning shot. In this book, the author tells the story of how both teams reached this point. With Coach K building the Duke program, and Pitino resurrecting Kentucky from a major recruiting scandal only a few years before.
- by David Halberstam
This book follows the Portland Trail Blazers through the 1979 - 1980 season. They’re coming off a championship two seasons before but have just lost Bill Walton to free agency. The league is going through many changes at this time, and the author uses this Blazers season to examine difficulties the NBA experienced in earlier years. Difficult to describe, but one of the best-written basketball books of all time.
- by Terry Pluto
Unless you’re a hardcore basketball fan, you probably don’t know about the American Basketball Association (ABA) which existed from 1967 to 1976. It’s the ‘forgotten’ league that first introduced the three-point shot and slam dunk contest to basketball fans, so it’s had a big impact on the NBA we have today. Based on many interviews with people who were involved, this book gives you the complete history of the ABA.
61. “Pacific Rims: Beermen Ballin' in Flip-Flops and the Philippines' Unlikely Love Affair with Basketball”
- by Rafe Bartholomew
If you’ve ever spent time in the Philippines, you’ll know that they love basketball with a burning passion unlike any other country. In this book, the author spends 3 years figuring out why. He gets locker room access to a professional team, plays pick-up basketball with the locals, and even stars in a local TV show.
- by Seth Davis
In the 1979 NCAA Championship game, Magic Johnson and the Michigan State University Spartans squared off against Larry Bird and the Indiana State University Sycamores. In this book, the author makes that case that this is the most important basketball game of all time. He tells the stories of both teams leading up to the final game and also gives a quick recap of what’s happened to basketball since.
- by John Feinstein
The author spends a full NCAA basketball season (1987 - 1988) following several high profile coaches and players to document what fans don’t usually see. Gary Williams, Danny Manning, Rolly Massimo, and Steve Kerr all make appearances. If you’re a fan of college hoops, you’ll enjoy this one.
64. “Raise the Roof”
- by Pat Summitt
This book will take you inside the mind of Pat Summitt through the Tennessee Lady Vols undefeated season of 1997 - 1998. On their quest to complete the three-peat, the pressure and emotions are high for this team with a mix of freshmen and established players. You’ll learn about Summitt’s coaching philosophy, and how she establishes strong relationships with her players.
65. “Eleven Rings”
- by Phil Jackson
This book has something for everyone. While looking back on his time playing and coaching, Phil Jackson shares many thoughts on self-improvement, leadership, and spirituality. My favorite section of the book was learning how he motivates players by treating them as individuals. You’ll also hear his thoughts on Jordan, Kobe, and Shaq; and both the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers teams.
- by Tim S. Grover
Tim Grover has worked personally with many of the best basketball players of all time. This list includes Jordan, Kobe, Wade, and Barkley. Grover shares what it takes for players to achieve the level of greatness these players have accomplished. A lot of motivational advice and his thoughts on having the right mindset.
- by Pat Conroy
A powerful autobiography about a boy who had a difficult life before adulthood. Both his father and coach were unreasonably cruel, and basketball was his outlet. The story follows his senior year as the point guard on the Citadel basketball team. The author shares the lessons one can learn from tough times, and how losing can prepare you for the rest of life more than winning ever could.
- by Bob Knight
Throughout this book, Knight makes the argument that negative thinking can produce even better results than positive thinking. He believes too many people fall into a false sense of security with positive thinking, and that most of us would be much better off preparing and planning for the worst. Despite the criticism of many of his past choices, this book does share an interesting perspective that many coaches should spend time thinking about.
- by John Calipari
Calipari has helped build the University of Kentucky into one of the best programs in college basketball. It’s a program that attracts the top talent year after year. Learn his process of turning high school superstars into productive members of an elite college team. A great book on identifying talent, recruiting, and building a team.
- by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Growing up as a socially awkward kid in New York, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar grew up to become the NBA’s all-time leading points scorer. But this book isn’t just about basketball. Kareem is a deep thinker on many topics, and this book focuses just as much on his thoughts and beliefs on non-basketball topics. You’ll read his take on the Civil Rights Movement, his close relationships and mentors on his journey, and his religious views.
- by Pat Riley
Pat Riley was the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1980’s and the New York Knicks in the early 1990’s. In this book, he shares the secrets he learned along the way to build a championship-winning culture throw world-class leadership. It’s probably more of a business book than a sports book, so coaches looking to pick up a copy should know that before purchasing.
- by Phil Jackson
As one of the most successful basketball coaches of all time, Jackson had a unique approach of adding Zen Buddhism into his coaching style. His goal was to teach players the importance of being fully present in each moment, and how to play basketball with a clear mind despite the chaos and pressure. A fantastic book on spirituality and cultivating the right mindset.
- by Dean Smith
Dean Smith coached at the University of North Carolina for 36 years and retired with an incredible 879 victories. In this book, he shares many leadership lessons he learned along the way. Similar to many other leadership books from coaches, many pages in the book are devoted to how these lessons apply to business and life outside basketball.
- by Rick Pitino
Rick Pitino was the head coach of the University of Louisville Cardinals from 2001 - 2017, winning the NCAA tournament in 2013. In this book, Pitino shares his theory on creating a one-day contract with yourself every day. The thought behind this is to treat every day as if it’s your last day on Earth. You need to make the most of each day and every moment.
75. “Can I Keep My Jersey?: Eleven Teams, Six Years, Five Countries, and My So-called Career as a Professional Basketball Player”
- by Paul Shirley
Humorous read from a fringe NBA player. Paul Shirley has played all over the globe in his pursuit of securing a spot on an NBA roster. He shares many stories from his life as a basketball journeyman, which makes for an entertaining book depending on your tastes. You’ll either love or hate this book.
- by Will Blythe
This book attempts to explain the emotions behind the Duke vs. North Carolina rivalry. With the author’s entertaining and thought-provoking writing style, you’ll quickly understand what it’s like for fans to feel like they’re part of this fierce college rivalry. It’s written for a UNC fan’s perspective, but there are many Duke fans who rate this book highly.
- by Bill Reynolds
A true story that follows the Durfee High School basketball team of Fall River, MA. Led by their star player, Chris Herren, who went on to play Division 1 basketball at Fresno State, the entire town rallies behind the local HS team. With so much pressure to succeed, the team faces many struggles and obstacles on their journey to compete for a championship.
78. “When the Garden Was Eden: Clyde, the Captain, Dollar Bill, and the Glory Days of the New York Knicks”
- by Harvey Araton
Another book for the history buffs. “When the Garden Was Eden” focuses on the 1970’s New York Knicks, narrowing in on a time when they were one of the most feared teams in the NBA. It was a time when they had players like Walt Frazier, Willis Reed, Bill Bradley, and Dave DeBusschere on their roster. If you’re a Knicks fan and want to take a trip down memory lane, pick up a copy of this book.
79. “The 21st Century Basketball Practice: Modernizing the basketball practice to develop the global player.”
- by Brian T. McCormick
The game of basketball has changed a lot over the years, but improvements to how coaches are conducting basketball practices have failed to evolve with the game. Coach McCormick shares practical advice on how coaches can change to keep up with the times and ensure they’re running efficient and effective practices.
- by Darcy Frey
The Last Shot follows four teenagers from Coney Island, New York (including Stephon Marbury) as they struggle to escape from a rough neighborhood and make it to college and potentially the NBA. It portrays just how easy it can be for a young man to get caught up in drugs, crime, and violence; and also discusses the immense pressure that’s put on young players to succeed.
- by Joe Ehrmann
This should be the first book on the to-read list for anyone getting into coaching. It teaches you the importance of being a transformational coach, not a transactional coach. A powerful book that shows adults the impact they can have on their players if they’ll commit to coaching them the right way. We can use youth sports to change many young lives for the better.
- by John Wooden
In this book, Wooden shares plenty of on-court and off-court wisdom. He discusses why being in peak condition is crucial for player performance, the importance of focusing on the small details (like how to put on socks and shoes), and he also talks about the love he has for his wife, Nellie. Another fantastic John Wooden book to add to your bookshelf.
- by Bill Simmons
A 700+ page book where Bill Simmons (CEO at The Ringer) shares his thoughts on the past, present, and future of basketball. A majority of the pages are spent ranking the best teams and players of all time, so be prepared to disagree with some parts of the book. If you’ve been following the NBA for a long time, you’ll have fun reliving the many debates like Wilt vs. Russell and the ‘96 Bulls vs. ‘85 Celtics.
- by John Wooden
This book is dedicated to breaking down John Wooden’s famous “Pyramid of Success”. You’ll learn about the structure of the pyramid and all 15 blocks that will help you achieve your best. These character traits include industriousness, loyalty, enthusiasm, alertness, confidence, and many more. Half of the book is devoted to religion with many questions to reflect on.
- by Julius Erving
An incredibly honest autobiography from a player who changed basketball forever. With his large afro and high-flying dunks, Erving was one of the NBA’s first true superstars. This book goes deep into his personal life. From his difficult childhood to his days in the ABA, to the heartbreaking death of his 20-year-old son. Julius Erving opens up about his life and doesn’t hold anything back.
- by Sam Smith
This book discusses the difficulties the Chicago Bulls went through on the way to their first NBA Championship in the 1990 - 1991 season. It’s not just a book about MJ either. We hear stories about all the players who were on the team, and the struggles each of them were going through at the time. One of the key points the author attempts to get across is that Jordan needed to use his teammates for the Chicago Bulls to finally achieve success.
- by Scott Ellsworth
The true story of a game that changed basketball forever. In 1944, the all-black North Carolina College for Negros competed in a game against the all-white military team from Duke medical school. This was unheard of at a time when racism was at its peak in America. The book does a fantastic job of telling the story while mixing in important history and the evolution of basketball.
- by Bob Knight
Whether you love him or hate him, there’s a lot we can learn from someone who has won 900+ games as a head coach. In this book, Coach Knight shares his personal life growing up in Ohio, his philosophies and thoughts about basketball, and his side of the story about why he was fired from Indiana University after 29 years.
89. “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
Many people claim that the “Dream Team” was the greatest team ever assembled. Featuring superstar athletes like Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and Charles Barkley, they absolutely dominated the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. The author, Jack McCallum, had inside access to the team from the moment they were put together until they won the gold medal. You’ll hear about the infamous team scrimmage, the intense ping pong matches, and what the players did behind the scenes during the Olympics.
90. “Glory Road: My Story of the 1966 NCAA Basketball Championship and How One Team Triumphed Against the Odds and Changed America Forever”
- by Don Haskins and Daniel Wetzel
This book tells the story of Coach Don Haskins and the Texas Western Miners. In the 1966 NCAA Championship game, Haskins made history by starting 5 black players as they went on to defeat the top-ranked University of Kentucky. An inspiring story of a coach who believed skill and ability is far more important than the color of a player’s skin.
- by John Feinstein
The author takes you behind the scenes and into the locker rooms of the 9 teams in the ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) during the 1996 - 1997 season. At a time when the ACC was at its most competitive, you’ll get an in-depth look at UNC, Duke, Wake Forest, Clemson, etc. You’ll learn about the history of each team, their coach, and read about the heated rivalries.
- by John Calipari
This book takes you on Coach Calipari’s journey to the Kentucky Wildcats and his first four years as their head coach. The focus is on his “players first” coaching philosophy. Through expert leadership and holding his players to high standards, Coach Cal teaches us how to create a championship-winning culture and improve the lives of all players off the court.
- by John Wooden
Who wouldn’t want to read leadership lessons from one of the greatest coaches of all time? In this book, you’ll get a collection of Wooden’s observations on life and basketball that he picked up on his way to 10 NCAA Championships in 12 years. This includes being true to yourself, the importance of helping others, and making the most of every single day.
- by Filip Bondy
The 1984 NBA draft produced several of the best players of all time. That list includes Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley, and John Stockton. To get the inside stories behind this premier draft class, the author interviews many people involved to bring you the truth behind many of the decisions that were made. Including the reason why the Portland Trail Blazers selected Sam Bowie with the number 2 pick in front of Michael Jordan.
- by Larry Platt
With his body covered in tattoos and hair in cornrows, Allen Iverson stayed true to himself and walked his own path in the NBA. The book tells his complete life story; from growing up in poverty to competing in the NBA Finals against Kobe, Shaq, and the Lakers. You’ll learn how hard work and focus can help a player overcome almost any obstacle.
- by Jay Bilas
It should come as no surprise that Jay Bilas doesn’t believe toughness is trash-talking an opponent or being blessed with elite size or strength. Toughness is a mindset. And it’s crucial for any person who wants to be successful on or off the basketball court. In this book, Bilas gives many examples of toughness and explains how people can add more of it into their own life.
- by Larry Bird
The first autobiography published by Larry Bird, who had an incredibly difficult childhood growing up in French Lick, Indiana. His father committed suicide and he was forced to work to provide for his family at a young age. This book tells the full journey from that era of his life to the 3 NBA Championships and 3 MVP trophies he picked up on the Boston Celtics.
- by Chris Ballard
In this book, elite NBA players share insights on specific skills they were able to master. Steve Kerr shares his secrets to successful shooting, Shane Battier explains how he was able to lock down opponents with his defense, Kobe Bryant talks about his killer instinct. It’s a book you can flick through and find a fun and entertaining story on any page.
- by Jackie MacMullan, Rafe Bartholomew, and Dan Klores
This book was released as a companion to ESPN’s 10-hour documentary. In it, the authors interview hundreds of players, coaches, journalists, and owners to unlock the history of the NBA told by those who were involved. You’ll hear the thoughts and opinions of people like Phil Jackson, Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Coach K, and many more.
- by Pat Summitt
At the time of writing, Pat Summitt and the Tennessee Lady Vols had just won three NCAA Championships in a row - 1996, 1997, and 1998. In this motivational book, Summitt breaks down her “Definite Dozen System”. The 12 principles one must follow to achieve greatness on or off the basketball court. Each chapter is dedicated to discussing one of the principles at length with stories of success and failure to help the reader understand.