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Top Basketball Books (for fans, players, & coaches)

Basketball has a way of capturing our hearts and forging lifelong connections. Whether you’re a die-hard fan seeking to deepen your knowledge or a coach or player looking to improve your skills, there’s nothing quite like immersing yourself in the pages of some of the best basketball books that are available!


No matter what you love about basketball, you are going to find some books on our list that you are going to want to read!

Great Human Interest Basketball Books for Everyone

The Black Fives: The Epic Story of Basketball’s Forgotten Era by Claude Johnson


The book is a captivating account that sheds light on the overlooked history of African American basketball teams and players during the early 20th century.

Focusing on the period before the integration of the NBA, the book explores how these teams, known as the “Black Fives,” navigated racial segregation and discrimination to compete at a high level.

Through engaging narratives, historical photos, and personal anecdotes, Johnson reveals the struggles and triumphs of these pioneering athletes and their contributions to the development of basketball as a major American sport.

From the formation of teams to their impact on communities and the eventual integration of the NBA, “The Black Fives” offers a compelling glimpse into a crucial chapter of basketball history that has often been overlooked or forgotten.

 

The Miracle of St. Anthony” by Adrian Wojnarowski

A compelling narrative that chronicles the extraordinary success of the St. Anthony High School basketball program under the leadership of Coach Bob Hurley Sr. Set in Jersey City, New Jersey.

The book follows Coach Hurley and his teams through multiple seasons, highlighting their relentless pursuit of excellence amidst adversity and challenges. Through interviews, anecdotes, and vivid storytelling, Wojnarowski captures the passion, discipline, and resilience that define the St. Anthony basketball dynasty.

From overcoming financial hardships to molding young men into champions both on and off the court, “The Miracle of St. Anthony” offers an inspiring portrayal of Coach Hurley’s legendary coaching career and the enduring impact of his program on generations of players and fans.

The Leftovers by Matt Sayman

The book chronicles his journey through the tumultuous period surrounding the 2003 Baylor basketball scandal.

As a senior co-captain, Sayman witnessed the team’s disintegration amidst accusations, investigations, and player departures. This unforeseen turn of events shattered his dreams of playing professional basketball and led him down a path of personal struggle, including alcohol abuse and a broken relationship.

However, the book also highlights Sayman’s path to redemption. He finds solace in faith and rebuilds his life. The narrative intertwines with the remarkable revival of the Baylor basketball program under a new coach, culminating in their 2021 NCAA championship win. “The Leftovers” becomes a testament to resilience, faith, and the transformative power of second chances.

The Assist: Hoops, Hope, and the Game of Their Lives

is a heartfelt memoir by Neil Swidey that follows the journey of a group of high school basketball players and their coach in Charlestown, Massachusetts.

Set against the backdrop of a tough urban environment marked by poverty and violence, the book tells the inspiring story of how basketball serves as a beacon of hope and a means of escape for the players. Led by their dedicated coach, Jack O’Brien, the team learns valuable life lessons both on and off the court as they strive for success amidst adversity.

Through poignant anecdotes and compelling narratives, “The Assist” celebrates the transformative power of basketball and the resilience of the human spirit in overcoming obstacles to achieve one’s dreams.

Heaven is a Playground by Rick Telander

A gripping non-fiction book that offers a vivid portrayal of life on the playground basketball courts of Brooklyn, New York. Telander, a sportswriter, immerses himself in the vibrant streetball culture of the 1970s, chronicling the lives of young athletes who dream of making it big in the sport.

Set against the backdrop of urban decay and social challenges, the book delves into the hopes, struggles, and aspirations of these players as they navigate the competitive and sometimes dangerous world of street basketball. Through intimate interviews and colorful storytelling, Telander captures the essence of the playground basketball scene, revealing the passion, talent, and raw energy that define this unique subculture.

“Heaven is a Playground” offers readers a compelling glimpse into a bygone era of grassroots basketball and the dreams that drive young athletes to greatness.

Hoop Dreams by Ben Joravsky

Based on the powerful documentary film directed by Steve James that follows the lives of two African American teenagers, William Gates and Arthur Agee, as they pursue their dreams of becoming professional basketball players.

The story begins when William and Arthur are recruited to attend the prestigious St. Joseph High School in Chicago, known for its successful basketball program.

Over the course of five years, “Hoop Dreams” chronicles the challenges, triumphs, and setbacks that the boys face on and off the court, from injuries and family struggles to the pressures of academic and athletic expectations.

Through intimate interviews the story offers a poignant exploration of race, class, and the pursuit of the American Dream through the lens of basketball. “Hoop Dreams” is celebrated for its raw honesty and compelling storytelling, and it remains one of the most acclaimed sports documentaries of all time.

Secret Warrior is a compelling memoir of former Duke Women’s Coach Joanne McCallie’s mental health journey.

The book delved into the realities and challenges of competing at the Division I level.  She uses the theme of “faith over fear” to reduce the stigma associated with impaired mental health.  Coach P encourage those suffering from mental health issues to reach out-to coaches, student-athletes, and to all people across the world.  

 

Joanne offers direction, experiences, and personal stories to teach and reassure those adversely affected by the dynamics of the mind and body experience. Secret Warrior’s message to all is that we the need more education, stories, action, and an overall change to the narrative of mental health.

The Best Basketball Books Coaches Will Love

The Carolina Way by Dean Smith

A great book that offers insights into the legendary coach’s philosophy on basketball and life.

Smith shares the principles and values that guided him throughout his coaching career at the University of North Carolina. He emphasizes teamwork, discipline, integrity, and selflessness both on and off the court.

Through anecdotes and personal reflections, Smith illustrates how these principles shaped not only successful basketball teams but also successful individuals. 


The book serves as a roadmap for achieving excellence through dedication, hard work, and a commitment to doing things the right way.

Reach for the Summit is an autobiography written by legendary basketball coach Pat Summitt, co-authored with Sally Jenkins.

In this inspiring memoir, Summitt reflects on her extraordinary career as the head coach of the University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers basketball team. She shares insights into her coaching philosophy, leadership principles, and the challenges she faced while building one of the most successful programs in the history of women’s college basketball.

Summitt also discusses her personal journey, including her upbringing, and her approach to balancing family and coaching all through engaging storytelling and candid reflections, “Reach for the Summit” offers readers a glimpse into the life and legacy of a pioneering coach who revolutionized the sport and inspired generations of athletes with her passion, determination, and relentless pursuit of excellence.

The Smart Take from the Strong: The Basketball Philosophy of Pete Carril by Pete Carril and Dan White

The book offers an in-depth exploration of the coaching philosophy and basketball strategies of legendary coach Pete Carril. Carril, known for his innovative approach to the game, shares insights into his principles of basketball, emphasizing the importance of fundamentals, teamwork, and intelligence on the court.

Through anecdotes, coaching anecdotes, and strategic analysis, the book provides readers with valuable lessons on player development, offensive and defensive tactics, and the mental aspects of the game.

“The Smart Take from the Strong” serves as a comprehensive guide to Carril’s influential coaching methods, offering aspiring coaches and basketball enthusiasts a deeper understanding of his unique approach to the sport.

Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court 

A poignant memoir by legendary basketball coach John Wooden, co-authored with Steve Jamison.

In this insightful book, Wooden shares his timeless wisdom and philosophy on life, leadership, and the game of basketball. Drawing from his decades of coaching experience, Wooden reflects on the principles and values that guided his coaching career, including his famous Pyramid of Success.

Through personal anecdotes, inspirational stories, and practical advice, Wooden offers readers valuable insights into the importance of character, integrity, and hard work in achieving success both on and off the court. “Wooden” serves as a timeless resource for coaches, athletes, and anyone seeking to cultivate excellence and personal growth in their lives.
A Season with Coach Dick Bennett

Readers are priviledged to an inside look into the coaching methods and philosophies of Coach Dick Bennett. 

Through the lens of a single season, the book follows Bennett and his team as they navigate the highs and lows of collegiate basketball competition.  

Readers gain valuable insights into Bennett’s coaching style, including his emphasis on discipline, teamwork, and strategic play. The book offers a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the challenges and triumphs faced by both coaches and players, providing inspiration and wisdom for basketball enthusiasts and coaches alike.

Toughness: Developing True Strength On and Off the Court by Jay Bilas

A motivational book that explores the concept of toughness and its relevance both in basketball and in life. Drawing from his experiences as a former college basketball player and coach, Bilas delves into the qualities that define true toughness, such as resilience, discipline, and perseverance.

Through personal anecdotes, inspirational stories, and practical advice, the book offers readers valuable insights into how to cultivate mental and emotional strength to overcome challenges and achieve success, both on and off the basketball court.

Bilas emphasizes the importance of mindset, preparation, and commitment in developing toughness, making this book a valuable resource for athletes, coaches, and anyone seeking to build resilience and achieve their goals.

Leading with the Heart is a compelling leadership book written by Coach Mike Mike Krzyzewski, the retired head coach of the Duke University men’s basketball team.

In this book, Coach K shares his insights on leadership, teamwork, and success both on and off the basketball court. Drawing from his experiences coaching elite athletes and leading championship-winning teams,

Coach K offers practical advice and inspirational anecdotes to help readers develop their own leadership skills. Through compelling storytelling and valuable lessons, “Leading with the Heart” serves as a roadmap for aspiring leaders, emphasizing the importance of trust, communication, and integrity in achieving greatness.

Basketball Analytics by Steven Shea

A comprehensive guide to the world of basketball statistics and analytics. In this book, Shea explores the various metrics and advanced statistical techniques used to analyze player performance, team strategies, and game outcomes in basketball. 

 

From traditional statistics like points, rebounds, and assists to more advanced metrics such as player efficiency rating (PER), true shooting percentage (TS%), and offensive and defensive ratings, Shea provides readers with a thorough understanding of how data can be leveraged to gain insights into the game.

With clear explanations, real-world examples, and practical applications, “Basketball Analytics” is a valuable resource for coaches, players, analysts, and basketball enthusiasts looking to deepen their understanding of the sport through data-driven analysis.

Winner Within by Pat Riley

A motivational book that explores the mindset and principles necessary for success in sports and life.

Riley, a highly successful basketball coach and NBA executive, emphasizes the importance of mental toughness, resilience, and a relentless pursuit of excellence.

He shares personal anecdotes and insights on leadership, teamwork, and overcoming obstacles to achieve greatness. The book inspires readers to tap into their inner drive and potential to become winners in their own lives.

Basketball on Paper by Dean Oliver

This groundbreaking book delves into the analytical side of basketball. Oliver, a former NBA executive and statistician, introduces advanced statistical metrics and concepts to analyze player and team performance.

He explores topics such as efficiency, possession management, and the impact of different statistical factors on winning games. Through detailed analysis and examples, the book goes way beyond the information that you would find in a box score or at the scorer’s table.

Oliver provides readers with a deeper understanding of the game and how statistical insights can enhance decision-making in basketball.

Top Basketball Books for Fans and History Buffs

If you’re a basketball fan who loves learning about the sport’s past, these basketball history books are a must-read. Dive into captivating narratives that highlight significant moments, legendary players, and changes in the game over the years.

  Basketball is more than just a game. Through the pages of these history books, you’ll embark on a journey that explores the evolution of the sport, shedding light on its cultural significance and the remarkable individuals who shaped it.
 
Sum It Up is a memoir by legendary basketball coach Pat Summitt, co-authored with Sally Jenkins.

In the book, Summitt reflects on her remarkable career as the head coach of the University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers basketball team, where she achieved unparalleled success and became one of the most iconic figures in the sport.

Summitt shares candid insights into her coaching philosophy, leadership style, and the challenges she faced both on and off the court, including her battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

Through engaging storytelling and heartfelt reflections, “Sum It Up” offers readers a compelling glimpse into the life and legacy of a trailblazing coach who left an indelible mark on the world of basketball and inspired countless individuals with her passion, dedication, and resilience.

  “The Book of Basketball: The NBA According to The Sports Guy” by Bill Simmons

A comprehensive and entertaining exploration of the history, culture, and personalities of the NBA.


Simmons combines statistical analysis, historical anecdotes, and his own unique insights to provide a thorough examination of the sport. From discussing the greatest players and teams of all time to dissecting the intricacies of basketball strategy, Simmons covers a wide range of topics with humor and passion.

Through engaging storytelling and provocative commentary, he offers readers a deeper understanding and appreciation of the game of basketball. From iconic moments to controversial decisions, Simmons provides a fresh perspective on the sport, making this book a must-read for basketball enthusiasts and anyone interested in the cultural impact of the NBA.

“The Breaks of the Game” by David Halberstam

 

An in-depth look at the Portland Trail Blazers’ 1979-1980 season reveals a team grappling with challenges both on and off the court. 


Despite their remarkable triumph in the 1977 NBA Finals, the Blazers faced a myriad of obstacles during this season, including injuries to key players, internal conflicts, and the pressures of defending their championship title.

Off the court, players navigated personal struggles and the societal turbulence of the late 1970s. Despite these challenges, the Blazers showcased resilience and determination, ultimately leaving a lasting legacy in NBA history.

When the Game Was Ours by Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and Jackie MacMullan

When the Game Was Ours” is a captivating memoir co-authored by basketball legends Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, alongside Jackie MacMullan. The book delves deep into the intertwined careers and personal lives of Bird and Johnson, chronicling their fierce on-court rivalry and profound off-court  friendship.

Through candid anecdotes and reflections, the authors offer readers an intimate glimpse into the golden era of basketball during the 1980s, highlighting the pivotal moments, intense competitions, and enduring camaraderie that defined their era.

From their storied battles in the NBA Finals to their mutual respect and admiration, Bird and Johnson’s narrative transcends sports, capturing the essence of determination, resilience, and the enduring power of friendship.

Basketball: A Biographical Dictionary by David L. Porter

Our list of best basketball books would not be complete without this one.  It is a comprehensive reference book that provides short biographical sketches of key figures in the world of basketball. 

 

Covering players, coaches, referees, administrators, and contributors to the sport, the book offers a wealth of information about the individuals who have made significant contributions to basketball’s development and history. 

 

From legendary players like Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to influential coaches like Phil Jackson and Pat Summitt, the book highlights the diverse range of personalities that have shaped the game. With concise and informative entries, it serves as a valuable resource for basketball enthusiasts looking to learn more about the sport’s most important figures.

Basketball: A Love Story

A captivating exploration of the deep and multifaceted relationship between basketball and its fans.

Written by Jackie MacMullan, Rafe Bartholomew, and Dan Klores, the book presents a rich tapestry of stories, anecdotes, and interviews that chronicle the sport’s evolution and its profound impact on individuals and communities around the world.

From the intense rivalries of NBA superstars to the grassroots passion of streetballers, the book delves into the emotional connections and cultural significance of basketball. Through a series of vignettes and personal accounts, it celebrates the love, obsession, and enduring power of our game that has captured the hearts of millions.

Glory Road by Don Haskins with Daniel Wetzel

Coach Haskins’ memoir that recounts the inspiring true story of the 1966 Texas Western College basketball team that he coached.

The team made history by starting five African American players in the NCAA Championship game against the University of Kentucky, a team composed entirely of white players. Against the backdrop of racial tension and segregation, the book follows the team’s remarkable journey to the championship, highlighting their struggles, triumphs, and the impact of their groundbreaking victory on the sport of basketball and American society.

Through vivid storytelling and personal insights, “Glory Road” celebrates the courage, determination, and resilience of the players and coach who challenged the status quo and paved the way for diversity and inclusion in college athletics.

Bracketology by Joe Lunardi

A guide to the world of college basketball and the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. In the book, Lunardi, a renowned expert in college basketball analysis, offers readers an insider’s perspective on the selection process, seeding, and predictions for March Madness.

 

Drawing on his expertise and experience, Lunardi provides valuable insights into the factors that influence the tournament’s outcomes, including team performance, strength of schedule, and statistical analysis. With engaging writing and expert analysis, “Bracketology” serves as an essential resource for basketball fans looking to understand the intricacies of the tournament and make informed predictions about their favorite teams’ chances of success.

The Final Score…

Our selection of the best basketball books offer stories, insights, and inspirations that will resonate deeply with anyone who loves the game like we do. Our choices run the basketball gamut from accounts of legendary players, coaches, and team to analytical breakdowns of the game’s strategies, these books serve as windows into the sport’s history, culture, and evolution.


These books have helped me to gain a deeper understanding of the game’s technical aspects as well as the profound impact basketball has had and continues to have on society and individuals. Whether it’s reliving the triumphs of iconic teams, delving into the minds of coaching geniuses, or exploring the journeys of underdog athletes, each book offers a unique perspective on the greatest game ever invented.


The contents transcend the boundaries of the sport, offering valuable lessons in teamwork, perseverance, and leadership that extend far beyond the court. They have inspired readers to push their limits, chase their dreams, and never give up in the face of adversity.  I hope they do the same for you.


These books stand as testaments to the power of passion, dedication, and the human spirit. They remind us of the magic inherent in the game of basketball and its ability to unite people from all walks of life in a shared love for the sport. So whether you’re a die-hard fan or a casual observer, dive into the pages of these books and let the journey begin!

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