This guide lists a number of the best basketball books on the market by looking at what makes them such a useful, or fun, read.
I have more than twenty-five years of experience playing basketball. I also happen to be an avid reader who has spent many rainy days poring over a book. Both of those, backed by additional research, came together to help me review the items throughout this article.
The Book of Basketball gets my pick for the best basketball book because it’s an entertaining book that’s incredibly informative at the same time.
As the name suggests, it’s a book about everything basketball. It covers players, coaches, and fans all while being incredibly fun to read. The sheer amount of knowledge packed into the pages works extremely well with Bill Simmons’ classic polarizing style.
If you’re curious about that or other fantastic basketball books, read on to the following sections.
Who Should Get This?
Basketball is fun to play, but you can’t always get out on the court. Those that enjoy the game, as well as players who like to learn more about it when they can’t get some shots up, will have a great time reading through the different books outlined below.
Not all of the books listed here are about the same topics. That means they’re good for a wide range of different people. Figure out what you want from a basketball book, story or information, and then get the ones that match your interests.
Top Basketball Books to Read in 2021: Our Picks
Here, I will go over all of the best basketball books money can buy and spend time covering what each one is about.
Few novels about the game are more extensive or in-depth than famous Podcaster and writer Ben Simmons’ Book of Basketball. The pages are filled with a witty and interesting insight into all parts of the game from the early days all the way to the modern NBA.
This book kicks off the list because it manages to be both informative and entertaining all at once. He has a unique voice and many things to say. Even if you don’t agree with his different opinions, there’s still a lot to enjoy and learn throughout the book.
Penned by legendary trainer Tim Grover, Relentless is perhaps the best basketball book for people looking to specifically get better at the game. The pages are absolutely packed with different tips (both mental and physical) to take your game to the next level.
There’s a lot of honesty in the book, and can be blunt at times. However, that’s expected with such a talented man who managed to help both Kobe and Jordan improve on the court. Reading it will give you insight into the mind of NBA players and help you vastly improve.
3. Hoop Dreams
Based on the popular documentary, Hoop Dreams follows two high school basketball players (William Gates and Arthur Agee) with extremely lofty aspirations. It’s not only a compelling story, it also shows the stakes and struggles that young players must deal with to succeed.
The book takes you on a journey from their beginnings on the streets of Chicago all the way to their eventual college recruitment. There’s a lot to cover in that time. The book is both a fun journey and a larger discussion on important themes like education, class, and race.
The Last Shot is a well-written and in-depth book that covers promising basketball players who came from the streets of Coney Island. As with Hoop Dreams, it’s a book that covers a compelling journey and covers a wide range of different difficulties along the way.
You see the struggles all the different players go through, as well as their drive to become better at the game. The backdrop of NYC streetball and culture is another wonderful addition that adds some color and helps create what becomes a largely memorable story.
Eleven Rings is another book by one of the all-time greats, this time legendary coach Phil Jackson. The coach took home 11 championships during his time in the league, in which he worked with some of the greatest players ever. The pages cover that story in great detail.
This novel covers his unique coaching style, his thoughts on team chemistry, where he got his insight into the game, and so much more. Jackson truly changed basketball forever. This book is the best way to figure out how he did that, as well as why it worked so well.
Everyone knows Michael Jordan’s name, but few have key insight into his mind. If you want a unique look at the iconic player, The Jordan Rules is the book for you. While it does cover a lot of his achievements, it’s a much more in-depth expose of what took place behind the scenes.
Unlike many biographies, this one covers all of the nitty-gritty details that followed Jordan throughout his career. That includes his feuds, internal struggles, and so much more. If you’re a fan of Jordan, or simply enjoy learning more about the NBA, this is a must-read.
Readers who enjoy learning about basketball from a more analytical standpoint, as well as players who want to study the game on a deeper level, will love A Coach’s Life. John Wooden was an iconic coach, and this biography covers his unmatched coaching style from his career.
Beyond his achievements, the book also covers many life lessons Wooden learned throughout his life. Those may be just as important as the basketball knowledge, creating an in-depth book that goes above and beyond so many similar stories.
Both players and fans alike will love Stuff Good Players Should Know. The book, which comes with a conversational tone, extensively breaks down the game while still being easy to understand. It breaks basketball down into different parts to help you improve your play.
Rather than throwing everything at you right away, the novel allows you to take your time. There are many important concepts in the pages. However, you’ll get a breakdown of the fundamentals and special tips as well. It’s a truly complete overview of basketball as a whole.
9. Pacific Rims
Pacific Rims is a book that looks at basketball’s popularity out in the Philippines. It follows a journalist who ventured out to the country to interview both players and fans alike. That creates a completely different viewpoint of the game and looks at it through a completely fresh lens.
On top of that, it’s a wildly entertaining story. Beyond the usual basketball-based novel, you get a look into scandals like politicians promising basketball courts for votes, as well as a traveling basketball show and experience. The writing is also top-notch and informative.
Where many books on this list look at basketball from a large standpoint, The Breaks of the Game focuses on a single season. Written by David Halberstam, the novel analyzes the 1979-1980 Trailblazers, who struggled mightily only a few years after winning the championship.
Through that struggle, you get special insight into what life is like in the NBA when things aren’t going well. There are many broader themes too, including power, corruption, money, and greed. It’s a look to the past, but the modern lens creates many messages that are still relevant today.
Most basketball books focus on winning, but losing is a critical part of the game too. My Losing Season is a great example of that. The book looks at the life of Pat Conroy, the former point guard of the Citadel Bulldogs who was ultimately destined to fail during his basketball career.
Even so, he still found a lot to love about the game and the team. His life had many highs and lows around the sport, and the novel covers all of them. The writing is great and the beats are engaging. It’s a book that shows that, while winning is fun, there’s a lot to learn in losing as well.
Another John Wooden book, Practical Modern Basketball is a great choice for more serious readers who want to learn how to grow both as players and as a people. The book goes over strategy and theory, delivering Wooden’s knowledge in a fun and easily digestible way.
This is a true book for students of the game and is unapologetic towards that end. If you have any aspirations to coach at any level, the book is an incredibly useful tool. It’s also good for people who want to look at basketball from an entirely different perspective.
Jay Bilas is a tough, old-school player who spent four years starting at Duke. That, combined with his work as an analyst at ESPN, enabled him to write Toughness, a book that teaches strength through a series of stories and anecdotes he experienced during his life.
The book doesn’t just stop there. It covers many life and sports philosophies from a wide range of other players and coaches, ranging from Tom Izzo to Bob Knight and Coach K. If you want a book that delivers something different without breaking from basketball, this is a good pick.
Life is Not an Accident is a touching, emotional memoir from Bulls top draft pick Jay Williams. It covers the promising start to his career and the unfortunate crash that abruptly ended it. That creates an interesting basketball journey that’s also about perseverance and life.
This is perhaps one of the most story-oriented books on this list, but it still makes it because all fans of the game will appreciate Williams’ insight into his own loss and depression. It’s a serious, moving story that has a lot to say about the game and the life around it.
15. Sum It Up
Sum It Up is a perfect book for fans who want a different behind-the-scenes look at basketball. It follows Pat Summit, the legendary coach of the Tennessee Vols women’s basketball team, who broke records and won more games than anyone else in her 38 years in the game.
She had tons of achievements during that time and changed the game in numerous ways. The book goes over all of the times she spent with the game, both good and bad, and covers what is an unforgettable career. Great if you want a good read or powerful story.
16. The Assist
The Assist is a book on Jack O’Brien, the demanding coach at Charlestown High School in Boston. While not as high profile as other coaches on this list, his five state championships in six years are impressive. Even more impressive is that all of his players made it to college.
The book is as much as a look at basketball as it is about a tough, unforgiving character asking for nothing less than the best. You get great insight into his own mind and beliefs, as well as a deeper look at education, family, and race. It’s a basketball story with a little bit of everything.
Larry Bird and Magic Johnson; two iconic names synonymous with basketball. They played during one of the game’s golden ages, and this book details that time by looking at both players’ impressive journeys. Those different perspectives make the read fast, fun, and truly unique.
Going into great detail about both players, the book looks at the drive, competitiveness, and spirit at the heart of their legendary rivalry. It’s an interesting look at the game, and provides insight into one of the greatest eras the NBA, or any sport for that matter, has ever seen.
Useful Reading Tips
Anytime you read a book, regardless of what it’s about, you might not be drawn into it right away. Though you might be tempted to put it down or toss it out, don’t be afraid to keep going and give it a chance to develop. You never know what might turn into a great story.
Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone, either. There are many basketball books, and they all cover different topics. Take the time to figure out what style of novel you’re looking for before going out and making a purchase you might regret.
I believe that The Book of Basketball is the greatest book about the game on the market. Every novel in this article brings something to the table. However, the Book of Basketball gets special marks because of how it manages to be fun, entertaining, and informative all at the same time.