The 25 Best Basketball Books

  1. Coach Wooden and Me: Our 50-Year Friendship On and Off the Court

​- 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.


  1. Wooden on Leadership: How to Create a Winning Organization

​- 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.


  1. “Leading with the Heart: Coach K’s Successful Strategies for Basketball, Business, and Life”

​- 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.


  1. “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.


  1. “Michael Jordan: The Life”

​- 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.


  1. “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.


  1. “Pistol: The Life of Pete Maravich”

​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.


  1. “When the Game Was Ours”

​- 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.


  1. “The Gold Standard: Building a World-Class Team”

​- 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.


  1. “The Mamba Mentality: How I Play”

​- 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.


  1. “Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court”

​- 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.


  1. “A Season on the Brink: A Year with Bob Knight and the Indiana Hoosiers”

​- 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).


  1. “Playing for Keeps: Michael Jordan and the World He Made”

​- 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.


  1. “Red and Me: My Coach, My Lifelong Friend”

​- 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.


  1. “Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s”

​- 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.


  1. “Attucks!: Oscar Robertson and the Basketball Team That Awakened a City”

​- 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.


  1. “The Rivalry: Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, and the Golden Age of Basketball”

​- 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.


  1. “Play Their Hearts Out: A Coach, His Star Recruit, and the Youth Basketball Machine”

​- 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.


  1. “Geno: In Pursuit of Perfection”

​- 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.


  1. “More than a Game”

​- 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.


  1. “West by West: My Charmed, Tormented Life”

​- 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.


  1. “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.


  1. “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.


  1. “My Losing Season: A Memoir”

​- 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.


  1. “Sacred Hoops: Spiritual Lessons of a Hardwood Warrior”

​- 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.