Best Basketball Books of All Time

The Top 20 Best Basketball Books of All Time

Basketball, a sport that has captivated millions around the globe, boasts an awe-inspiring history replete with legendary players, unforgettable moments, and unparalleled teams. For die-hard fans and curious minds alike, delving into the captivating world of basketball literature offers a deeper appreciation for the sport and its iconic figures.

From the storied annals of the NBA to the exhilarating realm of international and college basketball, a plethora of books have been written, chronicling every aspect of the game. In this definitive list, we present the top 20 basketball books of all time, offering a compelling journey through the most celebrated eras, players, coaches, and teams that have shaped the sport we adore.

Whether you are a seasoned basketball enthusiast or a newcomer eager to explore the sport’s rich history, these books are bound to enthrall and educate. Note: the books in this list are not ranked in order, as each individual book in our collection is its own, unique work. Can’t choose? READ THEM ALL.

As you navigate this comprehensive collection, do keep in mind that this article contains affiliate links, which means that by using these links before making a purchase, you can support our site at no extra cost to you!

Top 20 Best Basketball Books of All Time

Dive into the sensational world of 1980s basketball with “Showtime,” an entertaining and eye-opening celebrity bio of the iconic Los Angeles Lakers dynasty. Jeff Pearlman’s revealing narrative dishes out gossipy tales, hard-won inside knowledge, and larger-than-life personalities, including Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Coach Pat Riley. Unveiling the team’s journey to greatness, this thrilling account showcases the dazzling brilliance of one of the best basketball teams in history. A must-read for sports enthusiasts craving an immersive and captivating experience!

Experience the breathtaking highs and captivating complexities of one of basketball’s greatest legends in “Michael Jordan: The Life.” Roland Lazenby, a seasoned basketball journalist, delves deep into the enigmatic persona of Michael Jordan, exploring both his iconic moments on the court and the fiercely competitive and high-stakes nature that lies beneath. With personal insights, interviews, and unprecedented access, this definitive biography unveils the man behind the legend, offering a compelling and thrilling account of Michael Jordan: the player, the icon, and the man.

The 1990s New York Knicks were a team that resurrected an iconic franchise through unparalleled grit and oppressive physicality. Delve into the fiery battles on and off the court, as Pat Riley, Patrick Ewing, and their fierce crew fought for respect in an era of brutal competition. Through eye-opening details and original reporting, Chris Herring paints an unfiltered portrait of the Knicks’ rise, fall, and enduring legacy during the NBA’s golden era. Brace yourself for an action-packed journey that will leave you cheering for the rough-and-tumble spirit of the Knicks!

Embark on an extraordinary journey into the mind of the late Los Angeles Laker superstar, Kobe Bryant, as he unveils his unparalleled approach to the game in “The Mamba Mentality: How I Play.” Through detailed accounts and stunning photographs, Bryant shares his wisdom, passion, and relentless dedication that shaped his legendary basketball career. Discover the secrets behind the iconic “Mamba mentality” as Bryant takes readers inside his strategic mind, analyzing plays, opponents, and his unwavering drive for excellence. This book offers an unprecedented look into the life of one of basketball’s greatest athletes, leaving readers inspired and captivated.

Discover the untold history of the NBA’s transformative era in “Black Ball,” where Theresa Runstedtler skillfully unravels the misconceptions surrounding Black players’ impact on the game. Against the backdrop of resistance to racial desegregation and cries for Black Power, a new generation of players, including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Spencer Haywood, emerged in the 1970s. Labelled as the cause of basketball’s perceived decline, they, in fact, laid the groundwork for the modern NBA, challenging authority and elevating the game’s global status. Dive into this gripping and eye-opening history that reveals the generation that saved the soul of basketball.

If you’re looking for the ultimate NBA history nerd experience, look no further. “The Book of Basketball” is a wildly opinionated and thoroughly entertaining journey through the past, present, and future of pro basketball. Bill Simmons, a hoops addict, and renowned sports writer, settles age-old debates and reshapes the NBA Hall of Fame with his one-of-a-kind Pyramid of the greatest players in history. From revealing The Secret of Basketball to captivating conversations with NBA legends, this comprehensive and hilarious book offers an unmissable insight into the heart of the game.

Note: search local bookstores and other sources as this book is in low stock and quite pricy on Amazon!

Bill Russell shares the decisive moments of his remarkable life and career in “Second Wind.” From an inside look at professional basketball to his outspoken views on freedom, race, marriage, religion, and American culture, Russell’s memoirs provide a perceptive and idiosyncratic perspective that is both compelling and thought-provoking. Get ready to experience the journey of an opinionated man who left an indelible mark on the sport and society.

Take a thrilling journey to the heart of the Philippines’ passionate love affair with basketball in “Pacific Rims.” Journalist and seasoned baller, Rafe Bartholomew, dives into the country’s obsession with the sport, uncovering stories of diehard fans crafting hoops from car parts on street corners and politicians exploiting team loyalties for political gains. From the grassroots to the professional league, this captivating book immerses readers in the vibrant world where basketball is more than just a game—it’s a way of life.

Venture into the wild and untamed world of the American Basketball Association in “Loose Balls.” Terry Pluto’s enthralling account takes you on a rollercoaster ride through the ABA’s short-lived existence, from its audacious beginnings to its electric and chaotic journey. Discover the colorful characters, outrageous stories, and incredible moments that shaped this rebel league, leaving an indelible mark on basketball history. Get ready for an exhilarating exploration of basketball’s wild side like never before.

Get ready for a rollercoaster ride through the riveting story of the Lakers dynasty from 1996 to 2004 in “Three-Ring Circus.” Join Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal as they clash and combine forces to bring the Lakers three consecutive championships, restoring the franchise to its powerhouse status. Amidst public sniping, physical altercations, and threats of trade, their epic battles, mediated and encouraged by coach Phil Jackson, led to one of the greatest dynasties in NBA history. This gripping deep dive uncovers the drama, glory, and excitement of a legendary sporting duo.

The Jordan Rules is arguably the greatest book ever written about the greatest player to ever lace up a pair of basketball sneakers. Uncover the untold and provocative side of basketball legend Michael Jordan in “The Jordan Rules.” Sam Smith’s gripping study delves into the stormy relationships between Jordan and his coaches and teammates, revealing his unyielding obsession to become the leading scorer. Prepare to be enthralled by the behind-the-scenes drama, petty feuds with NBA stars, and a portrait of Jordan that challenges the image of the iconic superstar. Get ready for a captivating exploration of one of basketball’s greatest enigmas.

One of the game’s all-time great players, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar opens up about his remarkable journey in “Giant Steps.” From his professional triumphs to the challenges of balancing celebrity status with personal aspirations, Kareem candidly shares the highs and lows of his illustrious career. Prepare to be inspired by the life of a sports legend who transcended the game and left an indelible mark both on and off the court. This autobiography offers an intimate and fascinating glimpse into the life of a true giant of basketball.

Enter the electrifying world of college basketball’s most influential conference in “The Big East.” Dana O’Neil takes you on an epic journey, revealing the untold story of how an unlikely group of schools from the Northeast became the epicenter of the sport. From the daring beginnings to the incredible rise, immerse yourself in the battles fought by transcendent players and combustible coaches behind locker-room doors. With interviews from key figures, this gripping narrative uncovers the captivating history of the Big East, where Camelot met bad language in a sports saga like no other.

Immerse yourself in the exhilarating era of the 1970s New York Knicks in “When the Garden Was Eden.” Harvey Araton, the New York Times sports columnist, takes you on an epic journey that combines autobiography, sports history, and gripping storytelling. Step into a tumultuous time when basketball legends like Walt Frazier, Willis Reed, and Bill Bradley reigned supreme, defining the national dream with their NBA championships. This captivating account unveils the glory days of the Knicks, where heroics and dreams collided in the world of basketball.

Take a thrilling journey through the pivotal 1973-1974 college basketball season in “The Road to Madness.” J. Samuel Walker and Randy Roberts unveil the dramatic events that forever changed the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Witness the defeat of the UCLA Bruins by the North Carolina State Wolfpack, ending a decade of Bruins’ dominance and fueling unprecedented national attention. Delve into the behind-the-scenes maneuvering that led to the expansion of the tournament field, making this iconic event the spectacle it is today. This fast-paced and in-depth account promises an enthralling look at the transformation of college basketball.

Step back in time to the golden era of the 1980s Boston Celtics in “Wish It Lasted Forever.” Award-winning Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy takes you on a nostalgic journey, providing unprecedented access and personal experiences as he covers the legendary Larry Bird-led Celtics teams. Witness the camaraderie, the cockiness of Bird, the ageless athleticism of Robert Parish, and the shooting skills of Kevin McHale. This masterful tribute will transport fans to the magical years when the Boston Garden rocked, and the winner’s circle was colored in Boston Green.

Prepare to be enthralled by the fascinating account of the best basketball team of all time in “Dream Team.” Jack McCallum, the ultimate basketball insider, takes you behind the scenes and into the world of the iconic Dream Team. From back rooms to locker rooms, McCallum shares revealing, colorful anecdotes that will make you laugh, cheer, and gasp. Get ready for a terrific read that pays tribute to the superstars who conquered the world and forever changed the game of basketball.

When the Game Was Ours

Larry Bird, Earvin (Magic) Johnson, Jackie Macmullan

Step onto the court with Larry Bird and Magic Johnson in this gripping and intimate account of basketball’s greatest rivalry. From fierce battles to lifelong friendship, these two legends symbolized the compelling rivalry of the 1980s NBA. “When the Game Was Ours” transports you to the electric era of basketball, providing unprecedented fly-on-the-wall detail of their inner workings. Join them on their journey from bitter rivals to champions who saved the floundering NBA, and relive the thrilling highs and heart-wrenching lows of their remarkable careers.

Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success

Phil Jackson, Hugh Delehanty

One of basketball’s most legendary figures: Phil Jackson. Learn about the coach who redefined success in professional sports in “Eleven Rings.” With more championships than any other coach, Jackson’s story is one of inspiration and innovation. From exploring humanistic psychology to Zen meditation, he developed a unique leadership approach that challenged players to embrace their better selves. This captivating account delves into the mind of the “Zen master,” offering a fresh perspective on teamwork, authenticity, and the path to greatness in the hypercompetitive world of sports.

Basketball: A Love Story 

Jackie MacMullan, Rafe Bartholomew, Dan Klores

Prepare to be captivated by the untold love story of basketball—a tale of passion, heartbreak, triumph, and betrayal that transcends borders and changes lives. In this extraordinary oral history, legendary icons like Kobe, LeBron, Magic, and many more open up about their deepest passion—basketball. From a Canadian invention that conquered America to a game that shattered barriers of race and gender, this is the true tale of how basketball became a transformative force in the world and a defining love for those who embrace it.

In the vast landscape of basketball literature, these top 20 books stand as beacons, illuminating the essence of the sport and its remarkable evolution. From the dominance of NBA legends and the thrill of international battles to the heart-stopping drama of college basketball, each book provides a unique lens into basketball’s finest moments and unforgettable personalities.

Whether you aspire to emulate the brilliance of Michael Jordan, grasp the strategic genius of Phil Jackson, or relive the heart-pounding championship games of yesteryears, these books offer an unparalleled opportunity to deepen your connection with the game.

As you embark on this literary journey, we hope you find inspiration, knowledge, and enjoyment in the pages that lie ahead. Remember that your support is invaluable to us, and using the affiliate links to purchase any of these books enables us to continue creating quality content without any additional cost to you.

So, let the magic of basketball’s history unfold before you, and may these books enrich your understanding and appreciation of one of the most beloved sports in the world. Happy reading!

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