13 Thrilling Books for Basketball Fans

By Kaitlyn Johnston
A collection of basketball-themed items, including books, a basketball, and a pair of sneakers, arranged on a wooden floor.

These rousing reads are an absolute slam dunk.

Calling all super fans, star players, aspiring athletes, and everyone in between. We assembled a veritable dream team of basketball books that anyone who loves the game is sure to enjoy. The celebrated narratives below include insightful sports biographies, brutally honest basketball memoirs, and enthralling courtside narratives. They’re sure to get your heart racing just like a winning shot at the buzzer.

A basketball player in a purple and gold jersey, with the number 32, is captured in mid-action as he goes for a shot. the background is a striking yellow with dynamic purple text that reads "magic," referencing the player's nickname. below, the title "the life of earvin 'magic' johnson" is prominently displayed, along with the author's name, roland lazenby.

Magic

By Roland Lazenby

Celebrated sports writer Roland Lazenby (author of Michael Jordan: The Life) delivers the definitive biography of NBA superstar Earvin “Magic” Johnson in Magic. A phenomenal athlete and a charismatic personality, Johnson not only brought success to his team, he elevated professional basketball and the NBA to dazzling new heights. But in 1991, at the peak of his popularity and prowess, Johnson shocked the world when he announced he was HIV-positive. Though his medical status was viewed as a scandal by the media and the public, Johnson channeled his experience into activism, becoming a leading advocate for sexual health and education. Through candid conversations with coaches, friends, and teammates, Lazenby creates in Magic a vibrant portrait of the basketball icon, chronicling Johnson’s rise, fall, and triumphant return.

Brothers on Three by Abe Streep

Brothers on Three

By Abe Streep

In this award-winning sports book, journalist Abe Streep tells the moving story of Will Mesteth, Jr. and Phillip Malatare, two starters on the Arlee Warriors who in 2017 led their varsity team to victory in Montana’s high school basketball state championship. The Warriors’ win electrified their hometown crowd on Montana’s Flathead Indian Reservation, and Will and Phil were celebrated as local heroes. They were still high school students, though, and in many ways, their defining achievement marked the beginning of the rest of their lives. Brothers on Three follows Will and Phil along with their teammates as they navigate the hopes and expectations of their community while making plans for the future. While Streep’s basketball narrative delivers plenty of rousing on-the-court action to delight sports fans, it’s also an unforgettable story of resilience, community, and hope.

Showtime: celebrating the iconic los angeles lakers dynasty of the 1980s with magic, kareem, and riley.

Showtime

By Jeff Pearlman

From New York Times bestselling sports writer Jeff Pearlman, Showtime chronicles the epic 1980s era of the Los Angeles Lakers. Coach Jack McKinney implemented his “Showtime” style — defined by fast, free-flowing gameplay — which took the league by storm and wowed fans from coast to coast. Stacked with all-star players who soon became celebrities in their own right, the Lakers were the team to watch, and their talent and appeal changed the nature of the game. Pulling from hundreds of interviews, Pearlman documents the Lakers dynasty — from the team’s championship highs to its scandalous lows — and the impact the players had on the NBA and American sports entertainment.

A basketball player in mid-air about to score, with the title "david halberstam the breaks of the game" and accolades for the book on the cover.

The Breaks of the Game

By David Halberstam

The Breaks of the Game by Pulitzer-winning journalist David Halberstam details the rough 1979–80 season of the Portland Trail Blazers. Led by future Hall of Famer Bill Walton, the Trail Blazers faced a grim losing record. Yet just three years ago, they had been NBA champions. What happened? Leveraging his in-depth understanding of basketball, Halberstam vividly documents the action and athleticism of the game — but this basketball book extends beyond the court as well, delving into the money, media madness, and brute physical demands of professional athletics.

The cover of the book "sum it up" by pat summitt with sally jenkins, featuring a portrait of pat summitt with a determined expression, highlighting her remarkable achievements and life story.

Sum It Up

By Pat Summitt

Legendary NCAA head coach Pat Summitt shares her story of record-breaking victories and personal strength in Sum It Up. While Summitt is known for her triumphant basketball coaching career, perhaps her greatest achievement was more personal. Diagnosed in 2011 with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, Summitt faced this new challenge with bravery and strength, committing herself to the season and leading her Tennessee Vols team to their 16th SEC championship. Summitt was an indelible role model to her athletes, a devoted mother to her children, and a fighter through and through. The story that she shares here is one of remarkable resilience.

A book cover for "the last shot: city streets, basketball dreams" by darcy frey, featuring an out-of-focus background of a basketball hoop with the silhouette of a basketball player in mid-jump, capturing the essence of urban basketball aspirations.

The Last Shot

By Darcy Frey

In The Last Shot, journalist Darcy Frey delivers an intimate portrait of city life and the grueling process of NCAA recruitment. Frey follows four young men in Coney Island, Brooklyn, as they strive to turn their playground pickup games into careers in basketball. With insight and compassion, Frey captures the hopes, dreams, and commitment of these young players as well as the harsh challenges they face, from inadequate schooling and home-life struggles to the brutal realities of college athletics. Poignant and moving, The Last Shot is a powerful piece of sports journalism.

A collage of basketball players in action, showcasing the dynamic and vibrant history of the sport, as promoted by the cover of the book 'basketball: a love story - the definitive oral history of the game' by jackie macmullan, rafe bartholomew, and dan klores.

Basketball: A Love Story

By Jackie MacMullan, Rafe Bartholomew, and Dan Klores

In this bestselling book about basketball, journalists Jackie MacMullan, Rafe Bartholomew, and Dan Klores break down the sport they love with a little help from their superstar friends. Told through conversations with legendary players from Magic and Kobe to LeBron, Steph Curry, and Jerry West, Basketball: A Love Story is the ultimate oral history of basketball and captures the passion, sacrifice, and triumph of the game. Across its pages, the authors reveal how this Canadian sport took America by storm, evolving beyond its beginning as a supposed “white man’s sport” to open doors for people of color and immigrants, and share the profound meaning basketball carries for fans who’ve fallen in love with it.

A vibrant book cover featuring a stylized basketball with the title "loose balls" emblazoned across it and the subtitle "the short, wild life of the american basketball association" by terry pluto, lauded as "the best sports book of the year" by usa today.

Loose Balls

By Terry Pluto

In Loose Balls, Terry Pluto chronicles the high-flying times of the American Basketball Association, the short-lived professional basketball league of the late 1960s and ’70s that redefined entertainment on the court. Indeed, the ABA introduced an array of fresh moves into professional basketball, from three-point shots and slam-dunk contests to the flashy showmanship that fans know and love. Drawing on interviews with the league’s most iconic players, Pluto guides us through the nine wildly entertaining seasons of the other professional basketball league. And while the red, white, and blue ball may not be making a return anytime soon, Loose Balls describes just how the ABA left its mark on the NBA.

A vintage-style book cover for "dust bowl girls" featuring a sepia-toned photo of four female basketball players from the past, embodying the sports history and the inspiring journey of a team that found glory through basketball during tough times.

Dust Bowl Girls

By Lydia Reeder

Dust Bowl Girls by Lydia Reeder tells the exhilarating story of Sam Babb and his talented team of female athletes who drummed up hope in the midst of the economic depression in 1930s America. A charismatic coach at the Oklahoma Presbyterian College in Durant, Oklahoma, Babb set out to recruit a squad of young women for his basketball team, offering them free college education as compensation. Sacrificing the comfort of home and facing backlash from those who opposed women playing sports, the ladies developed a passion for basketball right along with a winning record. A captivating read, Dust Bowl Girls is a basketball story of devotion, inspiration, and victory.

A hand reaching up to a basketball in motion, superimposed over the cover of "the book of basketball" by bill simmons, touted as a new york times bestseller with fresh takes on lebron, the nba, the celtics, and more.

The Book of Basketball

By Bill Simmons

Bill Simmons is a household name, and in The Book of Basketball, he delivers a comprehensive guide to all things NBA. From in-depth dissections of classic rivalries and the inner workings of the NBA Hall of Fame to Simmons’ own breakdown of basketball’s all-time greatest players, no topic is left untouched. Filled with laughs, stats, and plenty of opinions, The Book of Basketball is essential reading for any basketball fan.

A book cover titled "dream team" featuring illustrations of iconic basketball players in action, celebrating the legendary team that changed the game of basketball forever.

Dream Team

By Jack McCallum

A New York Times bestseller, Dream Team by sports journalist Jack McCallum delivers a courtside look at the 1992 U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team. From the controversial selection process to the gold medal ceremony, the Dream Team captivated sports fans all over the world. Dream Team draws on conversations with legendary athletes like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird and recounts the fabled intra-squad scrimmage between the Dream Teamers that lives on in basketball lore. With his up-close access as a Sports Illustrated writer and his behind-the-scenes insight into the players’ off-court moments, McCallum delivers “the absolute definitive work” (The Boston Globe) on this legendary era.

A man in a suit and tie stands confidently with his arms crossed, possibly observing a sports game, on the cover of an autobiography titled "i came as a shadow.

I Came as a Shadow

By John Thompson

From acclaimed Georgetown University basketball coach John Thompson comes I Came as a Shadow, a basketball book that is much more than a sports autobiography. The first Black NCAA head coach to take home a championship title, Thompson has spent more than 30 years at the intersection of race relations and sports in America. In I Came as a Shadow, he shares his experiences growing up under Jim Crow segregation, coaching star athletes, and ultimately making history. While sports fans are sure to love Thompson’s basketball stories, this book is for readers across the board. Kirkus calls it “a readable sports memoir; more importantly, a strong contribution to the ongoing discussion on race and racism.”

A vibrant, illustrated book cover for "basketball (and other things)" featuring colorful cartoon characters playing basketball, with a backdrop of a basketball court and urban environment, showcasing the dynamic energy of the game and hinting at a playful take on the sport.

Basketball (and Other Things)

By Shea Serrano

Basketball’s greatest — and most ridiculous — questions are presented, answered, and argued in Shea Serrano’s Basketball (and Other Things), with illustrations by Arturo Torres. Whether he’s breaking down which games were the most consequential to the league or seriously debating who belongs in the “Disrespectful Dunk Hall of Fame,” Serrano tackles each question with an informed perspective and razor-sharp wit. A #1 New York Times bestseller, Basketball (and Other Things) is jam-packed with endlessly entertaining sports talk.

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