The best NBA books

Many authors have picked their favorite books about the NBA and why they recommend each book.

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When the Game Was Ours

By Larry Bird, Earvin Magic Johnson, Jackie Macmullan

Book cover of When the Game Was Ours

This is the behind-the-scenes account of the most-watched NCAA Final in television history, and the epic Celtic-Laker clashes of the 1980s. MacMullan had ultimate access and knows the game. In this work, she captures the voices of Magic and Larry throughout giving the reader primary source history on a golden time in the NBA. 

When the Game Was Ours

By Larry Bird, Earvin Magic Johnson, Jackie Macmullan

Why should I read it?

1 author picked When the Game Was Ours as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the moment these two legendary players took the court on opposing sides, they engaged in a fierce physical and psychological battle. In Celtic green was Larry Bird, the hick from French Lick with laser-beam focus, relentless determination, and a deadly jump shot, a player who demanded excellence from everyone around him. Magic Johnson was Mr. Showtime, a magnetic personality with all the right moves. Young, indomitable, he was a pied piper in purple and gold.

Their uncommonly competitive relationship came to symbolize the most thrilling rivalry in the NBA—East vs. West, physical vs. finesse, old school vs. Showtime, even…


Who am I?

I have been privileged to cover sports for the Boston Globe for the last 40-plus years. It is the best place in the country to do what I do. New England has tradition, smart readers, historic teams, and a great deal of success, especially in this century. As an author of 14 books, it's nice to bring some sports to the conversation on this site.

I wrote...

Wish It Lasted Forever: Life with the Larry Bird Celtics

By Dan Shaughnessy,

Book cover of Wish It Lasted Forever: Life with the Larry Bird Celtics

What is my book about?

Today the NBA is a vast global franchise—a billion-dollar industry viewed by millions of fans in the United States and abroad. But it wasn’t always this successful. Before primetime ESPN coverage, lucrative branding deals like Air Jordans, and $40 million annual player salaries, there was the NBA of the 1970s and 1980s—when basketball was still an up-and-coming sport featuring old school beat reporters and players wore Converse All-Stars.

Shaughnessy takes us inside the legendary Larry Bird-led Celtics teams, capturing the camaraderie as they rose to dominate the NBA. Fans can witness the cockiness of Larry Bird; the ageless athleticism of Robert Parish; the shooting skills of Kevin McHale; the fierce, self-sacrificing play of Bill Walton; and the playful humor of players like Danny Ainge, Cedric “Cornbread” Maxwell, and M.L. Carr.

The Miracle of St. Anthony

By Adrian Wojnarowski,

Book cover of The Miracle of St. Anthony: A Season with Coach Bob Hurley and Basketball's Most Improbable Dynasty

Jersey City hoops this time, but Wojnarowski’s book details the dedication of Bob Hurley (father of Duke star and NBA player Bobby Hurley) who is the head coach at a small Catholic school in Jersey City. Under his leadership, this tiny school wins championship after championship. For Hurley, the championships are a sidebar. His focus is on the players as human beings. He knows them--where they came from, where they are, where they could be headed--good and bad. Tough love at its best. A remarkable book about a remarkable man. The flip side of The Last Shot.

The Miracle of St. Anthony

By Adrian Wojnarowski,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Miracle of St. Anthony as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In a city mired in endless decay, where the youth suffer through all the horrors of urban blight, hope comes in a most unassuming form: a tiny brick schoolhouse run by two Felician nuns where a singular basketball genius takes teenagers from the mean streets of Jersey City and turns them into champions on the hardcourt. Coach Bob Hurley had been working miracles at St. Anthony High School for over thirty years, winning state and national championships and offering his players rescue from their surroundings through college scholarships, when he met his most dysfunctional team yet. In The Miracle of…


Who am I?

For 20 years, I tried to write politically relevant, “important” novels. I teach. One day I told my students that to succeed as a writer, they needed to write about things they knew and loved. Honesty was the key. That night, I resumed work on a novel set in Prague involving Cold War intrigue, capitalism, communism, and some other "isms" I’ve forgotten. I wrote a paragraph and then stopped. My advice was good. Write about things you know and love. So why not follow it myself? What section of the newspaper did I read first? The sports page. Did I live and die with my favorite sports teams? Yes. I put my hopeless Prague novel aside and started On the Devil’s Court. For better or worse, a sportswriter is who I am.


I wrote...

Golden Arm

By Carl Deuker,

Book cover of Golden Arm

What is my book about?

High school baseball pitcher Laz Weathers has a golden arm. He just needs a major league scout to see it. But when you live in a trailer home and go to a struggling school with a lousy athletic program, how do you do that? Laz’s big break comes when the local high school baseball powerhouse gives him the opportunity to escape his dead-end by moving in with one of their families and thus becoming eligible to join their high-profile team. Great coaching. Scouts at every game. State title is a distinct possibility.

But escape also means leaving home, family, friends, obligations. Is the shiny future worth it if you have to close the door to your past?

The Breaks of the Game

By David Halberstam,

Book cover of The Breaks of the Game

David Halberstam's classic, a chronicle of the Portland Trailblazers during the 1979-80 season. Three years removed from a stunning run to the NBA title, and with their mercurial superstar, Bill Walton, injured and then traded, the Blazers scuffled through the long slog of the season, trying in vain to recapture old glory. The book isn't just a chronicle of a team of interesting characters, though. It's an unflinching look at the cold financial calculus of professional sports and what it means when athletes know that they are, in the end, high-priced and expendable commodities. The book also captures the NBA at a critical inflection point in its history. It became a predominantly black league in the 1970s and its popularity declined to the point that the finals were televised on tape delay. Halberstam, the players and management are acutely aware of the tightrope the sport was compelled to walk as…

The Breaks of the Game

By David Halberstam,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Breaks of the Game as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A New York Times bestseller, David Halberstam's The Breaks of the Game focuses on one grim season (1979-80) in the life of the Bill Walton-led Portland Trail Blazers, a team that only three years before had been NBA champions.
More than six years after his death David Halberstam remains one of this country's most respected journalists and revered authorities on American life and history in the years since WWII. A Pulitzer Prize-winner for his groundbreaking reporting on the Vietnam War, Halberstam wrote more than 20 books, almost all of them bestsellers. His work has stood the test of time and…


Who am I?

I am a professor of Global Studies at UNC Chapel Hill and I have written about the intersection of sports, media, and politics for many years. I am also the co-host of a podcast, Agony of Defeat, with Matt Andrews, that explores the connections between sports, politics, and history. Basketball is an especially rich topic for mining these intersections. And I’m also a lifelong sports fan.


I wrote...

Prius or Pickup?: How the Answers to Four Simple Questions Explain America's Great Divide

By Marc Hetherington, Jonathan Weiler,

Book cover of Prius or Pickup?: How the Answers to Four Simple Questions Explain America's Great Divide

What is my book about?

Two award-winning political scientists provide the psychological key to America’s deadlocked politics, showing that we are divided not by ideologies but something deeper: personality differences that appear in everything from politics to parenting to the workplace to TV preferences, and which would be innocuous if only we could decouple them from our noxious political debate. Drawing on groundbreaking original research, Prius or Pickup? is an incisive, illuminating study of the fracturing of the American mind.

Book cover of A Sense of Where You Are: Bill Bradley at Princeton

Bill Bradley was as far from a typical college and NBA superstar as can possibly be imagined. He was 6’5” but could barely dunk. In a race between the tortoise and the hare, he would be the tortoise. Yet, with an uncanny set of shooting, passing, and rebounding skills, he became the nation’s top high school prospect, with more than 70 colleges, including every powerhouse in the sport, offering him a scholarship. Instead, he chose to play at lowly Princeton, in one of the game’s weakest conferences—the Ivy League—where he averaged more than 30 points a game over the course of his career, becoming a two-time first-team All-American and, in his senior season, national player of the year, leading the Tigers to the 1965 NCAA tournament’s Final Four, in which he scored an unheard of 58 points against Wichita State and was named the tournament’s MVP—the only player to this…

A Sense of Where You Are

By John McPhee,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Sense of Where You Are as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The first book from the legendary New Yorker writer John McPhee, tells about Bill Bradley when he was the best basketball player Princeton had ever seen.

When John McPhee met Bill Bradley, both were at the beginning of their careers. In A Sense of Where You Are,
McPhee delineates for the reader the training and techniques that made Bradley the extraordinary athlete he was, and this part of the book is a blueprint of superlative basketball. But athletic prowess alone would not explain Bradley's magnetism, which is in the quality of the man himself—his self-discipline, his rationality, and his sense…


Who am I?

I’m a narrative nonfiction writer whose subjects range from politics to professional football, from racial conflict to environmental destruction, from inner-city public education to social justice to spinal cord injury. The settings for my books range from the Galapagos Islands to the swamps of rural Florida, to Arctic Alaska. I typically live with and among my subjects for months at a time, portraying their lives in an intimately personal way.


I wrote...

Eagle Blue: A Team, a Tribe, and a High School Basketball Season in Arctic Alaska

By Michael D'Orso,

Book cover of Eagle Blue: A Team, a Tribe, and a High School Basketball Season in Arctic Alaska

What is my book about?

In October of 2004, I flew from my home in Norfolk, Virginia, to the tiny Arctic village of Fort Yukon, Alaska, where I rented a small cabin and spent the next six months climbing into the day-to-day lives of the community’s indigenous Native population while shadowing the village’s boys high school basketball team through the course of an entire season as they, their families, and their neighbors faced a myriad of challenges (poverty, inadequate schooling, alcoholism, suicide, teen pregnancy, and the loss of their traditional culture) while clinging to the one thing that gives their community hope and pulls together most of the state’s 200 “bush” villages: the game of basketball.

Russell Rules

By Bill Russell, David Falkner,

Book cover of Russell Rules: 11 Lessons on Leadership From the Twentieth Century's Greatest Winner

A great book about leadership and business. I pick it because it’s on the reading list suggested in The Art of Profitability. I learned that focus is important. Bill Russell was one of the greatest basketball players of all time because he worked harder and played smarter than everyone else. However, he also recognized that he doesn’t play every position. He needs to have a great team, one that adapts to the competition. He needs them all to play at his level and he was able to do that, winning the NBA Finals a record-breaking 11 seasons. One way to build a successful side hustle (or portfolio of side hustles) is to recruit a great team to help you.

Russell Rules

By Bill Russell, David Falkner,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Russell Rules as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Bill Russell epitomizes innovation, teamwork, and leadership. Now the winner of 11 championships as a player and coach of the Boston Celtics and five-time NBA Most Valuable Player reveals the 11 essential steps to attaining success in your professional and personal life.

In this invaluable book, Bill Russell shares the insights, memories, and most important, the essential “rules of success” that influenced him in every aspect of his life, from raising a daughter as a single father to becoming a successful coach and mentor to others. Filled with personal and professional stories of his days playing with Celtic greats Bob…


Who am I?

I studied economics and environmental policy but landed in entrepreneurship. I wrote The Parallel Entrepreneur after I sold my first company and continued to work on Rbucks, my blog, after I joined the next company. Outside of work I volunteer frequently in my community. I’m an Associate Professor in the Business Department at Diablo Valley College, where I teach marketing and sit on the advisory boards for both the Business and Computer Science departments. I also lead the Diablo Valley Tech Initiative (DVTI), an economic development organization incubated at DVC. Related to DVTI, I run Lamorinda Entrepreneurs, a community group that promotes and supports local entrepreneurship. I have a Master’s in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School and a MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management.


I wrote...

The Parallel Entrepreneur: How to start and run B2B businesses while keeping your day job

By Ryan Buckley,

Book cover of The Parallel Entrepreneur: How to start and run B2B businesses while keeping your day job

What is my book about?

Building a product on the internet is relatively easy these days. It's the making money part that's hard. I wrote this book to help you become a parallel entrepreneur faster than I did, and to encourage you to do so while you have the safety net of a day job.

I've divided this book into two parts: Theory and Tactics. The Theory section will cover all sides of parallel entrepreneurship and lean on both my experiences and those of others who have also ventured into parallel entrepreneurship. The Tactics section covers everything you need to know in order to plan, build, and run a business on the internet -- all while keeping your day job.

Power Forward

By Hena Khan,

Book cover of Power Forward

Zayd is a couple of years younger (4th grade) than the main characters of my other book picks, but again, he is a boy seeking fame and glory through sports. In particular, I enjoy his voice and learning about the Pakastani (Muslim) culture of his interesting family. The frustrating pull between basketball and playing the violin sets up several intriguing situations. This is a fun story that turns out to be the first book in a series of four.

Power Forward

By Hena Khan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Power Forward as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the critically acclaimed author of Amina's Voice comes the first book in an exciting new middle grade series about a fourth-grader with big dreams of basketball stardom.

Fourth grader Zayd Saleem has some serious hoop dreams. He's not just going to be a professional basketball player. He's going to be a star. A legend. The first Pakistani-American kid to make it to the NBA. He knows this deep in his soul. It's his destiny. There are only a few small things in his way.

For starters, Zayd's only on the D-team. (D stands for developmental, but to Zayd it's…


Who am I?

I’ve always been a fan of stories where the underdog makes good due to their own strength and determination. Although my book picks are all connected to sports I don’t happen to participate in, I feel the power of choosing the life you want by working hard encompasses all fields whether it be learning to sing or dance or becoming an expert in science, chess, juggling, or whatever one’s passion might be. For me, I guess it would be writing and not giving up even when it sometimes feels like playing the lottery each time one of my manuscripts is sent into cyberspace.


I wrote...

Roller Boy

By Marcia Strykowski,

Book cover of Roller Boy

What is my book about?

After his baseball dreams fall through, Mateo’s mood sinks low. What can he be good at? What will take him from that skinny little kid with the big hair to someone who matters? Mateo struggles to find his true purpose while dodging bullies, avoiding gluten, and falling for Roller City’s star skater. In doing so, he discovers he’s a pretty good skater himself. But still, roller-skating? What if his buddies find out he’s whirling around in girly skates? Anybody halfway to cool would be hanging at a skate park, on boards or blades.

Mateo keeps his sense of humor and channels his innermost strength into an incredible ride on roller skates that just might take him all the way to regionals.

Boom Town

By Sam Anderson,

Book cover of Boom Town: The Fantastical Saga of Oklahoma City, Its Chaotic Founding... Its Purloined Basketball Team, and the Dream of Becoming a World-class Metropolis

Reading stories of history long past is one thing, but it’s another to see our own history. I grew up after the big oil bust of the ‘80s and the renaissance afterward, which Anderson juxtaposes with the wild days of early Oklahoma City. It’s hard to believe you can get gunfights and NBA playoffs all in one place, but Boom Town, and Oklahoma City, show just how to do that.

Boom Town

By Sam Anderson,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Boom Town as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A brilliant, kaleidoscopic narrative of Oklahoma City—a great American story of civics, basketball, and destiny, from award-winning journalist Sam Anderson

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New York Times Book Review • NPR • Chicago Tribune • San Francisco Chronicle • The Economist • Deadspin

Oklahoma City was born from chaos. It was founded in a bizarre but momentous “Land Run” in 1889, when thousands of people lined up along the borders of Oklahoma Territory and rushed in at noon to stake their claims. Since then, it has been a city torn between the wild…


Who am I?

I grew up on my family’s land run farm north of Enid before coming to the OKC metro for school, giving me a view of the quiet rural spaces and the hopping city life Oklahoma pushes for today and more! 


I wrote...

Secret Oklahoma City: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure

By Jeff Provine,

Book cover of Secret Oklahoma City: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure

What is my book about?

Oklahoma City was called “A City Born Grown” after it went from a population of a handful at Oklahoma Depot to over 10,000 on its first day. Nobody seems to mention how the streets were laid crooked and took 80 years to fix by tearing up half of downtown and that two rival city governments aimed guns at one another until the Supreme Court sorted out who was in charge. And that was only its first six months!

Secret Oklahoma City: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure shares the places and stories that you won’t hear in History class, though you probably should! Find out what a giant milk bottle is doing on top of an old grocery store off 23rd.

Go Up for Glory

By Bill Russell, William Mcsweeny,

Book cover of Go Up for Glory

An 11-time NBA champion, Bill Russell revealed the insecurity of being a super tall, lanky, Black man that can’t avoid notice. He wrote honestly about racism and civil rights in America. He mentioned great Celtics players and described the NBA’s early days. His description of the physical demands of traveling and playing so many games made me realize his job was hard work. Read it just to find the passage where Russel describes—better than any writer ever has—that rare, amazing feeling you get when teammates are in sync, everything is clicking, and a team plays at its peak.

Go Up for Glory

By Bill Russell, William Mcsweeny,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Go Up for Glory as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Back in print for the first time in decades, Go Up for Glory is the classic 1968 basketball memoir by NBA legend Bill Russell, with a new foreword from the author.

From NBA legend Bill Russell, Go Up for Glory is a basketball memoir that transcends time. First published in 1965, this narrative traces Russell's childhood in segregated America and details the challenges he faced as a Black man, even when he was a celebrated NBA star. And while some progress has been made, this book serves as an urgent reminder of how far we still have to go in…


Who am I?

I’m a storyteller and jack of all trades who grew up on a family farm in Indiana. I can operate a combine, analyze data, or edit a book. Writing about sports can create great stories, but the true beauty lies in the people and circumstances, not the stats and game highlights. Most of my works are nonfiction—personal interest, sports, history, and sports history. I enjoy unearthing untold stories, especially when they involve equal rights, underdogs, hidden history, and non-famous people. Everyone has a story to tell.


I wrote...

Season of Upsets: Farm boys, city kids, Hoosier basketball and the dawn of the 1950s

By Matthew A. Werner,

Book cover of Season of Upsets: Farm boys, city kids, Hoosier basketball and the dawn of the 1950s

What is my book about?

This is the incredible true story of the 1950 Indiana high school basketball season. The circumstances of that one season captured the essence of Hoosier hysteria in all its glory. But this is more than a sports story. The students were born into the Great Depression and grew up in the shadow of World War II. The coaches were veterans of war. A fire destroyed a school, but not its spirit. A coal strike threatened everything. There were hard times and happy memories. In the end, everyone shared one common love: basketball.

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