Thursday, March 30, 2023

5 NBA books basketball fans must read

NBA fans are always looking to add to their knowledge about their favorite players and teams. They watch games, read articles, follow their favorite stars on social media, remain glued to the happenings in their lives and watch any new footage that emerges on them irrespective of the platform.

Another excellent way of learning about the game’s history and the rise of its individual superstars is by getting your hands on some of the best books that have been written about the NBA. There is a vast treasure of such books, written by some of the game’s finest journalists, fans and brilliant minds. These folks have not only traced the growth of the league, but who have also documented the story of the game’s greatest players like never before.

Here are five such recommendations that every NBA fan must add to his library to enhance his own learning of the game.

#1 For The Love of The Game: My Story by Michael Jordan

You would think that any book on Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest NBA player by most accounts, would be a thick, fat tome, which details every little episode that went into making him the NBA’s alpha star. But For The Love of The Game: My Story by Michael Jordan, and edited by Mark Vancil, chooses an alternative approach, telling MJ’s story through a coffee table book.

The book, which was first published in 1998, a few months after the Chicago Bulls won their sixth NBA title, uses incredible photographs, innovative design and minimal but effective text to detail Jordan’s journey to NBA superstardom.

The book is an expensive purchase, but it is certainly worth the investment for every Jordan fan, who wants to witness every triumph of this iconic superstar through a fabulously well-produced book.

#2 The Book of Basketball

A must-have book if you are an NBA fan, The Book of Basketball by legendary NBA fan Bill Simmons (now of The Ringer fame) looks at all the major milestones in the league and discusses its greatest players in terrific detail. What makes the book extremely riveting is Simmons’ voice. His tone is like a nerdy fan speaking about his favorite sport with great intensity, but Simmons also combines his passion with remarkable informality.

Such was the success of the book that not only did it climb to the numero uno spot on the New York Times’ best sellers list, but it also led to Simmons hosting a podcast called Book of Basketball 2.0 in 2019 where he examined how the NBA and his hall-of-fame pyramid had changed in the past decade since his book was first published in 2009.

#3 Showboat: The Life of Kobe Bryant

The late LA Lakers legend Kobe Bryant
The late LA Lakers legend Kobe Bryant

Although author Roland Lazenby has also written a great Jordan biography, Michael Jordan: The Life, his book on Kobe Bryant, Showboat, is possibly more appealing. Why? Because there is so much more about MJ in the public domain that it is hard to surprise Jordan’s biggest fans. But in Showboat, Lazenby puts forth so many nuggets about Bryant’s life that it is hard not to constantly applaud his research and writing.

As one critic wrote of the book, “He [Lazenby] is a clear fan of Kobe’s inarguable work ethic, but he allows readers to reinforce their love or hate for Kobe over the book’s 600+ pages.” Showboat, like Lazenby’s Jordan tome, has been translated into several languages outside English, a clear proof of the winning quality of the book.

#4 Basketball (And Other Things)

This is the most entertaining book by author Shea Serrano. First published in 2017, BAOT is an illustration-heavy book that looks at NBA history in a fun way. While there is sharp technical analysis of topics such as ‘What year was Michael Jordan the best version of Michael Jordan?’, there are also amusing chapters such as ‘How do players’ legacies change if we change their names?’ and ‘If you could dunk on any one person, who would it be?’

BAOT was on former US President Barack Obama’s list of best books for 2017. The success of the book spawned Serrano to write two more similar books, including Movies (And Other Things) and the soon-to-be-published Hip-Hop (And Other Things).

#5 Sprawlball

If you want to understand the current era of pace-and-space NBA, there is no better book than Kirk Goldesberry’s Sprawlball to help you make sense of it. Goldsberry, an analyst at ESPN, uses stunning infographics to explain the explosion of three-ball shooting that we see in the NBA today.

Goldsberry’s 2019 book explains the science behind modern-day NBA analytics: the importance of playing close to the basket, the increased importance given by the league, through a series of rule changes, to the three-point shot, and the importance of getting to the free-throw line. Again, this is a fairly technical book, but the language and infographics make it an interesting read.

Also read: 5 Must watch NBA documentaries from The Last Dance to The Dream Team


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