The Best Basketball Books

The best basketball booksBecoming a great basketball player (or great basketball coach or trainer) is about more than getting reps in the gym.  You need to have a desire and a drive to learn more, to develop personally, to be a leader.  One great way to do that is through reading.  This is a list of books that I have found to be the best books out there.  I divided the basketball books into four categories.


Basketball IQ, Strategy, and Development – These books are mostly about basketball or training and how you can be better.  Most of these books are written by trainers, players, or coaches that have earned the ability to teach this stuff.  I wouldn’t add something to the list if I thought it wasn’t worthwhile.  These are the books that will most directly impact your basketball training


Leadership and Talent Development – These books are NOT specific to basketball but more specific to how you can become a better leader and how you can develop your talents (basketball or others).  These books are critical to take you from good to great, from follower to leader, and also help you succeed outside of basketball.


Basketball players, coaches, seasons, and basketball history – think about these books more as learning basketball history.  These are biographies, stories, and history of basketball.  Entertaining stories that will help deepen your knowledge of the game but also are just fun to read.


Classic basketball knowledge & Coaching – I added a few books to the list that are tactical basketball coaching books.  These are the nuts and bolts of coaching a team and running a defense or offense.  As a coach these are amazing.  As a player you can become much more savvy and deepen your basketball IQ which will help you on your team, future teams, and help you understand what your opponents are trying to do.


I know some younger players are thinking… I don’t like to read … reading doesn’t have anything to do with basketball.  The truth is, you are wrong… and if you have that narrow minded thinking you need to think about changing it if you want to be a truly elite player and the leader of a team.  This is great stuff.  You will learn and improve if you get into these books.  Just don’t let reading these interfere with still getting your basketball training in!!!!  Here is the list:



Basketball IQ, Strategy, and Development


Toughness: Developing True Strength On and Off the Court – Jay Bilas

If you follow college basketball at all, you know Jay Bilas.  A great basketball mind (even if he uses the phrase “wing-span” too much!), he is super sharp, has a good wit and is a big Young Jeezy fan.  He played for Coach K in the early days of Coach K’s success. In this book, Bilas talks through some good stories and great advice on toughness from some of the biggest names in coaching and sports.



The Hoops Whisperer – Idan Ravin

In basketball over the last 15-20 years there is always a “hot” trainer.  Someone that gets in close with a few NBA all-stars and other players follow suit.  For a little while that guy was Idan Ravin.  I found Idan to be a super interesting guy that went from a lawyer to an NBA basketball trainer.  It was clear to me that Idan was in it for the love of the game and wasn’t trying to just get rich.  I have respect for Idan and I think this book shows his thoughtful approach to training which aligns with a lot of what I teach through The World of Hoops.


Relentless – From Good to Great to Unstoppable – Tim Grover

Tim Grover is the original basketball trainer in my eyes.  It might be because his first mainstream client was Michael Jordan, but he has stayed relevant and adjusted with the times… and is one of the best in the business.  This book gives you a glimpse of what it takes to be at the top and it gives you guidance on what you need to do to get there.  If reading this gets you excited then your future is bright, if it seems ridiculous than you might not be cut out for it.


Mind Gym – Gary Mack

Gary Mack is a sports psychologist.  His book gives you real advice that will let you practice some of the same mental techniques that professional athletes use to build your mental “muscles” so that you can achieve more as an athlete.


The Champion’s Mind – Jim Afremow

Mindset, mental strength, and the ability to stay mindful and focused are critical to being a great player.  Dr. Jim Afremow’s book here has fantastic tips for conditioning yourself mentally and striving for greatness and improving day by day.  A must read for anyone trying to take their game to the next level.


Basketball on Paper – Dean Oliver

I used to read Dean Oliver’s old school basketball website and was drawing up shot charts using his short hand for team’s I coached as well as just practicing doing it during NBA games.  Dean was on the forefront of brining advanced stats into basketball.  Dean clearly breaks down how to think about some advanced stats and he translates that into what is important on the basketball court.


Basketball Analytics – Christopher Baker & Stephen Shea

This is a fantastic book (and a great compliment to “Basketball on Paper” by Dean Oliver) that dives into advanced statistics and analytics.  He it helps you to understand what the most important indicators of success or winning are.  This is an important book for understand the future of where the game is heading.


Stuff Good Players Know – Dick Devenzio

Easy to read book for players.  This covers excellent concepts and smaller things that aren’t found in many other books (but are found at The World of Hoops!!!).  Dick Devenzio has other good books… this is one of his best though.


The Art of a Beautiful Game – Chris Ballard

For regular readers you will know I recommended this book for “road trip reading”.  I love the way Chris goes beyond any basketball article you would read and truly digs into topics that we all like to talk about… is there such a thing as a pure shooter, what is killer instinct, and more!


Basketball is Jazz – David Thorpe

David Thorpe has trained and coached a number of very successful players and has a great ability to point out subtle points of the game.  This book will help parents, coaches, and players gain a better understanding of the game and how to improve.


Leadership & Talent Development… Basketball and General


Leading with the Heart – Coach K

This was the first Coach K book I had ever read.  This is part about his life, part about coaching, and part about basketball.  There is a focus on building relationships and trust.  The importance of communication and commitment.


The Mindful Athlete – George Mumford

Most of you haven’t heard of George Mumford, but he has an amazing story.  He played basketball with Dr. J in college, struggled with injury, then with drug addiction.  Eventually he found meditation, got a master’s degree, and started helping inmates.  His life came full circle with basketball when eventually he started teaching Phil Jackson and Michael Jordan about mindfulness and leadership.


Extreme Ownership – Jocko Willink

Leadership lessons from an inspiring man.  I have listened to Jocko speak and met him personally for a ten minute one on one conversation.  He stresses humility, discipline, and teamwork.  There is much to be learned from this fantastic Navy SEAL leader.


Beyond Basketball – Coach K

Obviously, we at The World of Hoops are fans of Coach K with this being his 2nd book on our list.  While we don’t think Coach K is perfect, there is much to learn from him, and he has skill for breaking down leadership concepts so they are easy to understand.  This book is really filled with guidance and advice on developing players.  This is geared more for parents and coaches, but players should be able to get a lot of it as well.


Band of Brothers – Stephen Ambrose

A story of brotherhood and leadership centered around World War II.  If you don’t learn from this book how to be a better teammate and how to lead better, then re-read it or check your pulse.  This book puts a lot into perspective.  Reading this and watching the HBO series “Band of Brothers” should be required reading for everyone.


The Lone Survivor – Marcus Luttrell

Similar to Band of Brothers, this is a book centered around the military, the importance of teamwork, and what true leadership looks like.  A tremendous story that speaks to the resiliency and ability to overcome a tough situation.


The Talent Code – Daniel Coyle

I’m a sucker for books like Talent is Overrated and this book “The Talent Code” by Daniel Coyle.  One of the main principles of what we do at The World of Hoops is focused around deep or deliberate practice.  This is one of the best books which discusses that deep practice.  Daniel Coyle makes the case that with great coaching (like The World of Hoops!) and deep practice… the sky is the limit.


Talent is Overrated – Geoff Colvin

A great book on talent which tells the story of how talent itself might not be nearly as important as the right type of practice and development.  Geoff Colvin cuts across athletes, CEOs, musicians and more to tell the story of how important talent is and gives some clues for what you can do to develop.  This definitely can apply to basketball.


Emotional Intelligence – Daniel Goleman

This might seem like a strange book to have on the list.  But, being able to understand other people is super important for dealing with teammates and being the leader / captain of a team.  This might not be as fun to read as some of the other books, but will truly help you development if you put it’s lessons into practice.


Basketball players, coaches, seasons, and basketball history

The Jordan Rules – Sam Smith

Michael Jordan is the greatest player of all time.  However, no one will tell you he was a saint.  He was overly competitive, struggled with gambling, punched teammates, and argued with management.  This book gets into more detail than most of the Jordan books.  It has great stories and commentary from former teammates.


The Book of Basketball – Bill Simmons

Another book that we have talked about on WOH before in our “road trip reading”.  Bill Simmons has a different style than most of the authors on this list.  He writes like someone talks, he uses a lot of footnotes, and he is a pretty funny guy.  This book is a little dated for a few items now (like when he re-ranks the best players of all time… some adjustments are likely needed for Kobe, Lebron, etc..) Despite his more casual style there is a ton of fantastic basketball knowledge in this book along with some truly awesome stories.  Bill re-ranks the great seasons of all time, re-examines the MVP award each year, re-designs the hall of fame, and more.  One of my favorite parts is Bill’s write up on Allen Iverson.  A must read for any basketball junkie or gym rat.


The Breaks of the Game – David Halberstam

This book focuses around the 1979-1980 Portland Trailblazers (Bill Walton was on that team).  A very interesting story of basketball which extends beyond the game itself.  This book captured enough attention to make the New York Times bestseller list.


When the Game was Ours – Larry Bird & Magic Johnson

Almost everyone knows the story of Magic & Larry.  They faced off in college and were life long rivals on the court.  They are two of the top 10 greatest players of all time.  This book does a great job telling their story and taking you through a great decade of basketball.


The Miracle of St. Anthony – Adrian Wojnarowski

The Hurley family is one of the most recognizable families within the basketball world.   While his sons have had much success playing and coaching, the patriarch of the family, Bob Hurley, has been coaching St. Anthony high school for a long time.  Coach Hurley takes kids off the rough streets of New Jersey and turns them into high achieving young men earning basketball scholarships.  A great book by a talented Journalist and author.


A Season on the Brink – John Feinstein

This is one of Feinstein’s on this list.  This was a New York Times bestseller for 16 weeks.  This book follows the Indiana Hoosiers and Bobby Knight through a full season.  One of the best college basketball books of all time.


Pistol: The Life of Pete Maravich – Mark Kriegel

One of the most interesting players of all time.  Many don’t realize that Pistol Pete averaged 44 points per game at LSU, without a 3-point line.  This is the story of his life both basketball and beyond.  He was an amazing young player that was pushed very hard by his father.  He became a fantastic player whose game was closer to that of today’s players than it was to his own generation.


Heaven is a Playground – Rick Telander

I remember taking this book out from the Library when I was a kid.  I grew up in a rural area and this book lit up my brain learning about street ball in New York city.  This book is not just basketball focused, but also talks about the lives of the regulars that Rick Telander observed as he researched his book.


Life is Not an Accident – Jay Williams

I LOVED watching Jay Williams play at Duke in college.  He was just so explosive.  He could shoot it, he could guard when he wanted to, he could pass and handle it.  The guy could take over a game.  He also started out strong with the Bulls before getting in a bad motorcycle accident.  This book talks about his journey, the difficulties he had after the accident, and ultimately his road to recovery and his current success.  A great story of resiliency.  But Jay also touches on some of the darker sides of basketball along the way.


Sum it Up – Pat Summitt

She has more wins than any other college coach, male or female.  She started as head coach of Tennessee at just 21 YEARS OLD!  A true legend.  This is her story


07 Seconds or Less – Jack McCallum

The Warriors have been the most recent change to the way the game of basketball is played.  However, they owe a lot of what they do to Mike D’Antoni and Steve Nash who were the key players on the Suns revolutionary team that worked to get a shot off within 7 seconds of having the ball.  I loved watching those suns teams play.  If you want to understand the origins of the Warriors winningest team and the currently successful Houston Rockets, be sure to read this.


Sacred Hoops – Phil Jackson

Phil Jackson won eleven rings as a coach… arguably the most successful coach of all time.  He coached Jordan, Pippen, Shaq, and Kobe at their primes.  In this book he talks through his spiritual approach to basketball and how he used some of these strategies with his players.


Basketball and Philosophy – Gregory Bassham

This is more of an entertaining read that talks through what we can learn about life from basketball.  Lessons from coaches, players, and insights about how to think about the game


Wooden: A Coach’s Life – Seth Davis

John Wooden is a basketball legend.  This a biography rather than a basketball strategy or basketball coaching book.  Seth Davis does a good job of really telling the story of John Wooden.  He is often praised as one of the greatest coaches but there were bumps along the way.   There definitely is something to be learned here about what it takes to be successful.


The Legends Club – John Feinstein

A fantastic story of a super competitive rivalry in North Carolina between Coach K, Dean Smith, and Jimmy V (Jim Valvano).  This is a must read.


Loose Balls: The Short, Wild Life of the ABA – Terry Pluto

I almost didn’t add this book to the list but it is just such an entertaining piece of basketball history.  The red, white, and blue ball… Dr. J… competing leagues.  This is a fun book.


Classic basketball knowledge & Coaching

Basketball Methods – Pete Newell
This book is tough to get your hands on, but has a tremendous foundation of fundamentals that is useful for everyone to understand and learn.  Some of it is a little dated, but Pete Newell is a founding father.


Basketball According to Knight & Newell Volumes 1 & 2 – Knight & Newell

This is geared a little more toward coaccing, but it goes through the basketball philosophy of these two great basketball minds… it also delves into offensive and defensive strategies, practice planning and more


Coaching Basketball Successfully – Morgan Wootten

Morgan Wootten coached high school basketball through several decades and is one of the winningest coaches at any level.  This book is Wooten’s attempt at summarizing all of that in a book.  A must read for aspiring coaches or players looking to learn more about the game


Practical Modern Basketball – John Wooden

This book is a little older, but don’t let that turn you away.  There is a lot to learn here from one of the most iconic coaches of all time.  We need to make sure we learn from other generations.  The game changes over time, but many principles and philosophical items never change.


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About Joe Lucas

Joe Lucas is the founder of The World of Hoops. DSC_8916 He has 25 years of experience playing basketball, training basketball players, and coaching basketball. The World of Hoops provides intelligent and intense basketball training to take basketball players to the next level.