Your Guide to Basketball Books
In episode 3, we talked about our must-read basketball books. Here are mine:
The Breaks Of The Game by David Halberstam
Often imitated but never surpassed. Almost 35 years on and this detailed look into the workings of the Portland Trail Blazers remains THE must-read sports book.
Playing For Keeps: Michael Jordan And The World He Made by David Halberstam
Probably still the pinnacle of Jordan bios, although does get a little excessively flattering at times. An excellent bookend to Halberstam’s first basketball tome, it showcases just how far (and quickly) the NBA evolved.
07: Seconds or Less by Jack McCallum
Perhaps the modern-day equivalent of Breaks Of The Game, an incredibly detailed portrayal of the running and gunning Phoenix Suns and their unlikely superstar Steve Nash.
Unfinished Business: On and Off The Court With The 1990-91 Boston Celtics by Jack McCallum
McCallum’s first NBA book is an intriguing read on the Indian summer of the last great season for the Larry Bird-era Celtics. What might have been if not for Bird’s crippling back injury.
The Dream Team by Jack McCallum
The much-anticipated account of the USA’s all-conquering 1992 Olympic basketball team didn’t disappoint, providing in-depth profiles of all 12 players and great anecdotes of a moment when NBA basketball truly went global.
The Jordan Rules by Sam Smith
Explosive at the time it was released in 1992, it looks positively tame now. Smith utilised his contacts, particularly coach Phil Jackson and forward Horace Grant to great effect to give perhaps the first humanising account of Michael Jordan’s exploits.
When March Went Mad by Seth Davis
Superb read on the 1979 NCAA championship decider between Magic Johnson’s Michigan State Spartans and Larry Bird’s Indiana State Sycamores.
Season On The Brink by John Feinstein
Feinstein’s incredible access to Indiana and volcanic coach Bob Knight ensured a memorable book that showed how much Knight loved - and hurt - his players in the pursuit of an NCAA title.
The Last Great Game: Duke v Kentucky And The 2.1 Seconds That Changed Basketball by Gene Wojciechowski
Hugely underrated book that describes perfectly the epic 1992 East Regional final between the Blue Devils and the Wildcats that ended on Christian Laettner’s incredible shot.
Michael Jordan: The Life by Roland Lazenby
Grittier than Halberstam’s hagiographical account of Jordan, Lazenby shines a new light on the life and times of the NBA’s greatest player, at times disturbingly so.
The Franchise by Cameron Stauth
Good but not great look at the Detroit Pistons’ Bad Boys title teams, in particular the 1989 season. Some nice insights, definitely worth a read but also lapses with terminology and factual errors.
The Golden Boys by Cameron Stauth
In a similar vein to The Franchise, Stauth’s “unauthorised” account of the 1992 Dream Team is well worth your time, especially with the details uncovered in the selection process of the Olympic squad.
When Nothing Else Matters: Michael Jordan’s Last Comeback by Michael Leahy
When Jordan announced his return for the 2001-02 NBA season with - of all teams the Washington Wizards - the Washington Post assigned Michael Leahy to the Wizards beat. What eventuated was an outstanding look into the cocoon of the pro athlete by someone who didn’t care about access.
When The Game Was Ours by Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, with Jackie MacMullan
MacMullan does a superb job of blending the voices of Bird and Johnson throughout, with plenty of fresh insights and details of stories long since thought to have been told in every conceiveable way.
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