5 Delightful Books About Basketball

have a New Year’s resolution nearly every year to read a certain number of books.

There’s something comforting about curling up with a good tome, maybe while sipping on a vat of hot chocolate, perhaps while scratching a dog’s belly.

Then, as July starts, I realize I am very far behind in my goal, and I have to go into hyperspeed. Soon, I’m flipping through pages like I have to finish the book before my daughter gets taken, a la the movie Taken.

I don’t have a daughter, and I don’t have any affiliation with Liam Neeson’s enemies, so this is a far-fetched fear. Even so, it kicks me into gear.

If you also need a similar push to get some more reading done — or maybe you just enjoy a good book — here are five titles to check out. Note: There may be some affiliate links below where I’ll earn a small commission if you click the link and make a purchase. It’s no extra cost to you and helps support the site. Thanks for reading!

Basketball (and Other Things) by Shea Serrano

This is perhaps the silliest book I’ve ever read at all, let alone one about basketball. Then again, Shea Serrano is a silly man, so it makes sense.

Nevertheless, this book is full of questions that we probably don’t need the answers to, and each chapter features at least one glorious comic book-esque illustration from the very talented Arturo Torres.

For example, one chapter explores the most disrespectful dunks in NBA history. Another looks at how successful NBA players would be if their name were different. One of those entries is James Harden, who, in this hypothetical universe, is named John Harder, a man who becomes an action movie star. The next chapter is then a script of Harder’s successful movie, Death Hammer.

It’s ridiculous, quirky, and actually laugh-out-loud funny. And if you’re worried there might be TOO much basketball here, Shea has also written the books Movies (and Other Things) and Hip-Hop (and Other Things).

Boom Town by Sam Anderson

The full title of this book is incredibly long, but all you need to know is that it’s about the history of Oklahoma City.

Of course, a significant part of that history is the Oklahoma City Thunder, the only Oklahoma team in the four major professional sports.

The book weaves between the growth of Oklahoma City from a dusty ol’ bowl to a thriving neighborhood, detailing major events that feature quite a few memorable characters. And one recurring theme is how resilient this city is.

Oklahoma City was the site of the worst act of domestic terrorism in U.S. history. It’s also encountered multiple horrific tornadoes that have destroyed homes and uprooted families.

Still, the people of the city keep showing up, bound together by a loyalty to each other. It’s a highly informative and entertaining look at a city that probably doesn’t get as much credit as it should.

This Was Never About Basketball by Craig Leener

Though this book is set against a basketball backdrop, it’s really more of a coming-of-age tale about friendship, family, and finding your place in the world.

You’ve also got sci-fi elements featured throughout, offering a thrilling pace that’s inviting enough for anyone to get into, even if you don’t know the difference between a slam dunk and slam poetry.

I read this book on an airplane. Typically in such settings, I can manage a chapter or two, MAYBE three, before I grow weary and need to do something else, like attempt to sleep while the person in front of me reclines their chair so they are fully sitting in my lap, with no regard for my well-being or feeling in my legs.

But THIS book? It had me in its grip the whole time.

Dream Team by Jack McCallum

The full title of this book is Dream Team: How Michael, Magic, Larry, Charles, and the Greatest Team of All Time Conquered the World and Changed the Game of Basketball Forever. But that seemed kind of long for the header, so here we are.

I’m pretty sure I obtained this book during the O. Henry Pun-Off in Austin. There was a book sale that let you buy a canvas bag for $10 and then put as many books as you can fit into it fo’ free.

It’s perhaps the best deal I’ve ever come across.

As a result, this is one of the best basketball books I’ve ever come across. Jack McCallum is a long-time sports writer, and unlike many fans, he’s not in awe of any of the players he encounters.

That means he can dish out both praise and insults with the best of ’em, and he offers some very insightful looks at basketball in the late 80s and early 90s, providing behind-the-scenes glimpses and entertaining stories of likely the most talented group of players ever put together.

You’re the Basketball Ref: Mind-Boggling Questions to Test Your Basketball Knowledge by Wayne Stewart

Ask any basketball fan to name something they don’t like about the game, and they’ll probably bring up officiating (especially if it goes against their team).

Of course, what many of these people do not understand is that reffing a basketball game is hard.

There are so many weird things that can happen in basketball. Even if you know all the rules, it’s tough to be sure of exactly what the right call should be.

Unless you’re me, of course. I know everything.

This book from Wayne Stewart puts you behind the official’s whistle, offering up all kinds of different scenarios. If you find them overwhelming, just start reading from this book at your next family gathering. It sure beats a discussion around politics.

If you’d like to pick up a copy of any of these books while supporting local bookstores, you can find them all on my basketball list at Bookshop.

Every purchase from Bookshop donates money to a local bookstore (either one of your choosing or a collective fund), which is super cool.

Happy reading!

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