bookmark_borderMy 5 (or rather 6) best NBA books so far

So far I have talked about ten NBA books in this blog. Therefore, I think it was a good idea to have a small interim conclusion and list my 5 best NBA books so far (it became 6 in the end, because I could not decide). It was not easy at all to make such a ranking. Among the books I’ve read so far, there was not one that I thought was bad. Nevertheless, I liked some of them better than others. So here we go.

1. The Breaks of the Game (David Halberstam)

The Breaks of the Game was the first book I wrote about on this blog, and it comes in at #1 here as well. Bill Simmons, who is at #2 here, agrees with me by the way. He calls David Halberstam’s book the best basketball book ever.

Since I am very interested in the history of the NBA, I particularly liked this book. On the surface, it is primarily about the 1979-80 season of the Portland Trail Blazers, but overall it is about much more. Halberstam also describes the history of the Blazers franchise and that of the NBA as a whole.

In particular, the strained relationship between the Blazers and their former superstar Bill Walton is talked about in detail, even if that happened before that season. But as I said, it’s about much more than a single season.

2. The Book of Basketball (Bill Simmons)

As mentioned above, Bill Simmons comes in at #2 with his The Book of Basketball. It’s something of a bible among NBA books and doesn’t cover a specific topic, but covers the NBA itself.

What I particularly liked was Simmons’ ranking of what he considers to be the best players of all time. It has to be noted that the book was published in 2010, so this ranking is not up to date. But it was still very interesting to learn more about the best of the best.

Bill Simmons’ humor also comes across very well here. Those who know his podcasts will find the same humor here. I would not recommend the book to those who have problems with footnotes, though. There are a lot of them here.

3 Playing for Keeps (David Halberstam)

David Halberstam doesn’t just rank at number 1 here, but also at number 3, which already shows that the author has convinced me a lot.

Playing for Keeps is a biography about the arguably best player of all time: Michael Jordan. The book is especially interesting because it does not only list the known steps of Michael Jordan’s career. It also deals with the time before the NBA, i.e. how a young kid from North Carolina became the best basketball player in the world. The early days in the NBA, before all the titles and accomplishments, are also covered in detail.

The book is also a good addition to the documentary The Last Dance. Many of the same topics are covered, but from a different angle. Halberstam writes just as well here as he did in The Breaks of the Game.

4. The Soul of Basketball (Ian Thomsen)

While it’s a personal ranking and therefore not objective, #4 is perhaps the least objective. As a big fan of Dirk Nowitzki, what I found most appealing about The Soul of Basketball was that it centers around the 2010-2011 season. In that season, Dirk and his Mavericks finally won the long-awaited title.

But also otherwise the book is very exciting and it is by far not only about the Dallas Mavericks. The Miami Heat and LeBron James, the San Antonio Spurs and the Boston Celtics also play a prominent role. In addition, the role of the NBA’s referees is examined in more detail. The book was also good because many NBA legends had their say, including Larry Bird, Isiah Thomas and Pat Riley. Ian Thomsen has a very good writing style and also is good for a laugh every now and then.

5a. Life on the Run (Bill Bradley)

Life on the Run was interesting mainly because it was written by an active player (at the time). Bill Bradley describes the course of a season with the New York Knicks.

The contrast between the 1970s and today is particularly interesting. The team flew to away games on normal scheduled flights and everything else was less luxurious. What Bradley describes here is not simply basketball itself, but team life and the life of a NBA athlete outside of basketball.

Bradley also tells the stories of his teammates. This is very interesting to learn more about the Knicks of the 70s. The 70’s is a somewhat forgotten and in my opinion underrated decade as far as basketball goes. This book helps to learn more about the era after Russell and Wilt, but before Magic and Bird.

5b. Seven Seconds or Less (Jack McCallum)

Since I couldn’t really make up my mind, there are two 5th place finishes in this ranking of the (so far) best NBA books. The other one is Jack McCallum’s book Seven Seconds or Less. If you were watching NBA at the time, you’ll probably know what this title is about. It’s about the Phoenix Suns of the Nash, Stoudemire, D’Antoni and Marion era.

McCallum covered the Suns for the entire 2005-06 season for this book, and while Life on the Run takes a look at the inner workings of an NBA team in the ’70s, Seven Seconds or Less primarily highlights the inner workings of a coaching staff in the more modern NBA. McCallum spent a lot of time with the coaching staff of Mike D’Antoni and Alvin Gentry.

The book is very nicely and interestingly written and is not just about obvious things that everyone knows about. You also get to know the characters of the individual players and coaches better.