My Favorite Basketball Books

One question I get asked a ton is “What are some of your favorite books?” I chose to attack the question in two parts. This post offers my favorite basketball-specific books with another post later this month listing my favorite non-basketball ones. I attempted to break it down in different categories as well. Before getting into my extensive list, I wanted to offer my recommendation of Audible which allows you to listen to books on your smart phone or tablet (the 2x speed helps too).

Technical Basketball Books
“Winning Defense” by Del Harris (The best explanation of advanced NBA defensive concepts I’ve come across – he nails it with the “Weakside I” description)
“Runnin’ the Show: Basketball Leadership for Coaches and Players” by Dick DeVenzio (Good read for players and coaches by DeVenzio, the founder of Point Guard College. The “Pavlovian Basketball” concept is still one of my favorite things I’ve come across. Book might be slightly elementary I guess).
“Basketball’s Amoeba Defense” by Fran Webster (Webster, the father of the Amoeba Defense, nails it here. Run & Jump breakdown might be better than the Amoeba stuff)
“Pete Newell’s Defensive Basketball” (Newell’s a legend and this is terrific – his stuff on pressing off misses is intriguing if nothing else)
“Coaching Basketball’s Zone Offense” by Del Harris (Del Harris’ second entry on this list – you’ll understand zone offense better after reading this. I love the way Harris sees zone offense as a series of individual concepts rather than as grandiose play design. Read for no other reason than to learn the “Dribble Punch” concept. There’s a newer edition, but read the older one linked here. )
“Sliding Zone Defense for Winning Basketball” by John Egli (My favorite match-up zone. Egli, the head coach at Penn State from 1954-1968 breaks it down)
“Basketball: Multiple Offense and Defense” by Dean Smith (The more I learn about basketball, the more respect I have for Dean Smith)
“Attacking Zone Defenses” by John Kresse (The longtime College of Charleston head coach nails it)

“Shoot Like the Pros” by Adam Filippi (Best shooting book there is)
“Mastering the Art of Free Throw Shooting” by Adam Filippi (Another good one from Filippi)
“Pure Sweat Team Shooting Drills” by Drew Hanlen (There should be a copy in every basketball program – great stuff for only $40)
“Vanderbilt Basketball Shooting Guide” by Tom Richardson (FREE – not a book, but a terrific shooting tutorial from Richardson, who followed Kevin Stallings to Pitt)

General Basketball Books
“My Life on a Napkin” by Rick Majerus (My dad bought this for me when it was first published. Great read then as a fan, great read now as a coach)
“The Smart Take from the Strong” by Pete Carril (Not a really good reason why this isn’t sitting beside your desk)
“Toughness” by Jay Bilas (Yeah it’s a little corny/tacky but love Bilas’ idea to define the most commonly used buzzword in behavioral terms)
“The Carolina Way” by Dean Smith (Great read on the program Coach Smith built at Carolina)
“The Winner Within” by Pat Riley (So freaking good – just read it)
“How Lucky Can You Be: The Story of Don Meyer” by Buster Olney (Great read on a true legend)
“The Gold Standard: Building a World-Class Team” by Mike Krzyzewski (Coach K’s account of the 2008 “Redeem Team.” A great book to assign your players to read for a summer project)
“Dream Team” by Jack McCallum (Staying with the USA Basketball team, Dream Team has great insight into the players that made up the greatest team ever assembled)
“Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success” by Phil Jackson (terrific book on team-building, culture and coaching the highly-talented player)
“Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections” by John Wooden (There are many Wooden books out there, but this one is my personal favorite)
“Leading With the Heart” by Mike Krzyzewski (Another good read from one of the game’s greatest leaders – Go Army! Beat Navy!)
“When Nothing Else Matters: Michael Jordan’s Last Comeback Attempt” by Michael Leahy (Proably a bit too long, but it’s still my personal favorite read on the competitive psyche of Jordan)

“Basketball on Paper” by Dean Oliver (The unquestioned best introduction to advanced stats that there is)
“Chasing Perfection” by Andy Glockner (I really enjoyed this – good read on the use of analytics throughout the NBA)
“ScoreCasting” by L. Jon Wertheim (Different than the two books above, Wertheim’s book is a fun read that analyzes different aspects of statistics across the sporting landscape)
“Signal and the Noise” by Nate Silver (Not a sports book, but I wanted to include it in this section because if you’re interested in analytics, you’ll enjoy Silver’s take on the biases that cloud our analysis)

“Pistol: A Biography of Pete Maravich” by Mark Kriegel (Great read on one of the most polarizing players in basketball history)
“Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley and the Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s” by Jeff Pearlman (Pearlman nails it with this account of one of the greatest cast of characters ever assembled)
“Loose Balls: The Short, Wild Life of the ABA” by Terry Pluto (Incredible information on the zany characters that made up the ABA)
“Book of Basketball” by Bill Simmons (A 700-page tome more for the basketball nut than the coach)

A Season With…
“7 Second or Less” by Jack McCallum (A cool glimpse into D’Antoni’s 2005-06 Phoenix Suns squad)
“Fall River Dreams” by Bill Reynolds (The author spends a year embedded with the Durfee High School basketball team in the early 90’s. Reading the Herren stuff in 2017 feels eerie)
“The Miracle of St. Anthony” by Adrian Wojnarowski (Woj follows future Hall of Famer Bob Hurley through a season guiding his St. Anthony team to a state title)
“Last Amateurs: Playing for Glory and Honor in Division I College Basketball” by John Feinstein (Feinstein spent the 1999-2000 season traveling around the Patriot League. What came of it was this classic)
“The Breaks of the Game” by David Halberstam (Said to be an account of the middling 1979-80 Trail Blazers squad, Halberstam gives you so much more. Commonly referred to as best sports book ever and there’s enough in here on Jack Ramsay to get your coaching fix)
“A Season on the Brink” by John Feinstein (Chronicles the 1985-86 season that Feinstein spent following the Indiana Hoosiers. Some classic Knight tidbits in here)

If I’m missing any books that you think should be on here, email me at or send me something on Twitter.

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