Sports Biographies to Read in 2023
I've always had a fascination with people, and namely, because they're not rationale. What what one person deems as important, another laughs at. It's the difference in human personalities that make the world go round. And thus, my fascination with biographies.
To write about another person is a tremendous skill. A biographer can't just retell stories; they're challenged to take the reader to the scene and make them feel what the subject felt. A story without any context or emotion is just that; another story.
The books below are all extremely well written, but their subjects are also uniquely interesting. If one were to describe the mindset of any of these individuals, the word "normal" would probably never be used.
It's with that, then, that you have the perfect combination: big-time writers writing about fascinating people.
Narrowing this down to just 5 books was challenging, but someone had to do it!
With that, we took a look at 3 main criteria:
1. These are all books that we really enjoyed.
2. While there are more basketball books on here, we tried to diversify the types of sports.
3. A great biographer really digs deep. In Open, for example, ghost writer J.R. Moehringer claimed he spent more than 250 hours talking to Andre Agassi.
The Top 5
"Open: An Autobiography" by Andre Agassi - "Open" is a memoir by retired American tennis player Andre Agassi, published in 2009. The book provides a candid and revealing look at Agassi's life, both on and off the court. In the book, Agassi discusses his difficult childhood, his rise to fame as a tennis player, and his struggles with various personal issues, including drug use and his rocky relationship with ex-wife, Brooke Shields.
Agassi also reflects on his numerous career accomplishments, including winning multiple Grand Slam titles and an Olympic gold medal, and his rivalry with other tennis greats such as Pete Sampras and Boris Becker. Throughout the book, Agassi provides insight into the intense physical and mental demands of professional tennis, as well as the challenges he faced in maintaining his motivation and passion for the sport.
"Wilt: Larger Than Life" by Robert Cherry - "Wilt" is a biography of basketball player Wilt Chamberlain, written by Robert Cherry and published in 2004. The book provides an in-depth look at Chamberlain's life and career, from his childhood in Philadelphia to his remarkable success as a basketball player.
Cherry explores Chamberlain's on-court accomplishments in great detail, including his record-breaking scoring performances and dominant play in the paint. He also delves into Chamberlain's relationships with other basketball players, coaches, and owners, as well as his experiences with racism and discrimination during his career.
In addition to his basketball career, Cherry also discusses Chamberlain's life outside of the sport, including his business ventures and relationships with women. Throughout the book, Cherry offers a nuanced and complex portrait of Chamberlain, highlighting both his strengths as a player and his flaws as a person.
"I May Be Wrong But I Doubt It" by Charles Barkley - "I May Be Wrong But I Doubt It" is a book written by American sports journalist and commentator Charles Barkley, with Michael Wilbon. The book, which was published in 2002, is a collection of essays and reflections by Barkley on a wide range of topics, including his own life, basketball, politics, race relations, and popular culture.
Throughout the book, Barkley offers his often controversial opinions on various issues, such as his thoughts on the role of professional athletes as role models, his views on the political landscape of the United States, and his personal experiences with racism.
Barkley also reflects on his own life and career as a basketball player, providing insights into his training and preparation, as well as his relationships with other players and coaches. He offers a candid and unfiltered look at his own successes and failures, and his frank discussions of his own flaws and mistakes have earned him praise for his honesty and self-awareness.
"Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times" by Thomas Hauser - "Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times" is a biography of legendary boxer Muhammad Ali, written by journalist Thomas Hauser and first published in 1991. The book provides a detailed and comprehensive look at Ali's life, both inside and outside the boxing ring.
The book covers Ali's early years in Louisville, Kentucky, his rise to fame as a young boxer, and his stunning upset of Sonny Liston to win the heavyweight championship. It also explores Ali's political and social activism, including his controversial decision to refuse induction into the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War and his later advocacy for racial justice and humanitarian causes.
In addition to providing a detailed account of Ali's career and public life, "Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times" also offers a personal glimpse into the man behind the public persona. Hauser draws on interviews with Ali's family, friends, and colleagues to provide insights into Ali's personality, his relationships, and his private struggles.
"Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike" by Phil Knight - "Shoe Dog" is a memoir by Phil Knight, the co-founder and former CEO of Nike, Inc. The book, which was published in 2016, chronicles Knight's journey in building Nike from a small startup to one of the world's most recognized and valuable brands.
In the book, Knight shares the story of how he and his college track coach, Bill Bowerman, founded Blue Ribbon Sports in the 1960s, selling running shoes out of the trunk of Knight's car. The book follows the company's evolution over the years, as it navigated financial struggles, legal challenges, and intense competition from other sportswear companies.
Throughout "Shoe Dog," Knight provides candid insights into his own personality, leadership style, and decision-making process, as well as his relationships with the people who helped build Nike into the global powerhouse it is today. He also reflects on the company's culture, its commitment to innovation and design, and its role in shaping the broader cultural landscape.
How Did We Do?
As always, we welcome your comments and feedback. Have a favorite book that deserves a spot on the list? Let us know!
John Willkom is the author of Amazon best-selling basketball books: Walk-On Warrior and No Fear In The Arena. John is an avid reader, sports fan, and father to two incredible little girls.
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