The Best Basketball Books for Middle and High Schoolers
According to a survey conducted by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) in 2019-2020, basketball ranked third in participation rates among high school boys, with over 540,000 participants, and second among high school girls, with over 430,000 participants.
Given its soaring popularity (and the fact that teenagers are tough to shop for), it's only fitting that we build a list of the best basketball books for teens.
Our goal with this list was to provide some different options, both fiction and non-fiction basketball books, that would cater to young teens as well as seniors in high school. This list has a mix of learning more about what makes the best athletes in the world tick to fictional tales to Teresa Weatherspoon actually teaching you the nuances of the game. If you're a parent or grandparent looking for a gift, you've come to the right place.
Whether you're here to learn, improve your game, or simply find something to do in your leisure time, we hope you find value in these nine recommendations.
We took a look at 3 main criteria:
1. These are all books that we really enjoyed (and frankly, need to be read).
2. We aimed to diversify the types of books (fiction vs. non-fiction) and the main characters (both girls and boys).
3. All of these books received strong peer reviews and and are age appropriate for young adult readers 13 years old and up.
The Top 9 Basketball Books For Young Adults
1. Rising Above
"Rising Above" by Gregory Zuckerman - While this non fiction sports book isn't 100% basketball, there are some excellent stories in here. Zuckerman chronicle the lives of eight individuals who succeeded against all odds in various fields such as sports, finance, and technology.
The book explores the common traits that these individuals share, including hard work, determination, and the ability to overcome setbacks and adversity. For example, Team USA goalkeeper Tim Howard was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome in 6th grade, while Stephen Curry was always told he was too small and weak to have a career in basketball. The book also tells the stories of people who are not as well-known, such as Dan Gilbert, who founded Quicken Loans and built it into one of the largest mortgage lenders in the United States.
2. The Final Four
"The Final Four" by Paul Volponi - Volponi taught incarcerated teens on Rikers Island to read and write for six years and writes a powerful story about four characters with very different backgrounds that come together to compete in the NCAA Final Four.
The four main characters are:
Malloy - a talented point guard who has worked his way up from the streets and dreams of using his success to help his family.
Roko - a Croatian forward who struggles with the pressure to perform while dealing with the aftermath of his war-torn homeland.
Crispin - a wealthy power forward who faces the challenge of living up to the expectations of his demanding father and coach.
J.J. - a talented but volatile shooting guard who must learn to control his emotions both on and off the court.
As the players compete in the Final Four, the book explores themes of teamwork, perseverance, and the pressures that come with being a college athlete. The story builds to a dramatic conclusion that will keep readers on the edge of their seats. A must read basketball book for middle school.
3. Ball boy
"Ball Boy" by Paul Shirley: Shirley writes a great fiction story about a boy that moves from Los Angeles to rural Kansas and discovers himself through basketball. This book evoked some nostalgia in me and is a great, coming of age tale.
Shirley previously penned Can I Keep My Jersey about his life as a journeyman playing professional basketball for 11 teams around the world in a four year period.
4. The Crossover
"The Crossover" by Kwame Alexander: For every twelve year-old that dreams of being a rapper and an athlete, this book is a terrific mix of both. Alexander tells the story of 12-year-old twin brothers, Josh and Jordan Bell, who are both talented basketball players.
The book is narrated by Josh, who tells the story of his relationship with his brother, his struggles with their changing family dynamics, and his love for the game of basketball. As the boys' basketball season heats up, tensions rise between them and they must learn to navigate their differences on and off the court.
Alexander recently released a second book in the series called Booked, and word on the street is that the books are being made into a mini-series for Disney+. If I had to choose a fiction best basketball book for a teen audience, I'd choose this one.
5. Basketball For Girls
"Basketball For Girls" by Teresa Weatherspoon: I may be dating myself with this book, as it's the only book on this list released before the year 2000 (1999). However, the content in this book is timeless. If you're a teenage girl and want to learn the game, there is a ton of great information, tips, and even instructional photos in this one.
Weatherspoon, a former WNBA player and current coach, shares her personal experiences as a basketball player and coach, as well as advice and insights on the fundamentals of the game. The book covers topics such as shooting, passing, dribbling, defense, and conditioning, and includes tips and drills to help readers improve their skills on the court. In a nutshell, the book was written to inspire and empower young female athletes and would be my top choice for girls that love basketball.
6. Shoot Your Shot
"Shoot Your Shot: A Sport-Inspired Guide To Living Your Best Life" by Vernon Brundage: Drawing on principles that several elite athletes used on their way to the top, this book is broken down into quarters so you feel like you're in a basketball game. The book contains several great motivational quotes and is a nice "playbook" for life for teens.
Brundage draws on his experiences as a former college basketball player and coach, as well as his work as a motivational speaker and consultant. He uses basketball as a metaphor for life and shares insights on topics such as goal-setting, leadership, teamwork, and perseverance.
Through stories and examples from his own life and from basketball greats such as Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James, Brundage offers practical advice and strategies to help readers develop a winning mindset and achieve their full potential.
7. This Was Never About Basketball
"This Was Never About Basketball" by Craig Leener: Leener writes a fantastic novel about a young man that has it all going for him: a basketball scholarship in hand and a bright future ahead. However, things then turn south when he loses his temper and gets expelled from school. The book takes a bit of a sci-fi turn when the boy discover that basketball is about to be taken away from the world for good and only he can save it. This book was included in our list of overall best sports books for teens and young adults, and the author himself has a great video (below) with more about what inspired him to write the book.
8. Nikki On The Line
This is a great book for young adult (ya) female readers. 13-year-old Nikki wants to play professional basketball and is selected to play on an elite club team. Nikki quickly realizes that she's a bit overmatched. Add in babysitting her younger brother, drama with her best friend, and more, and Nikki is forced to think about who she wants to become. A realistic look at how life can get complicated but shouldn't stop us from pursuing our dreams.
9. Boost by Kathy Mackel
This book is about 13-year-old Savvy and her older sister, who move to a new town and get involved in basketball and cheerleading respectively. Savvy has a deadly three-point shot but struggles to compete against bigger and stronger girls. How far will the girls go to fit in? A realistic and well-written book on the struggles teen face.
For more basketball books, including other awesome basketball books for young adults, check out our Recommendations page here.
For NBA basketball biographies for young adults and adults alike, check out our Best NBA Biography Books article.
In addition, if you're a teenager looking for recommendations about other sports, check out list of Top 5 Sports Books for Teens here.
Last, we have new articles on our blog weekly about a variety of sports and topics. You can visit the blog here.
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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