The Best NBA Biography Books to Read in 2023
The truly great biographers dig deep, often times interviewing 100+ people to get to the root of why people are who they are. For a lot of NBA players, they choose to write autobiographies, spending countless hours with a ghost-writer, who helps them articulate their story and why it should matter to people.
The eight books below are all tremendous because of how unique they are. Sure, we could've chosen biographies on Jordan, LeBron, or Steph Curry and called it a day, but we've previously written about all three, and one of the goals of this blog is to get at less recognized gems.
We can learn a lot from other people, but only when they reveal who they really are. It's ok to be different. In fact, in a lot of cases, the books below hold our interest because the personalities of the subjects.
I hope you enjoy the list. All of the players below had or are having a tremendous impact in the NBA, both on and off the court. If you're a basketball fan, I think you'll really enjoy these reads.
Most importantly, I hope you appreciate how different people can be, while still attracting the admiration of others. All of these guys did it their own way on their journey to NBA stardom. Be yourself. Be real. Achieve Success.
Giannis by Mirin Fader
From the most humble beginnings in Greece, Fader does a phenomenal job painting the picture of who Giannis was before we all knew him as a basketball player. Born to a former Nigerian soccer player, Giannis had physical gifts from a young age but was so incredibly uncoordinated that his potential as an athlete (much less a professional athlete) looked to have a pretty low ceiling. His meteoric rise redefines what it means to be humble and believe when nobody else does.
Fader talks about more about the "why" behind the book below.
Game by Grant Hill
When you talk to people about Grant Hill, the first word you always hear is "class." What happens when nice guys struggle? Hill opens up in his new autobiography about his time at Duke, in the NBA, meeting his wife, and overcoming obstacles. Some say Hill could've been a top 10 player of all time had injuries not slowed him down. Hill's ability to re-construct his life after basketball speaks to who he is.
Barkley by Timothy Bella
Barkley is a bit of an enigma: a guy that you hated to play against as a player, but someone who softened with age to become an extremely likable broadcaster. Previously known as the "Round Mound of Rebound," Barkley's ability to dominate games despite not having a prototypical body speaks to his incredible competitive spirit. This book also made our list of Best New Releases for 2023. You can see the whole list here.
The Great Nowitzki by Thomas Pletzinger
Literally, just released, Dirk played the game a unique way and allowed his quirky personality to shine off the court as well. While not the first great European to come to the NBA, Dirk may be the most recognizable, both for his one-legged jump shots and what he meant to the city of Dallas.
In The Blink Of An Eye by Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf
Abdul-Rauf had an incredible career but what sets this book is apart is the principles that he chose to stand for. Long before Colin Kaepenerick in football, Abdul-Rauf tells a powerful story that goes way beyond basketball. Ironically, the book's publisher is Kaepernick Publishing, run by....you guessed it, Colin Kaepernick.
The Last Enforcer by Charles Oakley
Hard nosed. Gritty. Physical. Those were the words usually associated with Charles Oakley, whose style of play personified NBA basketball in the 90's. While Oakley never won a championship, his 19 year career lends itself to some incredible stories from the Michael Jordan era of basketball. In fact, he dedicates an entire chapter to the previously mentioned, Charles Barkley.
Where Tomorrows Aren't Promised by Carmelo Anthony
Growing up in Brooklyn and West Baltimore, Carmelo Anthony's big dreams were often clouded by simply trying to make it to the next day. Raw and sad at times, Anthony's determination to make it out and then revisit with a goal of changing the future is a powerful story. Anthony's first and only season at Syracuse, where he led the Orange to a national championship, is one I'll never forget.
West by West: My Charmed, Tormented Life by Jerry West
Growing up dirt poor in West Virginia, Jerry West goes back to where it started, revisiting times that many of us would hope to forget. Books like this require a tremendous amount of courage to write, both because they force people to look back on painful memories and then be ok to share them with the public. While many know West as the "logo" of the NBA, there's a complicated back story that bears reading.
While biographies and auto biographies are written about other people, so often, the reader needs to see him/her self in the subject. If someone's life is completely unrelatable, a book can still be great if its aspirational. If, on the other hand, it's downright unrealistic, it usually makes its way out of print in fairly quick order.
For Additional Basketball Content
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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