All books below are rated 4 stars (out of 5) or above. Rather than assign star ratings to each book, we'll only include write ups on books we feel are worth reading.
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"Shoe Dog" by Phil Knight: This book is incredibly well-written and penned by the same ghostwriter as Andre Agassi's Open and Prince Harry's Spare. 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.
"Year of Yes" by Shonda Rhimes: Rhimes is the creator and producer of popular television shows like "Grey's Anatomy," "Scandal," and "How to Get Away with Murder." In the book, Rhimes chronicles her decision to say "yes" to everything for one year, even if it scared her or made her uncomfortable.
Throughout the book, Rhimes shares her personal journey and the challenges she faced while stepping out of her comfort zone. She discusses her struggles with anxiety and self-doubt, and how her year of saying "yes" helped her to overcome these obstacles and live a more fulfilling life.
Year of Yes is an inspiring and humorous account of Rhimes' personal transformation and serves as a reminder to readers to embrace new experiences and take risks in order to grow and achieve their goals.
"Moneyball" by Michael Lewis: A phenomenal book on sports strategy that follows the innovative strategies used by the Oakland Athletics to build a winning team on a limited budget.
The book focuses on the team's general manager, Billy Beane, and his use of statistical analysis and unconventional thinking to identify undervalued players and assemble a competitive roster. Beane's approach challenged traditional scouting methods and sparked a revolution in how the game was evaluated and played.
Through the story of the 2002 Oakland A's season, Moneyball highlights the power of data-driven decision making and the importance of rethinking conventional wisdom in any field. The book has had a significant impact on not only the world of sports but also in other industries that seek to optimize their processes and strategies through data analysis. This also made our list of best baseball books.
"Captain Class" by Sam Walker: Walker explores the qualities of the most successful sports teams and their leaders.
Using data-driven analysis, Walker identifies the common characteristics of elite teams across a range of sports, including basketball, soccer, rugby, and hockey. He finds that the most successful teams are not necessarily the ones with the most talented individual players, but rather those with strong and selfless leaders who prioritize the team's success above all else.
Throughout the book, Walker delves into the personality traits and leadership styles of some of the greatest sports captains in history, including Bill Russell, Richie McCaw, and Yogi Berra. He also provides practical advice for individuals and organizations looking to develop leadership skills and build high-performing teams.
"Playmakers" by Mike Florio: Why does the NFL continue to thrive despite so many factors bringing negative attention to the organization?
Florio takes a deep dive into how the NFL works, from the board room to the practice field. It's written in a unique way, with short chapters about various stories and topics that you can read in less than five minutes. For readers with a short attention span or those that aren't "readers," this would be a great book to start with!
"Net Gains" by Ryan O'Hanlon: This is the Moneyball of soccer. O'Hanlon, a staff writer for ESPN, takes readers into the board rooms and analytic departments of major clubs where analysts are building models and crunching numbers to determine the value of possession time, goals, and developing talent.
A lot of books are written about the past. If you want a future-forward look at the game of soccer, this is a great book.
"An Economist Goes To The Game" by Paul Oyer: The description for this book reads: "Are ticket scalpers good for teams? Should parents push their kids to excel at sports? Why do Koreans dominate women’s golf, while Kenyans and Ethiopians dominate marathon racing? Why would Michael Jordan, the greatest player in basketball, pass to Steve Kerr for the game-winning shot?
Oyer provides a different take through the lens of an economist to help answer these questions. It's a fun and insightful read for athletes look to improve performance or fans looking for a new perspective.
"Billion-Dollar Ball" by Gilbert M. Gaul: This is a fascinating book that explores the business of college football in the United States, and how it has become a multibillion-dollar industry. Gaul looks at the history and evolution of college football, how it became so popular and lucrative, and the various stakeholders involved in the sport.
Gaul also examines the impact of college football on higher education, including issues of academic standards, athlete exploitation, and financial mismanagement. Through extensive research and interviews with key figures in the industry, he sheds light on the complex world of college football and raises important questions about its future. No list of the best sports business books is complete without this one on it.
"The Business of Sports" by Mark Conrad: This book by Mark Conrad is an essential read for anyone interested in the more literal side of sports business/sports management. The book covers a wide range of topics, from the history of sports business to current trends in the industry. It also provides an overview of the various sectors of the sports industry, such as marketing, media, and sponsorship. This book is an excellent resource for those looking to gain a broad understanding of the sports industry.
"Soccernomics" by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski: This is actually a book series, with Kuper and Szymanski releasing new versions during World Cup years. Kuper is South African/British and has written 40 books as of this post, with many centered on soccer. The two authors go beyond the matches and into politics, money, and the powerful people that steer the sport. This is a book for people that love soccer and the business side of things.
"The Business of Sports Agents" by Kenneth L. Shropshire, Timothy Davis, and N. Jeremi Duru: When I was younger, I really wanted to be a sports agent. This book provides an in-depth look into the field, offering insights into the legal and business aspects of representing athletes. It covers topics like contract negotiations, marketing, and legal issues surrounding sports agents. The authors also make some interesting cases for reform. If you've ever thought about working in sports management, I'd highly recommend this book.
"Sports Analytics" by Benjamin C. Alamar: Alamar has taught at the University of San Francisco and knows his way around sports statistics, player evaluations, and team strategies through numbers probably better than anyone. The field of sports analytics has absolutely explored in popularity, and I don't see it slowing down. Similar to the book above on sports agents, if you're interested in math and sports, this is an excellent place to start.
"The Extra 2%" by Jonah Keri: This book tells the story of the Tampa Bay Rays' transformation from a struggling baseball franchise to a World Series contender. In 2005, the team was purchased by two former Goldman Sachs colleagues. While it was anyone's guess how well they knew baseball, their plan was to leverage their skill at trading, valuation, and management. If you enjoyed Moneyball, you'll enjoy this one as well.
"The Agent" by Leigh Steinberg: Steinberg is arguably the best sports agent of all time. As the inspiration behind Jerry McGuire, he was a leading influence in how athletes were able to extend their influence off the field. Representing some of the best NFL players to ever play the game, this is a fun book that gets into many of Leigh's success stories but also touches on some missteps (such as not signing Peyton Manning). A fun and educational read for NFL fans, those into sports marketing, or young people with an interest in sports management.
"Astroball" by Ben Reiter: The Houston Astros went from the worst team in baseball in 2014 to a World Series Championship in 2017. How did they do it? Reiter extends the Moneyball narrative by illustrating how Houston built their "system," largely around human personalities and not just statistics. Processes like this, while clearly having an end goal in mind, are focused on ensuring that every front office decision gives the team a slight edge. A lot of takeaways here for anyone running a business and a new-age sports management book that should be read in degree programs.
"Banana Ball" by Jesse Cole: It was only a matter of time before Cole, the owner of the Savannah Bananas, would write a book about the team. A legend in sports entertainment, Cole has created a fan experience that is unmatched today in professional sports. Fun, unorthodox, quirky. You can call it whatever you want, but it's wildly entertaining and a tremendous sports marketing case study for how to build anything with the spectator in mind.