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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"Open" by Andre Agassi: This is one of the best sports books ever written. Agassi's childhood, with a demanding father, is essentially nonexistent. Pushed from an early age to be the "greatest tennis player in the world," this is a fascinating true story that dives into the power of human emotions, belonging, and the yearning of many young kids to be seen. For a bit more about the ghost writer that wrote this, see our post on J.R. Moehringer. This book has been featured in multiple places on this site, including our list of best tennis books.
"Wilt: Larger Than Life" by Robert Cherry: Published in 2004, this 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. Wilt was a man amongst boys, but his exploits off the court often overshadowed his incredible performances on it. Chamberlain was flawed, no doubt, but he was also a black celebrity during a time of often intense discrimination and racism. If you enjoy basketball biographies, you'll enjoy this book.
"When Pride Still Mattered" by David Maraniss: I love a good biography, and as a Green Bay Packers fan, I couldn't put this book down. Did you know that Lombardi didn't come to Green Bay until he was 46 years old? His fiver super bowls in nine seasons are what we talk about, but this book dives deep into the man: who he was, why he cared so much, and why his teams played the way that they did. It's in the football biographies section, but it could moonlight in just about any section on leadership, values, and prominent people.
"I May Be Wrong But I Doubt It" by Charles Barkley: Written with the great Michael Wilbon, this book is still a classic, despite being published more than twenty years ago. True to form, Barkley opens up on a wide range of topics, including his own life, basketball, politics, race relations, and popular culture. If you like Barkley and/or this book, you should also check out the new Barkley biography by Timothy Bella.
"Choose Strong" by Sally McRae: McRae, a professional trail runner, opens up about abuse, loss, and her hardcore training tactics in this new memoir. It's always interesting to me to see someone like Sally, who is elite both physically and mentally and wonder, "how did she get to be that way?" From college soccer to running marathons to becoming a Nike-sponsored trail athlete, Sally has continued to climb because she believes that she can. If you came here looking for a motivational running book, this is it.
"Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times" by Thomas Hauser: This 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. Hauser draws on interviews with Ali's family, friends, and colleagues to provide insights into Ali's personality, his relationships, and his private struggles. For young people, especially, this a tremendous look into an athlete that stood for something outside of sports.
"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. We also included this book on our list of best sports business books; it's that good.
"All In" by Billie Jean King: This book is brand new and well worth a read. Billie was ranked as the top women's tennis player in the world for six years and won 39 grand slam titles! She talks about the era in which she played, the women's movement, anti-war protests in the 1960's, and civil rights. She also gets personal about her own challenges: her battle with sexism in the sport and an eating disorder that almost ruined her career. Like Muhammad Ali, Billie was a trailblazer for women in sports; someone who's legacy remains strong today because she was willing to speak up and speak out. One of the best sports autobiographies that I've read.
"Pistol" by Mark Kriegel: I don't think there will ever be a player like Pete Maravich. Both for adults that had the privilege to watch the magic of Pistol Pete to kids who've never heard the name, this is an unforgettable biography about a guy that simply captivated people. It's no surprise that this book is listed on several sites as one of the best basketball books of all time. My friend, Scott Fields, had Pete's son, Jaeson, on his show, and it's one of the best interviews that I've watched this year.
"Maradona: The Hand of God" by Jimmy Burns: Burns was along for the ride and documents the rise of Diego Maradona from the slums of Buenos Aires to becoming one of the greatest soccer players of all time. Maradona became a legend in Argentina after leading them to a World Cup in 1986 and would eventually coach the Argentinian national team in 2010. There's a lot to unpack in this book, but its a fascinating read for soccer fans.
"When Nobody Was Watching" by Carli Lloyd: Carli Llloyd's been a fixture on the US women's soccer team for years, but it wasn't always that way. Lloyd almost gave up the sport in 2003 but was able to re-dedicate herself, rediscover her talent, and most importantly, put in the work when others doubted her. This is a tremendous soccer player book about perseverance and surrounding yourself with people that see your potential. We also included this book in 4 of The Best Sports Books for Your Teen Daughter as it's appropriate for young adults.
"Michael Jordan: The Life" by Roland Lazenby: This book chronicles Jordan's life from his childhood in North Carolina, through his college career at the University of North Carolina, and his incredible rise to NBA stardom with the Chicago Bulls. It covers in detail his multiple NBA championships, his struggles with retirement, and his return to the game. The book also delves into Jordan's personal life, including his relationships with family, friends, and teammates. Through extensive interviews with Jordan himself, as well as with those who knew him best, Lazenby paints a vivid and captivating portrait of a true sports legend.
"The Closer" by Mariano Rivera: Most of us know who Mariano Rivera is and why he was so important to the New York Yankees. But, as a young ball player growing up poor in Panama, he didn't speak any English, had never flown on an airplane, and didn't even own a baseball glove. Rivera's story is much more than baseball: a kid that left home to chase a dream in a foreign place. Put yourself in that situation for a minute, and you'll have an incredible amount of respect for both who he became as a ballplayer, and most importantly, as a man. For a list of our other favorite baseball books, check out our article here.
"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. For other great basketball books, check out our favorites.
"The 2% Way" by Dr. Myron L. Rolle: Do you know hard it is to make to the NFL? How about becoming a neurosurgeon? Myron Rolle did both! While he's clearly gifted, this is a great example of not putting yourself in a box and using all of your talents. It's also a great story about not settling: becoming the best version of yourself requires discipline and consistency. I was inspired reading this book; you will be too.
"Misty" by Misty May-Treanor: This is a book about Misty, no doubt. However, one significant aspect that I enjoyed hearing more about was Misty's partnership with her beach volleyball teammate, Kerri Walsh Jennings. Together, they formed one of the most formidable and successful duos in beach volleyball history, achieving multiple Olympic gold medals and other prestigious titles. It's one thing to be great individually; it's another to fully leverage your skills as a leader to make a partnership thrive. For other great volleyball books, check out our list here.
"Bowerman and The Men of Oregon" by Kenny Moore: Bill Bowerman coached track & field at the University of Oregon for 24 years, winning four national team titles. Most famous for inventing the waffle-soled running shoe with Nike, this book goes deep into Bowerman's life and what shaped his philosophies. I liked this book a lot because I knew the "surface level" story of Bowerman, but I had no idea that he served in World War II, coached the US Olympic team in Munich, and would often get athletes jobs to teach them what life was really like.
"Tiger Woods" by Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian: It's no surprise to see this book on many lists of the top sport biographies. Woods has maybe lived the most volatile life of any athlete of my generation. This book goes deep, talking about things that most would never know: how IMG paid his father long before Woods became a sponsored athlete, his first love, Dina Gravell, and other stories that lead you to draw your own conclusions about why he is who he is. Here was a child prodigy who was surrounded by greedy people, so much so, that you have to ask yourself who was ultimately responsible for his downfall?
"Alone On The Wall" by Alex Honnold: If you're fascinated by free solo climbing, "Alone on the Wall" is a captivating memoir that will leave you breathless. Co-authored by the legendary Alex Honnold and acclaimed writer David Roberts, this book chronicles Honnold's awe-inspiring achievements, including his famous ascent of El Capitan without ropes. For many, you'd say "this guy has to be nuts" to do what he does. Roberts gets into the mind of a guy that doesn't fear the future but has a unique ability to block out everything around him. This book made our list of Best Climbing Books for good reason.
"Undisputed Truth" by Mike Tyson: In this raw and unfiltered memoir, former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson tells the story of his life, including his rise to fame, his infamous personal life, and his eventual downfall. If you want drama, Iron Mike brings the goods. This book also made our list of Best Boxing Books.
"The Last Folk Hero" by Jeff Pearlman: Pearlman went to great lengths to get at the very core of who Bo Jackson was, interviewing more than 700 people. Some of the stories make you shake your head, as in "did he really do that?!" The fact that he not only did, but did so many thing so effortlessly is what made him such a legend in an era with no cell phones or internet. Had it not been for injuries, Jackson would've been arguably the best athlete to ever live. A must read football biography.
"Let Your Mind Run" by Deena Kastor: There's a purity to this book because a lot of great athletes want to skip over the worst of times and talk about everything that went right in their careers. Kastor was a tremendous runner from a young age, but she almost quit the sport altogether because she put so much pressure on herself to do everything, full speed, 100% of the time. This is a book about self-realization, about patting yourself on the back and appreciating who you are, and opening yourself up to possibilities.
"Unforgivable Blackness" by Geoffrey C. Ward: I had never heard of Jack Johnson until I read this book, and it's unfortunate that his name is rarely mentioned in boxing history. Johnson battled through intense racism to become heavyweight champion of the world, and did so with a personality that was remarkably unique. This is a culturally significant book that goes beyond boxing.
"Veeck As In Wreck" by Bill Veeck with Ed Linn: Bill Veeck is arguably the greatest baseball promoter of all time and was involved in the game for more than 40 years starting in 1940 with the Milwaukee Brewers, who were then a minor league team. Veeck would later buy the Chicago White Sox and became famous for his innate gift to relate to fans. For example, "Ladies Day" and "Disco Demolition Night" became Veeck staples. While not every idea worked, Veeck changed the game of baseball for the better.