The Essential Basketball Library
We will be adding to this list periodically. If you have suggestions for your favorite titles, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Last update: February 4, 1999
Basketball: It's Origin and Development by James Naismith (1941). Written by the inventor of basketball, this book describes the create reasoning behind the game, refinement of rules, development of equipment, and the spread of amateur, professional and women's leagues across the country.
Mr. Basketball: George Mikan's Own Story by George Mikan as told to Bill Carlson (1952). Autobiography of the NBA's first superstar and the ABA's first commissioner.
The Last Loud Roar by Bob Cousy with Edward Linn (1964). The story of the game's first big-time playmaker and ball-handler, published shortly after his retirement after 13 seasons and six NBA championships with the Boston Celtics.
24 Seconds to Shoot by Leonard Koppett (1968). An informal history of the early years of the NBA. This effort is unique in that it is by a sports writer who covered the league from its inception.
Championship NBA by Leonard Koppett (1970). A look at the league's first 25 championship teams by the above author and published in conjunction with the NBA's silver anniversary.
Basketball: The American Game by Joe Jares (1971). Excellent historical review of professional basketball's early teams and players.
Foul! The Connie Hawkins Story by David Wolf (1972). A candid biography of the original Dr. J. and New York playground legend who later starred in both the ABA and the NBA. Hawkins was a great player but a gambling scandal in college kept him out of the NBA for five years and perhaps out of the Hall of Fame.
Confessions of a Basketball Gypsy by Rick Barry with Bill Libby (1972). The star of the NBA and ABA discusses his controversial career. Barry was a great scorer and all-around player but his career suffered somewhat from contract disputes and injuries. He was the last player to shoot free throws underhand and led his league in FT% seven different times.
Wilt: Just Like Any Other Seven Foot Black Millionaire Who Lives Next Door by Wilt Chamberlain and David Shaw (1973). Autobiography of the greatest scoring centers in the history of the NBA. "Wilt the Stilt" set numerous scoring records while with the Warriors, 76ers and Lakers including a 100-point game in 1962. He led the NBA in scoring seven times, rebounding eleven times and assists once, the only center ever to do that. Ha also set a record for FG% one year - 72.7. Reissued in 1986, the book also delves into his juicy personal life quite a bit.
The Story of Basketball by John Devaney (1976). An early historical effort but well written and informative.
Life on the Run by Bill Bradley (1976). The former New York Knicks star, NBA Hall of Famer and U.S. Senator takes a look at the NBA, on and off the court. Bradley has been referred to several times as "a thinking man's guide to basketball." Reissued in 1995 by Vintage Books.
Red Auerbach, An Autobiography by Arnold "Red" Auerbach and Joe Fitzgerald (1977). The story of the coach and general manager behind the Boston Celtics dynasty of the '50s and '60s. Under his guidance, the team won 16 NBA championships. Followed in 1985 by On & Off the Court, which concentrates on what helped shape his success. He was a believer in the running game and a team concept rather than individual superstars.
The Harlem Globetrotters by Chuck Menville (1978). The official story of the famous independent professional team.
Second Wind: Memoirs of an Opinionated Man by Bill Russell and Taylor Branch (1979). Autobiography of Boston Celtics star center and Hall of Famer. Russell was a great defensive player anchoring the Celtic dynasty from 1956-1965. He was also the first black coach in the NBA. The book confronts racism and social pressures in the league as well.
Double Dunk: The Inspiring Story of a Harlem Basketball Legend (1980). The autobiography of Earl "Goat" Manigault, the legendary basketball player from the playgrounds of New York City's Harlem. Manigault is credited with inventing the double dunk shot and many considered him the best of his time, maybe of all time. But a lack of discipline and other factors led him down the road of crime and heroin addiction permanently blocking his path to the NBA. Originally published by Holloway House and reprinted by Beckham House in 1993.
Between Games, Between Halves by John D. Russell (1986). Biography of basketball pioneer Honey Russell by his son John provides good insight into the early days of pro ball. A defensive wizard, Russell could also put points on the board when needed in a time when low-scoring games were the norm. After his playing days, he coached on the college and pro levels and became the first coach of the Celtics. He also served as a scout for major league baseball and professional football.
From Peachbaskets to Slam Dunks by Robert D. Bole and Alfred C. Lawrence (1987). A history of professional basketball with extra emphasis on the Eastern league from 1920-1923. Examines the evolution of the game, starting with the days when it was played more violently inside chicken-wire cages.
From Set Shot to Slam Dunk by Charles Salzberg (1987). A history of the NBA, especially its early years, featuring interviews with 14 players from the 1930's to the 1970's.
Forty-Eight Minutes: A Night in the Life of the NBA by Bob Ryan and Terry Pluto (1987). The game, the players and the business examined through a single game played between the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers. The authors are the beat writers who covered the game for their respective newspapers.
Red on Red by Red Holzman and Harvey Frommer (1987). The story of the New York legend-- the player, scout, coach and general manager who coached the Knicks to their only two NBA Championships. Holzman's teams were known for their defense and unselfish offense. Followed by Holzman on Hoops, published in 1991, which offers anecdotes from his early years to retirement.
Pistol Pete, Heir to a Dream by Pete Maravich and Darrel Campbell (1987). The life of the HOFer and the NBA's greatest gunner, on and off the court, including the influences that shaped his career. A fine ball-hander and passer, Maravich was best known for his scoring as his 44.2 collegiate average and one NBA scoring crown attest.
Basketball: An Illustrated History edited by Ron Morris (1988). Featuring many good photographs with the text.
Basketball's Great Moments by Jack Clary (1989). Featuring the most memorable games from 1946-1986 with lots of great photographs.
Drive: The Story of My Life by Larry Bird with Bob Ryan (1989). The former Celtics superstar and HOFer looks at his career and explains the influences that shaped his life. Bird was perhaps the greatest all-around player in NBA history - offensively and defensively. He won three championships and was named MVP three times.
Personal Fouls by Peter Golenbock (1989). Delves into the sociological aspects of college and professional basketball.
Loose Balls: the Short, Wild Life of the American Basketball Association by Terry Pluto (1990). An in-depth look at the nine-year history of the ABA, as told by players, coaches, announcers and owners.
Cages to Jump Shots by Robert W. Peterson (1990). Excellent history of pro basketball's early years from 1900-1948. Features short essays on the great stars, coaches and owners plus interviews, rules and equipment changes.
The Night Wilt Scored 100: Tales from Basketball's Past by Eric Nadel (1990). Featuring more than 120 stories on the forgotten stars and teams, legendary performances, nicknames and much more.
The NBA Finals: The Official Illustrated History by Roland Lazenby (1990). The complete history of the NBA's championship series with recaps of each of those teams seasons and personnel moves.
Basketball Biographies: 534 U.S. Players, Coaches and Contributors to the Game, 1891-1990 by Martin Taragano (1991). Including photographs, bibliography and index.
A View From Above by Wilt Chamberlain (1991). Another controversial autobiography from the HOFer and the NBA's first 7-foot superstar.
The History of the NBA by Peter J. Bjarkman (1992). Decent text and loaded with great action photographs from the early days.
Tall Tales: The Glory Years of the NBA by Terry Pluto (1992). An oral history of the NBA featuring interviews with several players, coaches and officials. The book concentrates on the 1950s and 1960s.
The NBA's Official Encyclopedia of Pro Basketball edited by Alex Sachare (1994). A history of professional basketball from the 1890-1994. Includes text, photos and statistics, with a year-by-year directory on every player who played in the NBA and ABA.
NBA Basketball, An Official Fan's Guide by Mark Vancil (1994). An illustrated NBA primer, including a history of the league, teams and its stars players. Also includes a glossary of basketball terms.
Nothing But Net by Bill Walton with Gene Wojciechowski (1994). Memoirs HOFer and one of the NBA's most unique (and injured) players, who won championships with UCLA, Portland and Boston.
Big Leagues: Professional Baseball, Football and Basketball in National Memory by Stephen Fox (1994). Fox traces each sport's evolution from humble beginnings to multi-million dollar businesses. The nine chapter's topics range from the three major sports to techniques, the fans, black players, dynasties and big business.
The Red Auerback Story by Don Shaughnessy (1994). Another biography of the great Boston Celtics head coach.
The Encyclopedia of Pro Basketball Team Histories by Peter C. Bjarkman (1994). An in-depth look at all the professional franchises.
Full Court: A Literary Anthology of Basketball by Dennis Tudell (1996). An all-time collection of the best fiction and poetry from the game of basketball. The Official NBA Encyclopedia by Alex Sachare. Featuring historical essays and timelines, coaches, referees, the ABA, the college draft, all-time records and post-season and all-star recaps.
Vintage NBA: The Pioneer Era by Neil D. Isaacs (1996). An oral History of the early NBA with rememberance by such stars like George Mikan, Dolph Schayes, Bob Cousy and Al McGuire.
The 100 Greatest Basketball Players of All-Time by Alex Sachar (1997).
Unstoppable: The Story of George Mikan by Joseph Oberle (1997). Another fine biography of the league's first big man and star player. Mikan led the keague in scoring and his team to the championship his first four years in the league. He retired at the age of 30 because of numerous injuries incurred over the years.
The Origins of the Jump Shot by John Christgau (1999). Nobody knows quite when the game changed forever with the invention of the jump shot but the author tries to find out. Unfortunately, a total of eight pioneer players claim credit for it. A must-read nonetheless for those hooked on history and for the curious.
The following books are updated annually:
The Official NBA Guide edited by Craig Carter and Mark Broussard and published annually by The Sporting News. The NBA guide concentrating on the previous season, league records, rules, directories and a year-by-year statistical history.
The Official NBA Register edited by George Puro, Mark Broussard and Kyle Veltrop, published annually by The Sporting News. Statistical biographies of all active players and coaches in the NBA, including the all-time greats.
The Official NBA Rules edited by the NBA Operations Department and published annually by The Sporting News. The league's official rulebook, including referees' signals.
The Sports Encyclopedia of Pro Basketball edited by David S. Neft & Richard M. Cohen. One of the better reference books featuring year-by-year and team-by-team statistics and summaries including playoff and all-star games.
Rick Barry's Pro Basketball Annual. The best pro basketball annual on the market today featuring biographies and scouting reports.
The NBA's Encyclopedia of Pro Basketball edited by Zander Hollander and Alex Sachare. Player statistics and seasonal reviews.
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