Unlike movies, books have no time limit. Books can be however long or short they want to be. For this reason, books can dive deeper into an issue or a person. Authors often spend years in research to try and paint the entire portrait of their topic. Many sports stories and the athletes involved in them are intricate with multiple layers, which lends themselves to books.
10. “Beer and Circus: How Big-Time College Sports is Crippling Undergraduate Education” by Murray Sperber (2001)
Sperber was an Indiana University professor who was in the media spotlight quite a bit when Bobby Knight was fired at IU for choking a player. In the book Sperber suggests that students are blinded by “Beer and Circus” and don’t get the quality undergraduate education they’re paying for. He also examines the path of money from sports related income to athletic departments.
9. “Joe DiMaggio: The Hero’s Life” by Richard Ben Cramer (2000)
Joe DiMaggio was a hero on the field and his 56 game hit streak record may stand forever. Off the field however, Cramer tells the story of a different man, one who was quite lonely despite his persona. Cramer also sheds light that DiMaggio was one of the first modern celebrities.
8. “More Than A Game” by Phil Jackson and Charlie Rosen (2001)
The Zen Master, the John Wooden of the NBA, Phil Jackson has 11 NBA titles to his name. Charlie Rosen and Phil Jackson teamed up to tell the story of the 1999-2000 Lakers team that would go on to win an NBA Championship that year. It talks about the challenge of bringing together talent and discipline, which always seem at odds and how Jackson executed his philosophy that worked for so many years.
7. “Seabiscuit: An American Legend” by Laura Hillenbrand (2002)
A bunch of misfits come together to train a racehorse. It doesn’t sound that interesting but the rise of the horse with a bad leg into one of the best racehorses in the world is a very interesting tale. Later turned into a movie, Charles Howard, Tom Smith and Red Pollard all believed in the horse and, despite setbacks, fought to gain fame and fortune and give people something to believe in during the post-depression era.
6. “Dream Team: How Michael, Magic, Larry, Charles, and the Greatest Team of All Time Conquered the World and Changed the Game of Basketball Forever” by Jack McCallum (2012)
The Dream Team vs. the 2012 U.S. Olympic Basketball Team grew legs this past summer when Kobe Bryant said he believed that last year’s team could beat the Dream Team. This book is a must-read for any fan of the game of basketball. McCallum was a writer at Sports Illustrated and does a great job chronicling the entire 1992 Dream Team. From late nights of gambling to the greatest game of pickup basketball never seen, it’s all there.
5. “The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract” By Bill James (2003)
Bill James continues to be one of the most controversial figures in all of baseball. His development of Sabermetrics, although now widely used, hit and missed with teams in baseball over the last twenty or so years. Currently, James is on staff with the Boston Red Sox and helped them to win World Series titles in 2004 and 2007. In the second edition of James’ baseball abstract he chronicles the history of the game, gives listings of the top 100 players at each position, and introduces his win shares concept. Die-hard baseball fans love it and like to use James’ stats to argue trades and which players are better than others. But if you’re looking for more of a basic baseball book, it might not be for you.
4. “The Big Miss: My Years Coaching Tiger Woods” By Hank Haney (2012)
The mind of Tiger Woods is one of the most-analyzed in all of sports. No one knew it better for a span of six years than Tiger Woods’ swing coach Hank Haney. Haney recounts his time with Woods and his attempts to figure out his personality and laser-like focus, while also trying to decipher his fall from grace after the 2009 scandal with his wife. Its main focus remains on Woods’ golf and his superhuman abilities on the course, but the conflict between the two perfectionists also makes it a really interesting book.
3. “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game” by Michael Lewis (2003)
Moneyball chronicles the execution of the Bill James philosophy by Billy Beane during the 2002 Oakland Athletics season in which they made the playoffs and set the American League record for with 20 consecutive wins. Beane struggles as he has to convince everyone that his philosophy will work against all odds. It’s an amazing look into a baseball front office and much more comprehensive than the recent movie.
2. “Open” by Andre Agassi (2009)
This is really unlike any other autobiography. Agassi tells everything about his historic tennis career. From the childhood tennis academy which he thought was a prison, to the marriage he didn’t want to be in, to his use of crystal meth, Agassi is brutally honest in telling how he got where he is today.
1. “Game of Shadows: Barry Bonds, BALCO, and the Steroids Scandal that Rocked Professional Sports” by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams (2006)
Easily the biggest tell-all sports book. Williams and Fainaru-Wada spent two years combing through documents to tell the story of how Barry Bonds among a host of other athletes used a cocktail of steroids during their careers. The book drew national attention when Bonds sued the authors, but the case was then thrown out. Also in consequence of the accusations was Greg Anderson, who provided Bonds with steroids and then served time in prison for his role in the Bonds cover-up. No single book impacted real life more than this one. Every sports fan must read it.
If you have any suggestions as to what you would like to see me write about or cover this semester, have a comment about a recent post, or simply want to talk sports, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @npkrueger