If you're a fan of college basketball, then March means one thing to you: madness. Can anyone beat Kentucky? Who will snag the rest of the No. 1 seeds? Wisconsin, Virginia, and Duke all look solid right now — if they can stay healthy, of course — but how about Villanova, Gonzaga, and Arizona? And on the women's side, South Carolina, Notre Dame, and Connecticut are among the teams that have had us rapt all season, and their momentum doesn't look like it's slowing any time soon. MADNESS, see.
In anticipation of these upcoming weeks of edge-of-your-seat action, hyped up fandom, and raw athletic talent, here are 9 fantastic basketball books to get your head even more into the game. Once you're done painting your entire body, of course.
From fiction to journalism, basketball has been written about extensively — perhaps because it holds as much truth in the actual game as it does in the stories of lives affected by the beloved sport. As these books get us to understand, it's about a whole lot more than just a ball and a hoop. It's about life. It's about history. And most importantly, it's about hope. Check out some of these books, and I promise you, next time you're watching three-pointers sink from impossible range, you'll be able to see a whole lot more than what's happening on the court.
The Miracle of St. Anthony by Adrian Wojnarowski
Following Bob Hurley during his career as head coach at St. Anthony High School, one of the roughest and bleakest schools in Jersey City, Wojnarowski writes about a man who truly does seem to be orchestrating miracles. This book tells how a dysfunctional basketball team beats the odds, and subsequently, how Hurley kept his players from becoming victims of the street.
The Breaks of the Game by David Halberstam
Written by the Pulitzer Prize-winner David Halberstam, this book has very little to do with the actual game of basketball when compared to how much it has to say about everything that goes along with it. Greed, fame, race, class, money, power, and drugs... it's all there. Professional basketball may bring a great deal of joy to millions, but Halberstam isn't afraid to start the conversation about the enormous and threatening problems that go hand-in-hand with the beloved sport.
Rules for Becoming a Legend by Timothy S. Lane
Set in the wet and tangled landscape of the Pacific Northwest, Lane's debut novel is more than just a story about basketball — it's about the perseverance of hope even in the darkest of situations. The novel follows three generations through their triumphs and failures both on the court and off. Multilayered and haunting, the game quickly becomes as mental as it is physical with every turn of the page.
Heaven is a Playground by Rick Telander
The first book of its kind, Telander places readers right in the center of inner-city basketball. Though focused on a specific time and place (Brooklyn in the 1970s), this book captures the spirit behind the game, a spirit that still prevails more than 40 years later. With basketball serving as a way of life, an escape from reality, and a unique form of self-expression, the players in these pages are as passionate about the game as they are dependent on it.
Dream Team by Jack McCallum
This book tells the story of the U.S. "Dream Team" from the 1992 Olympics, made up of legendary players Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird, amongst many other great names. What makes this book so memorable is that it allows for a look behind the scenes, from the challenges each player faced individually to the challenge of having the game accepted as an official sport in the olympics.
The Last Shot: City Streets, Basketball Dreams by Darcy Frey
While the NBA may be the publicized face of basketball in America, it's certainly not the only face. Frey, a former high school basketball coach from Coney Island, goes deep, telling how the beloved sport has the power to affect fates — for better or worse. Delving into the urban youth landscape of America, this book goes beyond the court, turning basketball from a game to an actual chance at a life.
Foul Trouble by John Feinstein
This YA book is super-plot driven and action packed for those looking for some energetic reading. Following two high school basketball prodigies, Feinstein focuses in on the college recruitment process, and what can go wrong along the way. This is a book that's all about talent, luck, and most importantly, the decisions we make in life.
My Losing Season by Pat Conroy
This beautifully written memoir by Pat Conroy may be about a basketball team that is doomed to failure, but despite the poor season of sports comes a riveting and truthful look at the seasons of life. Conroy's writing lets us in to teach us that sometimes you need to lose to learn.
Play Their Hearts Out by George Doorman
As the book's subtitle announces, this a story about "a coach, his star recruit, and the youth basketball machine." Simply put, it's about an entrance into the industry and the unfathomable expectations that accompany it. Yes, the content may be basketball-related, but its context is human-related... and that's what makes it all the more worth reading.
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