Look, we all have a lot more free time right now. With nothing to really watch on TV, no places to visit or people to hang out with, this free time should be used to expand the mind. How does someone expand their mind? By picking up a book and investing this free time to read more. Since I am a sports guy, I love sports books. Most of my books are about sports or else I gravitate toward Batman comics.
If a crossover with sports and Batman, is ever created, I might die a happy man.
So here are some great suggestions for books about a particular sport or person in a sport (maybe even from the dreaded sports-entertainment world too) that can fill your isolated days.
If anyone knows me at all, they know that basketball is my favorite sport. Has been since I was a little kid watching the “NBA on NBC,” seeing Shaq bringing down entire hoops with his powerful dunks. So, there is an almost-biblical, (I said almost) book about basketball. “The Book of Basketball” by Bill Simmons is a must-read for any hoops fan.
Simmons devotes 700 pages to the game. He talks of how he became a hoops fan, his encounter with an irate Isaiah Thomas, his argument for Bill Russell over Wilt Chamberlain and so many other topics.
The best section of the book is his top 96 player rankings of all time. He isn’t content to just give names, he breaks down their games and why they earned that place on the list. Simmons takes into account their eras too.
Simmons even creates a super team if a Space Jam type scenario of aliens challenging the world to a game of basketball or be destroyed ever happens. Overall, it’s a great read that never drags, has numerous pop culture references, footnotes, jokes and about anything else you could ever want.
If “The Book of Basketball” is 1, then “Friday Night Lights” might be 1B. I think most of us know about “Friday Night Lights” as it was made into a movie and later a TV show was based on the book. How many great books have made a great movie and a great TV show? Not that many.
“Friday Night Lights,” the book, dives into more of the social problems that Odessa went through. The movie just glanced at some of the racial divide the city went through. The book does a better job of looking at more players, the ones who weren’t considered the stars of the team, the ones who knew this was it for their football career.
The book also explains how Odessa came to be and how the racial divide grew and only united because of football. The movie also ignored the fact there was another high school in the town and how much of a “little brother” they were next to Permian.
Look, if you’ve seen the movie, read the book. It takes a lot longer but you gain more of an appreciation for the movie and the TV show. Just an all-around great way to dive into a world of football even if football is in its offseason.
I recently just finished reading “The Last Great Game” by Gene Wojciechowski. This one chronicles the rise of Duke under Coach K, and how Rick Pitino turned around Kentucky. It leads to their epic 1992 Elite 8 contest that Duke won in overtime on a last second shot.
Wojciechowski does a great job getting interviews and insights from players and coaches about the programs; how both coaches get to that point in history; and profiles some of the bigger stars; and what drove them on the team.
One of the more interesting tidbits is somewhat of a throwaway line. Bob Knight wanted Coach K to take the open job at Iowa State, not Duke, because it was a more forgiving school if he faltered.
Talk about a huge “what if?” in college hoops history if Coach K listened to Bob Knight and took the Iowa State gig.
This is a quicker read but it’ll make you want to track down the game. Easily available on YouTube for required watching after finishing the book.
Another fantastic football book is “Boys Will Be Boys” by Jeff Pearlmann. This book examines the 1990s Cowboys dynasty and all the wild behind-the-scenes parties and on-the-field success. The reader gets a great understanding of how those teams worked on the field, and how they lived off the field.
There are some eye-opening parts of this book with how some of the Cowboys behaved off the field. Sure, it wasn’t a big secret that some of them were wild, but quite a few went overboard.
This book also goes in-depth about the coaching situations; how Jerry Jones and Jimmy Johnson split apart leading to Barry Switzer taking over the team, which some could argue led to the downfall of the Cowboys dynasty.
It’s a beefier book but still a fantastic read for football fans.
Now, I warned you there would be a trip to the sports-entertainment world. For those unaware, that’s a fancy way of saying professional wrestling. “The Death of WCW” by R.D. Reynolds and Bryan Alvarez is probably the biggest must-read for any pro-wrestling fan.
This chronicles the rise and then the fall of World Championship Wrestling. The two talk to wrestlers who were involved with the company, managers, front office personnel and others to get the real inside dirt on how the company was mismanaged for years on end.
It’s entertaining even for non-wrestling fans on how a poorly-managed company can turn out when egos and politics run wild. Plus reading about names like Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair and Randy Savage might be a nostalgia trip for some.
Anything by John Feinstein is really a great way to spend time with a book. Feinstein is one of the finest sports writers of the last 50 years.
Feinstein’s books are always well-written and researched. Who else would take the time to write about the night Kermit Washington nearly killed Rudy Tomjanovich with a single swing of the fist. “A Season on the Brink” examines a year with the Indiana basketball program under Bob Knight. “Next Man Up” dove into the NFL scene, “The Legends Club” is a great read about the three big Carolina school coaches in the 1980s and “A March To Madness” dives into the 1996-97 ACC basketball season.
No wrong can really be done with a Feinstein book. If I liked golf more, I’m sure I’d enjoy his books on golf.
There are also well-done biographies out there. “Michael Jordan: The Life” and “Showboat: The Life of Kobe Bryant” are both great reads from Roland Lazenby. Lazenby doesn’t leave too many stones unturned in both of these books. Again, going back to sports-entertainment, any of Mick Foley’s books are well worth reading to get an insight of what it takes to be in the professional wrestling business and how much work it takes to become great at it.
These are just some of the better sports or sports entertainment books that are out there in the wild. Take some time to track them down, or any sports book, and enjoy it.