Summer is underway and I wanted to share a few of my favorite books that are great to read while traveling or enjoying on the back porch in the evening. They come from a variety of eras and different areas of basketball. I hope you pick one, or all, and enjoy as much as I did!
Hoops Whisperer by Idan Ravin
This is one is not your normal basketball story of well known legends. It has a behind the scenes feel to it which I enjoy more than the highly publicized stories you see all over the media. Over the years Idan Ravin has developed interesting training techniques that have caught the interest of several NBA players. But to me the real interesting thing you see as you read his story is how he has developed these relationships from somewhat of an outsider in the beginning, to now having the trust of the best basketball players in the world. Along with his training techniques, he has learned how to really hone in on what each individual player needs in that specific workout. He shares stories of working with guys over the summer or just for a few workouts over a couple of days. The level of intuition he has developed to know what each workout needs that day is astounding. It’s an easy read and once you get going it can be hard to put down because some of it is kind of hard to believe.
Dream Team by Jack McCallum
If you are old enough to remember watching the Dream Team in 1992 or have heard all the stories of that summer, you will enjoy this read. McCallum has access to the team through the entire process of dominating the Olympics. To start he provides a little bit of background that lead to the decision to allow professional players to represent the USA in the Olympics. Then he guides us through the politics that went on during the process of actually choosing the team (he sheds some light on the Michael Jordan vs. Isaiah Thomas drama).
Few people know that the USA had to qualify for the Olympics by winning the FIBA Americas tournament a few months before the actual Olympics in Spain. You get your first look at the dynamics of the newly minted team and the team dynamics that were developing.
It’s a look back at the team that defined a generation of international basketball stars who began entering the NBA in the late 1990’s. We are accustomed to this level access but at the time, several of the stories from this once in a lifetime team were kept behind closed doors. In this book you get all the details as the Dream Team took the Olympics by storm as international stars.
Let Me Tell You a Story by John Feinstein
I really enjoy reading about the early days of basketball and how it developed from business sponsored teams to a fledgling national league. It begins with an invite to a weekly lunch with Red Auerbach and some of his closest friends. From there it develops into a friendship between Feinstein and Auerbach as he shares some of his greatest stories from the Celtics dynasty of the 50s and 60s. I enjoyed the history of his early years as a coach but also the tales of the later years as he transitioned to the front office and continued to give the rest of the NBA fits. You also get a look at all the jobs he had to oversee in the early years of the NBA and realized how much things have changed over the years.
Another one I couldn’t stop reading even for the first time as a 20 year old. I still remember visiting Washington DC soon after reading this and wanting to find the restaurant they ate at weekly. Unfortunately it had closed by the time I was in town but it was still high on the list of things I wanted to see!
Legends Club by John Feinstein
This one switches gears to the college level and focuses on the ACC of the 1980s, mainly on coaches Dean Smith, Jim Valvano, and Mike Krzyzewski. Dean Smith had enjoyed success as Coach K and Valvano joined the high pressure situations of coaching in the ACC. Feinstein look at each coach on an individual level as well as the unique relationship each had to the other. Each coach had a very different personality but all achieved a high level of success in those years before Valvano left NC State and eventually passed away from cancer. The stories are intense and some heart breaking but when you finish you will have a new respect for what all 3 men went through in that era of their careers. In someway Coach K gets final word as the only one still alive but he puts it all into perspective in the last few pages.
Chasing Perfection by Andy Glockner
In the past few years all you hear about is data this and data that around the basketball world. Most of the time it’s referring to how large amounts of data are being used to form teams and influence how the game is played. After reading this book I came away with all whole new perspective on how data is being used behind the scenes. Glockner doesn’t just focus on teams shooting as many 3’s as they can, he shows how individual players are analysing opponents data before games in order to better defend them. He also looks at companies that are developing methods and technology to help athletes train more efficiently in the off season based on data points for different body movements. For me it’s another layer to peel back on the development of basketball and shares more insight on how teams/players are using data in extremely creative ways.