The Best Basketball Strategy Books of 2024

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Basketball is as much a game of mental toughness as a game of talent and skill. Unfortunately, that’s not something you can practice or train for.

Luckily, some of the most iconic basketball minds are generous with their knowledge. So, here are some of the best books on basketball strategy that can give us a masterclass in this beautiful game.

Our Favorites for the Basketball Strategy BooksOur Favorites for the Basketball Strategy Books

Phil Jackson, Pat Riley, and John Wooden are some of the sharpest basketball minds ever to grace the sidelines. So, any time these three basketball icons release a book, fans are quick to grab a copy. And if you’re a true-blue basketball fan, these books will give you a better understanding of the game and learn the intricacies of coaching and playing in the NBA.

So, here are three of the best basketball strategy books of all time:

Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success

With a coaching career more aptly measured in championship rings than by season, Phil Jackson’s insights into the game can be a precious little gem for the coaches and players. Naturally, his book Eleven Rings has become one of the most fascinating pieces of basketball literature ever to come to print.

The book gives us some insights into the “Zen Master’s” mindset and approach to coaching. So, in the book, you can expect a lot of deep insights on leadership, teamwork, mentorship, and quotes like “Not only is there more to life than basketball, there’s a lot more to basketball than basketball”.

Plus, Jackson’s approach to motivating different players is especially delightful to read because he’s handled quite a lot of players with different approaches to basketball. From Kobe’s maniacal obsession with winning to Shaquille’s happy-go-lucky approach to the game, Jackson has seen it all.

What Makes it Unique:

  • Phil Jackson’s championship-winning formula distilled in his own words
  • It gives insights into some of basketball’s most iconic moments, such as Jordan’s late-game heroics during the 90s Bulls dynasty

Why Choose this Best Basketball Strategy Book:

  • Jackson’s take on coaching, especially with players like Bryant and Jordan, can help coaches learn how to handle ultra-competitive athletes
  • Jackson’s unique Buddhist approach to the game
  • Enthralling first-hand account and narrative into games that you’ve probably watched hundreds of times
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Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success
  • Jackson, Phil (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 384 Pages - 04/29/2014 (Publication Date) - Penguin Books (Publisher)

Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections on and Off the Court

When UCLA brought on John Wooden, the Bruins almost instantly transformed from a middling 12-13 team at the end of the 1947 NCAA tournament to a championship-worthy 22-7 by 1948, and it only trended upwards from there with the Bruins winning the championship title in 10 out of 12 times in the years that followed.

Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections on and Off the Court is a collection of Wooden’s learnings over the course of his life about both basketball strategy and life in general. It’s not written chronologically so much as it is an assortment of stories and observations. The book is organized into chapters focusing on different subjects related to basketball and life.

What Makes it Unique:

  • It is not necessarily a “how-to” book on basketball strategy but rather a glimpse into Wooden’s approach to life and how it relates to the game
  • The book teaches players to care about the details, from the way they put their socks on to the way they go after a rebound in the game

Why Choose this Best Basketball Strategy Book:

  • Provides a good leadership framework for both coaches and basketball players
  • It gives players direction beyond the court as good members of society
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Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court
  • AUTOGRAPHED / SIGNED -- Wooden : A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections on and off the Court by Coach John Wooden and Steve Jamison.
  • Hardcover Book
  • John Wooden (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 201 Pages - 04/22/1997 (Publication Date) - Contemporary Books (Publisher)

The Winner Within: A Life Plan for Team Players

With his slicked-back hair and a menacing scowl, Pat Riley is known for being the primary architect of the infamous Heat Culture. The Winner Within: A Life Plan for Team Players centers on a concept Riley refers to as the “innocent climb” – a metaphor for the struggle of a team of unselfish individuals towards a common goal.

What Makes it Unique:

  • Riley has a unique vantage point at the helm of the Showtime Lakers in the 80s
  • While Pat Riley is primarily a head coach, he’s also a renowned motivational speaker, and it shows in this book

Why Choose this Best Basketball Strategy Book:

  • It focuses on the value of creating a culture of teamwork within an organization, not just a basketball team.
  • Riley’s focus on teamwork can help coaches utilize all team members, not just simply rely on a few talented star players
The Winner Within: A Life Plan for Team Players
  • Riley, Pat (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 272 Pages - 10/01/1994 (Publication Date) - Berkley (Publisher)

The Runner-Ups for the Basketball Strategy BooksThe Runner-Ups for the Basketball Strategy Books

While self-written books can give you the most personal perspectives, a professional biographer or basketball journalist can unlock certain insights that can only be explored from an outsider’s lens.

Clayton Geoffreys is one of the most prolific basketball journalists working today. He’s written over 305 titles on some of the most influential sports icons. Erik Spoelstra: The Inspiring Life and Leadership Lessons of One of Basketball's Greatest Coaches is one of his most recent works, and it’s a great read for anyone who wants to learn more about Erik Spoelstra.

It takes you through the coach’s life from growing up in Michigan, playing college ball, working as a video coordinator, and then moving on to coaching jobs with the Heat.

What Makes it Unique:

  • Clayton Geoffreys’ expertise shows in this one as he distills Spoelstra’s story into an easily digestible narrative that is both entertaining and informative.
  • The book’s emphasis on how Spoelstra managed to make the trio of Wade, James, and Bosh work in perfect harmony within Heat Culture

Why Choose this Best Basketball Strategy Book:

  • While Pat Riley and Phil Jackson come from a long line of former players eventually becoming head coaches, Spoelstra's path gives us a more interesting story of how he rose from relative obscurity to a basketball icon
  • Spoelstra’s turn as Miami head coach sees the continuation of the Heat Culture even throughout the Heatles era with Wade, James, and Bosh
Erik Spoelstra: The Inspiring Life and Leadership Lessons of One of Basketball's Greatest Coaches (Basketball Biography & Leadership Books)
  • Geoffreys, Clayton (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 136 Pages - 08/14/2017 (Publication Date) - CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (Publisher)

The Art of a Beautiful Game: The Thinking Fan's Tour of the NBA

Chris Ballard’s journalistic expertise as a writer for Sports Illustrated shines in this tome, a must-read for any NBA fan. In The Art of a Beautiful Game: The Thinking Fan's Tour of the NBA, Ballard shares his conversations with Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, and many more.

What makes this book such an interesting read is how it combines rare insights, interviews, and stories that humanize our favorite basketball stars. Ballard skillfully weaves together compelling narratives that bring the game to life, shedding light on both the physical and intellectual aspects of professional basketball.

From learning about Steve Nash’s determination in overcoming physical limitations to exploring the mental toughness of Kobe Bryant, “The Art of a Beautiful Game” presents these players as real people with genuine emotions, goals, and dreams.

What Makes it Unique:

  • As a multi-awarded journalist whose entire career revolved around the NBA, Ballard’s perspectives can be very insightful
  • The approach of talking to the basketball elites about the specific skills they’re famous for

Why Choose this Best Basketball Strategy Book:

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The Art of a Beautiful Game: The Thinking Fan's Tour of the NBA
  • Ballard, Chris (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 256 Pages - 11/23/2010 (Publication Date) - Simon & Schuster (Publisher)

The Game of Basketball: Basketball Fundamentals, Intangibles and Finer Points of the Game for Coaches, Players and Fans

If there’s one book on basketball strategy that every player or coach needs to have in his library, it has got to be The Game of Basketball by Kevin Sivils. It’s one of the most comprehensive titles on basketball strategy. It covers every aspect of basketball, from offensive and defensive principles to team dynamics, coaching philosophy, and player mentality.

The book is also written in a way that is easy for young players to understand. Plus, it’s a 200-page book that manages to talk about everything a coach needs to know.

What Makes it Unique:

  • Dives deep into the small details of the game, such as the art of cutting, the hows of setting the perfect screen, and the finer points of contesting a shot
  • Sivils’ astute insights into everything basketball

Why Choose this Best Basketball Strategy Book:

The Game of Basketball: Basketball Fundamentals, Intangibles and Finer Points of the Game for Coaches, Players and Fans
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Sivils, Kevin (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 167 Pages - 02/05/2010 (Publication Date) - A Southern Family Publishing (Publisher)

A Multiple Option System Based on Bill Self and the Kansas Jayhawks

Bill Self is a Basketball Hall of Famer and a renowned figure in the collegiate league. He has been the head men’s basketball coach at the University of Kansas since 2003 and rose to prominence by cultivating a winning culture in the Jayhawks system.

With a win-loss record of 580-132, it’s hard to question the effectiveness of his system. So, A Multiple Option System Based on Bill Self and the Kansas Jayhawks by Lee DeForest can probably help your team win a game or two as well.

Bill Self’s system is often associated with the typical high-low motion offense, heavily focused on post-play and interior scoring. This type of offense focuses on ball movement, spacing, and player movement to create mismatches and great scoring opportunities. This approach aims to create mismatches and open up scoring opportunities by working the ball inside-out.

What Makes it Unique:

  • A book with a singular focus on helping you understand and execute Bill Self’s high-low motion offense

Why Choose this Best Basketball Strategy Book:

Basketball Coaching: A Multiple Option System Based on Bill Self and the Kansas Jayhawks: Includes high/low, ball screen, press break, breakdown drills and counters
  • DeForest, Lee (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 44 Pages - 05/13/2017 (Publication Date) - Independently published (Publisher)

The Value Picks for the Basketball Strategy BooksThe Value Picks for the Basketball Strategy Books

Some authors also offer strategy books discussing complex basketball concepts such as the Triangle Offense, Princeton Offense, and Flex Offense. These books are a great resource not only for coaches but also for players who want to expand their game beyond just shooting threes and dunking.

Basketball Drills, Plays and Strategies: A Comprehensive Resource for Coaches

If you’re just starting out as a coach or as a player trying to figure out how to do drills properly, then Clint Adkin’s Basketball Drills, Plays and Strategies: A Comprehensive Resource for Coaches is an invaluable addition to your library. As a famed high school basketball coach, Adkins and his co-authors distill the most effective drills, plays, and strategies for coaches to use in their practices. The book also covers topics like designing practice plans and game management strategies.

What Makes it Unique:

Why Choose this Best Basketball Strategy Book:

  • Presents a galaxy of drills specially tailored to hone every essential basketball skill
  • Have excellent illustrations on basketball drills that even a 9-year-old kid can easily navigate
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Basketball Drills, Plays and Strategies: A Comprehensive Resource for Coaches
  • Adkins, Clint (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 304 Pages - 08/31/2007 (Publication Date) - Krause Publications (Publisher)

How to Coach the Offense of the San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs are known to be one of the most consistently good teams of the past three decades, winning five championships under Gregg Popovich. Composed of selfless talent and devoid of ego, the Spurs prioritize a team-first mentality. Stars like Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, and Kawhi Leonard exemplify this approach, emphasizing team success over individual accolades.

How to Coach the Offense of the San Antonio Spurs dives deep into the Spurs’ offense, often praised for its adaptability to the available players on the court and the circumstances within the game. It helps you understand that not everything always goes according to plan and adjust your gameplay accordingly, constantly ready with a plan B, C, or even D.

What Makes it Unique:

  • The focus on the Spurs’ offensive system gives it time to go in-depth on the concepts of the system and why it works
  • Emulating this approach can help teams stay prepared for every possibility, turning challenging situations into opportunities

Why Choose this Best Basketball Strategy Book:

Basketball Playbook How to Coach the Offense of the San Antonio Spurs: Includes Coaching Philosophy, Sets and Plays, Counters, Secondary Breaks
  • DeForest, Lee (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 50 Pages - 07/03/2017 (Publication Date) - Independently published (Publisher)

Complete Conditioning for Basketball

Authored by Greg Brittenham, New York Knicks’ former strength and conditioning coach, the book shares the program he’s used to help NBA All-Stars in the 90s, like Patrick Ewing, reach their peak performance. It helps get players for the hardcourt in the best shape possible, giving them an edge over their opponents. The book also covers a wide range of topics, such as discipline, mental toughness, and nutrition. Complete Conditioning for Basketball is praised for covering 50 court drills aimed at developing players’ strength, agility, and power in basketball-specific movements.

What Makes it Unique:

  • Includes a DVD to help you perfectly execute the drills

Why Choose this Best Basketball Strategy Book:

Complete Conditioning for Basketball
  • Author(s): Nbcca
  • Published: 8-7-2007
  • SHK00357
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 216 Pages - 08/01/2007 (Publication Date) - Human Kinetics, Inc (Publisher)

How to Choose the Basketball Strategy Books for YouHow to Choose the Basketball Strategy Books for You

Choosing the right book is not as simple as grabbing the most expensive one and calling it a day. For a book to be effective, it has to be written in a way that you can understand, and there are many factors that go into making this happen.

To help you find the right book for you, here are a couple of questions you should ask yourself before pulling the trigger:

Does the book cover the specific aspects of basketball strategy you want to learn about?

Basketball is a complex sport. From strategic deficiencies to motivational issues, there are a lot of things that could go wrong on the court.

So, if you’re looking for a basketball strategy book, be sure to grab one that’s tailored to solve your particular problem. If you have a motivation issue, maybe The Winner Within: A Life Plan for Team Players can help. If you’re trying to perfect a specific drill, something like Basketball Drills, Plays and Strategies: A Comprehensive Resource for Coaches is the one to get.

Does the strategy book cater to your level of expertise?

One of the most important things to consider is your own level of basketball knowledge. Jumping headfirst into the complexities of the Princeton Offense or the subtle intricacies of Phil Jackson’s Triangle Offense might be too overwhelming for rookie coaches.

Just as you wouldn’t have tried advanced dribbles before even knowing how to bounce the ball, it’s important to start with a book that introduces the basics before moving on to the advanced stuff. It ensures you’ve got a solid grasp on the fundamentals that you can then build upon.

Or if you’re already an experienced coach, grabbing books on basketball strategy for beginners might be a little too boring for you. You’d need something that challenges you slightly while still staying within grasp to tackle, just like a match against a slightly better squad bringing out the best in you.

An advanced book can introduce you to novel concepts and refine your current understanding. Eleven Rings, for example, gives a glimpse into Buddhist philosophies that may not be as obvious when reading more basic books on basketball. It also serves as a reminder that the game is bigger than just winning games and championships, which can help you put things in perspective.

Is the book well-written and easy to understand?

While you shouldn’t be looking for a literary masterpiece, it’s important that the book is easy to understand and doesn’t get bogged down in jargon or minutiae. You want to learn something new, not have to read through pages of fluff before getting to the good stuff.

Coaches typically have co-authors whose main responsibility is keeping the narrative clear and concise. A good coach doesn’t write a book to make money; he does it to help people learn how to play basketball better. If you can’t understand what he’s saying, then the book isn’t worth your time or money.

Especially for books that deal with coaching philosophies and complex concepts, clarity is key. You don’t want to have to read the same paragraph or page over and over again because you missed something important.

Does the book include practical drills and exercises?

If you’re specifically looking to add to your arsenal of drills or players, make sure you don’t accidentally pick up coach biographies. These typically deal with concepts rather than the Xs and Os of the game. For example, you won’t find any illustrations of the Triangle Offence in Phil Jackson’s Eleven Rings. Neither will you find the in-depth explanation of the innocent climb in the Basketball Drills, Plays and Strategies: A Comprehensive Resource for Coaches.

Or, if you want something more focused, A Multiple Option System Based on Bill Self and the Kansas Jayhawks has some excellent illustrations of how the high-low motion offense should be played.

What’s your budget for a basketball strategy book?

The price of a book can range from $10 to $100, so it’s important to consider your budget before making a purchase. Make sure you know what you’re getting from each book before buying it.

Typically, a book written by a basketball icon and published by a major publishing house means the book is more expensive. However, this does not mean the book is better than a less expensive book by a lesser-known author. In fact, some of the best basketball strategy books are written by authors who have never played basketball professionally or coached at the professional level.

Clayton Geoffreys’ works, for example, are quite popular, and his books are considered some of the best basketball strategy books on the market. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s priced quite competitively.

Wrapping Things Up: The Basketball Strategy Books

Basketball is a game of continuous learning. Whether you’re a seasoned veteran coach or a young and up-and-coming basketball player, books on basketball strategy can help you understand the thought process behind offensive and defensive moves, player positions, and more, turning you from a casual observer to a sideline  .

However, it’s always important to choose a book based on your immediate needs and expertise. A veteran coach, for example, might not benefit so much from basic illustrated playbooks as much as from books on basketball philosophy. In this case Pat Riley’s The Winner Within would be an excellent choice. It’s a perspective-altering book that might just be what you need to take your team to the next level.

If you’re preparing for an opponent, on the other hand, a more analytical book on specific basketball systems is a better choice. A Multiple Option System Based on Bill Self and the Kansas Jayhawks is an excellent example of this as it teaches how to run the system and help you formulate insights on how to defend against it.

But beyond becoming a better coach or improving your on-court performance, these books can also deepen your love for the game. Think about it – understanding the strategies and subtleties of basketball gives you a whole new perspective and appreciation for what players and coaches do.

Hoops Addict
Hoops Addict

Hoops Addict was created to help basketball fans of all ages learn more about the sport and find the best basketball gear to improve their ability to hoop. He has been a huge basketball fan for decades, watching thousands of basketball games through the years to learn the ins and outs of the game.

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