The Three Best Sports Books I’ve Read This Year (So Far)

Jordan Pagkalinawan
Boundless & Ballin’
3 min readSep 18, 2023

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Photo by Timothy Barlin on Unsplash

I’ve always enjoyed reading, particularly nonfiction stories in the areas of sports and journalism — which align perfectly with my career goals. The past couple of years have seen an influx of outstanding reads enter the sports world, and I recently finished three books that could very well be in my top-three at year’s end.

3. “How Basketball Can Save the World”: David Hollander

Credit: SLAM

I first saw this title at a bookstore in Boston, and eventually picked it up after seeing several of my friends read it. Inspired by the same course he taught at NYU, Hollander outlines 13 principles — including positionlessness, alchemy, gender inclusivity and transcendence — and connects them between basketball and society. He uses the stories of Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Bill Russell, among others, as prominent examples of those traits on display in the NBA. He also includes insight from players, coaches, and notable cultural figures, many of whom have discussed the same issues with his students. It’s an incredible read about how certain topics can go beyond basketball, and, if applied effectively, how they can make a difference in our world.

2. “You Can’t Make This Up”: Al Michaels

Credit: Amazon

Another local bookstore find — this one from back home — I’d heard of Al Michaels and his sports broadcasting career, but didn’t learn more until now. This story was the perfect opportunity to understand him and his career on a new level. Michaels discusses his upbringing in Brooklyn, and how his early experiences with sports prompted him to pursue the profession. He details the many paths his career took, from a brief stint with the Lakers to Minor and Major League Baseball and eventually announcing the World Series, Olympic Games, and more. He also discusses encounters with other notable personalities, from Cris Collinsworth to Howard Cosell, and how he was impacted by the business side of sports media. The veteran broadcaster strings together a thrilling and insightful narrative about his life, career, and the valuable lessons he learned through it all.

1. “Straight Shooter”: Stephen A. Smith

Credit: Gulf Today

I was anticipating this read ever since Stephen A. announced it last August. I finally got my hands on “Straight Shooter” during Spring Break, and it currently remains the best book I’ve read this year. Many know him as the loud and powerful host of “First Take” and analyst on “NBA Today,” but Stephen A. reveals all in his memoir. From his struggles in New York to a shortened college basketball career and the myriad of twists and turns his path took, this is an in-depth look at one of the biggest stars in sports media.

“Straight Shooter” is an exceptional story of the person behind the sports personality, and is equally filled with insight and wisdom. It’s a perfect read for sports fans and anyone looking to enter the industry.

These three books have become an essential part of my library of sports stories, but it doesn’t stop there. I’m currently enjoying “Lost in the Game: A Book About Basketball” by Thomas Beller. And there are other sports-related stories taking up my “To Be Read” list, including the “Masters of the Games” by Joseph Epstein, “Pacific Rims” by Race Bartholomew, and “Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer.

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Jordan Pagkalinawan
Boundless & Ballin’

Top Writer in NBA & Sports. Student journalist & podcaster. Socials manager at PerThirtySix, editor for Last Word on Hoops, & writer for YRMedia. Emerson ’26.