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The Best Sports Book

Last updated on July 2, 2019

We looked at the top 10 Sports Books and dug through the reviews from 42 of the most popular review sites including Good Reads, Kirkus Reviews, Kids Reads, Novel Escapism, The New York Times, Books in the Media and more. The result is a ranking of the best Sports Books.

Best Sports Book

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Our Picks For The Top Sports Books

Show Contents
Our Take
Experts Included
Pros
Cons
  The Best Overall
10.1

Phil Knight

Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike

Overall Take

Entrepreneurs and aspiring athletes alike will find Phil Knight's "Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike" inspiring. The Nike founder recounts his journey to making his shoe company one of the most recognized brands in the world. His struggles will be inspiring to anyone who has ever had... Read More

Experts Included
DWYM Entertainment Experts plus Good Reads, Kirkus Reviews, I’m Educating Myself, Dasience, Leaders Are Readers, Mentors Book Shelf and 5 more. Along with user reviews from Amazon.
Pros
" The title of the memoir is apt, for much of it is a rather dogged struggle through the minutiae of shoe distributorship and manufacture, with all the deals and lawsuits that entails."
Cons
"My biggest problem with the book is that it stops right as the good stuff happens in the Jordan era. It would be great to read more about the modern history of Nike, competition with Adidas and other brands as..."
  The Best Value

David Epstein

The Sports Gene

Overall Take

David Epstein's "The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance" is a different type of sports book. It takes a scientific look at what makes talented athletes good at what they do. Epstein uses studies and reports to back up his findings, revealing how much of a role... Read More

Experts Included
DWYM Entertainment Experts plus Good Reads, Scientific American, The Washington Post, Book Browse, Kirkus Reviews, The Sports Ethicist and 1 more. Along with user reviews from Amazon.
Pros
" As a former competitive runner and current Sports Illustrated senior writer, Epstein is well equipped to explain the complexities of the “sports gene” search. Time and time again, his deeply researched and nuanced investigations of the genetics underlying the athleticism..."
Cons
"I have only one complaint: The narrative slows down when the author shows off what he knows about the arcane details of genetic science."

Kobe Bryant

The Mamba Mentality: How I Play

Overall Take

Any sports fan will immediately recognize the name Kobe Bryant. Kobe Bryant's "The Mamba Mentality: How I Play" outlines some of the NBA star's top strategies for dominating the game. The book is filled with eye-catching photos, making it a great read even for those who don't normally like to read.

Experts Included
DWYM Entertainment Experts plus Good Reads, Kirkus Reviews, Amazon Book Review, Work On Your Game. Along with user reviews from Amazon.
Pros
" Each photo effectively demonstrates what Bryant is discussing, and some feature hand-drawn embellishments by the author, showing the angle and direction of a pass or cut or some other element of a particular play."
Cons
"It’s not that The Mamba Mentality is a bad book; it’s that the reader’s expectations are much higher than what this book delivers. I think many readers/fans who read this book will say the same. Perhaps Kobe and his publishing..."

Arnold Palmer

A Life Well Played: My Stories

Overall Take

Although one of the world's most respected golf legends is no longer with us, Arnold Palmer's "A Life Well Played: My Stories" is his parting gift to readers. You'll get plenty of anecdotes from the golfer, with the stories appealing to all types of readers. This isn't an autobiography, but... Read More

Experts Included
DWYM Entertainment Experts plus Good Reads, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, Golf Blogger. Along with user reviews from Amazon.
Pros
" A heartfelt, sincere, mini–self-portrait by a man who epitomizes class."
Cons
"Readers looking for more insight into Palmer would be better served by his earlier 2000 autobiography, A Golfer’s Life. Agent: Jay Mandel, WME. (Oct.)"
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42

Expert Reviews Included

Reviews from our DWYM category experts and analysis of some of the most respected sources including: Good Reads, Kirkus Reviews, Kids Reads, Novel Escapism, The New York Times.

10,673

User Opinions Analyzed

We also incorporate user reviews from the leading retailers including Amazon and 3 others.

Our experts reviewed the top 10 Sports Books and also dug through the reviews from 42 of the most popular review sites including Good Reads, Kirkus Reviews, Kids Reads, Novel Escapism, The New York Times, Books in the Media and more. The result is a ranking of the best of the best Sports Books.

DWYM is your trusted roduct review source. Our team reviews thousands of product reviews from the trusted top experts and combines them into one easy-to-understand score. Learn more.

Look for the DWYM seal for products that are the best in their category.

The Best Overall

Phil Knight Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike

Expert Summarized Score
8.4
11 expert reviews
User Summarized Score
9.6
2,750 user reviews
The DWYM Expert Take

Entrepreneurs and aspiring athletes alike will find Phil Knight's "Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike" inspiring. The Nike founder recounts his journey to making his shoe company one of the most recognized brands in the world. His struggles will be inspiring to anyone who has ever had a dream.

What other experts liked
The title of the memoir is apt, for much of it is a rather dogged struggle through the minutiae of shoe distributorship and manufacture, with all the deals and lawsuits that entails.
- Kirkus Reviews
The book is solid material for everyone interested in business, entrepreneurship, because you can learn a lot from this book.
- I'm Educating Myself
September 2, 2018 | Full review
Shoe Dog is brilliant! The style of writing, (I listened to the audiobook of Shoe Dog which was not narrated by the author except the introduction but I enjoyed the delivery).It gets kind of tricky especially with memoirs, this is...
- Dasience
Worth to say that Phil Knight is an excellent writer and a storyteller. He did a great job as the book is absolutely astonishing not only by the inspiring story it tells but also by its abundance of useful information...
- Leaders Are Readers
September 20, 2018 | Full review
I really think this book is a great motivational book for people in any business. Se the opportunity around you and go for it. This book belongs in my top five biographies of all time, I really enjoyed every last...
- Mentors Book Shelf
I was very surprised how well the book is written. I am not sure but I think most of the memoir is written by Phil Knight himself. The book reads much more like a Thriller than like a (somewhat boring)...
- Value and Opportunity
August 2, 2016 | Full review
his is an entertaining book and contains a lot of useful business lessons.
- Seeking Alpha
May 9, 2017 | Full review
On my reading list was Shoe Dog by Phil Knight. Having grown up in the period of Air Jordan and the rise of Nike, the story Phil Knight tells of building one of the greatest retailers and most recognisable brands...
- PenderFund
November 3, 2017 | Full review
This book also surprised me by how clean it was. There was probably about a dozen swear words in the entire book, and other than that, nothing else objectionable in the entire thing.
- Everyday Reading
I think Knight wanted to write scarily honest account of what starting a business is really like. And, according to my heart rate, he certainly managed to do so.
- What Me Think
May 28, 2018 | Full review
What other experts didn't like
Unfortunately, much of the book conforms to the dry formulas of business writing, borrowing in turn from business speechifying: tell a joke, show a slide, read the text and expand on the bullet points, move to the next slide.
- Kirkus Reviews
My biggest problem with the book is that it stops right as the good stuff happens in the Jordan era. It would be great to read more about the modern history of Nike, competition with Adidas and other brands as...
- Leaders Are Readers
September 20, 2018 | Full review
It’s not clear whether Knight used a ghostwriter or if he’s done the dead himself, but whether it was one, the other, or a mixture of the two, it’s a strangely gripping read.
- What Me Think
May 28, 2018 | Full review

The Best Bang For Your Buck

David Epstein The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance

Expert Summarized Score
8.2
7 expert reviews
User Summarized Score
9.1
569 user reviews
The DWYM Expert Take

David Epstein's "The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance" is a different type of sports book. It takes a scientific look at what makes talented athletes good at what they do. Epstein uses studies and reports to back up his findings, revealing how much of a role that nature plays in athletic talent. The author does a good job at weaving science in with his own analysis and anecdotes.

What other experts liked
As a former competitive runner and current Sports Illustrated senior writer, Epstein is well equipped to explain the complexities of the “sports gene” search. Time and time again, his deeply researched and nuanced investigations of the genetics underlying the athleticism of different races, genders and individuals reinforce a comforting, commonsense...
- Scientific American
Many researchers and writers are reluctant to tackle genetic issues because they fear the quicksand of racial and ethnic stereotyping. To his credit, Epstein does not flinch. He reviews the best scientific studies and reports that, on average, black athletes run faster and jump higher than white ones.
- The Washington Post
Readers may feel overwhelmed at Epstein’s avalanche of genetic and physiological studies, but few will put down this deliciously contrarian exploration of great athletic feats.
- Kirkus Reviews
This engaging and illuminating work is a pleasure to read. The anecdotes are amazing and humanize the scientific questions and issues raised by the role of genes in sport. Epstein does a great job of reporting the science without getting too technical, but without dumbing it down or sensationalizing it....
- The Sports Ethicist
January 27, 2014 | Full review
In this controversial and engaging exploration of athletic success and the so-called 10,000-hour rule, David Epstein tackles the great nature vs. nurture debate and traces how far science has come in solving it. Epstein forces us to rethink the very nature of athleticism.
- Fully Booked
April 9, 2014 | Full review
What other experts didn't like
I have only one complaint: The narrative slows down when the author shows off what he knows about the arcane details of genetic science.
- The Washington Post

Our Sports Book Buying Guide

  • Before you start looking for a good sports book to read, think about the topic you’re interested in exploring. If you want an in-depth look at a sports figure, Kobe Bryant’s “The Mamba Mentality: How I Play” and David Epstein’s “The Sports Gene” are both good choices. For those who are interested in an analysis of sports as a whole, David Epstein’s “The Sports Gene” is a can’t miss. Phil Knight’s “Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike,” on the other hand, is a book that takes an in-depth look into the sportswear industry.
  • Phil Knight’s “Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike” is the Nike founder’s tale of his own journey in building one of the top brands in the world. With Kobe Bryant’s “The Mamba Mentality: How I Play,” you get a look at the five-time NBA champion’s own unique approach to the game. Arnold Palmer’s “A Life Well Played: My Stories” isn’t an autobiography – that was published previously. This book is filled with anecdotes and wisdom directly from Palmer that can apply to both golfers and nongolfers. In David Epstein’s “The Sports Gene,” an expert in sports medicine uses scientific studies and his own expertise to break down whether certain athletic abilities truly are genetic rather than learned.
  • No matter how passionate you are about your favorite sport, you’ll still want a book that is a page-turner. Phil Knight’s “Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike” describes in-depth the processes involved in creating and distributing shoes. Even if you never thought you’d be interested in such a topic, you’ll find this book draws you in. Kobe Bryant’s “The Mamba Mentality: How I Play” uses photos to illustrate Bryant’s points, breaking up the text in a way that will appeal to even those who aren’t avid readers. Arnold Palmer’s “A Life Well Played: My Stories” makes you feel as though you’re spending time with the late legend, thanks to Palmer’s distinct writing voice. David Epstein’s “The Sports Gene” can slow down at times, particularly while the author is providing scientific evidence to back up his claims. He does have a way of weaving those sections in between anecdotes and commentary to keep things moving, though.
  • Whether you’re into sports or not, you’ll still find Phil Knight’s “Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike” useful. Knight is open about the struggles he faced along the way, and his honesty can be motivating to those trying to reach a goal of their own.
  • Kobe Bryant’s “The Mamba Mentality: How I Play” is ideal for those who want to learn a little more about his preparation process. As with Knight’s book, this one can also provide lessons applicable to any field.
  • By tackling the nature versus nurture debate, David Epstein’s “The Sports Gene” will help you analyze whether things you’ve heard all your life, such as the 10,000-hour rule, are fact or fiction.
  • Although Phil Knight’s “Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike” is great, it does stop right before the Jordan era of the athletic company. Those looking for an analysis of Nike in the modern era may not find it there.
  • David Epstein’s “The Sports Gene” tackles some very sensitive issues with a straightforward approach. Typically, science steers clear of statements that might be seen as racial stereotyping, but Epstein jumps right in. He tampers any criticism by making sure he has scientific studies and reports to back up every finding.
  • One thing to keep in mind with Kobe Bryant’s “The Mamba Mentality: How I Play” is that it’s only around 200 pages, and many of those pages are filled with photos. You may find yourself disappointed that you aren’t getting more meat.

DWYM Fun Fact

Sports had a slow start in America, with Puritans initially choosing to spend Sunday worshipping rather than on recreation, as the Roman Catholics had done. Even Virginia resisted sports initially, putting laws in place to prevent playing. But as plantations and slavery began to emerge, those laws were gradually tossed aside.

Even John Adams, who initially spoke against playing games, grew up playing bat and ball. In adulthood, America’s founding father spent time riding, shooting and boating. Competing as a means of passing time was too compelling for Americans to resist, and soon, racing became the first big sport, with many others to follow.

The Sports Book Tips and Advice

Whether it’s football, basketball, hockey, golf or tennis, supporting sports teams is America’s favorite pastime. Fans grow to care about their favorite athletes, wanting to learn as much as possible about them. For that reason, there are plenty of books on the market profiling sports’ greatest heroes, as well as those analyzing various historical sporting events and offering analysis into various facets of athleticism.

But you’ll also find books tagged under sports that give you value in other areas of your life. An athlete’s process, for instance, could inspire you as you build your own business or try to achieve your goal of learning a new skill. Although often only sports fans read books in the genre, there are many benefits for nonfans as well.

When you’re looking for a sports book, readability is also a factor. If you’re reading about a sports figure, you’ll likely want the storytelling to be true to the person’s voice. This is especially important if the book is a series of anecdotes and stories directly from the subject of the book. If you’re reading a historical retelling or analysis, it’s even more important to verify that the writing style reads the way you prefer, especially if you want to avoid a dry recital of facts and figures.

Even if you buy a book because you want to learn more about a particular person or sporting event, accuracy is still essential. If it’s a profile of the person, it can help if the book has that person’s byline. Unauthorized biographies can sometimes be full of inaccuracies and hearsay. If it’s a historical event or analysis, pay close attention to the author’s credentials to make sure the person is qualified to speak as an expert on that subject.

Primarily, though, a good sports book will inspire and motivate readers. One of the reasons Americans are so fascinated with sports is that it shows that with determination and hard work, anything is possible. You’ll find that most sports books are written with the goal of conveying that message to readers.