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  • Writer's pictureThe Bossy Bookworm

Shhh! Bossy Book Gift Ideas: Sports Nonfiction

Sports Nonfiction Book Gift Ideas

Here are the 2023 sports books that I'm most excited to give as gifts this holiday season. The list skews toward basketball--as does my list of gift recipients--but there's a baseball, hockey, and a Formula 1 book in here as well.

I'll be sharing my annual Bossy book gift ideas on Fridays leading up to the holidays, and I hope you'll find a book or two in these lists to delight someone you love--or to gift to yourself!

Don't forget to check my past Bossy idea lists for quirky books, perennial classics, modern favorites, nonfiction must-haves, or other new-to-you titles that might be perfect for the people on your holiday gift list!

2020 Bossy Book Gift Guides

2021 Bossy Book Gift Guides

2022 Bossy Book Gift Guides

2023 Bossy Book Gift Guides

Bossy Independent Bookstore Love

A Bossy book-buying note: If you're buying books this holiday season, please support your local independent bookstore. They need and appreciate our business! (The book covers on this site link you to Bookshop, a site that supports the beloved indies that keep us swimming in thoughtful book recommendations and excellent customer service all year round.)

I love my local independent bookstore here in Charlotte, Park Road Books. They have a fantastic selection of titles, staff members offer spot-on recommendations (and sparkling personalities!), and they can order almost anything they don't have in stock.


01 When the Game Was War: The NBA's Greatest Season by Rich Cohen

In When the Game Was War, Rich Cohen shares the gritty back story of the 1987 NBA season--including off-court conflicts and drama involving Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Isiah Thomas, and Michael Jordan.

The 1987-1988 season offered the most future Hall of Famers competing in any season, with four superstars at the center of this golden year of basketball.

Cohen's dozens of interviews with basketball insiders brings to life the many other characters and players who allowed four men to dominate the NBA, including Bill Laimbeer, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Danny Ainge, and Charles Oakley.


02 Why We Love Baseball: A History in 50 Moments by Joe Posnanski

Joe Posnanski's Why We Love Baseball traces 50 key moments in the sport, from enormously important, well-known events to largely forgotten or lesser known but striking moments; from soaring victories to demoralizing mistakes.

"From nineteenth-century pitchers' duels to breaking the sport's color line in the '40s, all the way to the greatest trick play of the last decade and the slide home that became a meme, Posnanski's illuminating take allows us to rediscover the sport we love--and thought we knew."

Posnanski--who lives in Charlotte--is also the author of Why We Love Baseball, The Baseball 100, Paterno, and The Secret of Golf.


03 Surviving to Drive: A Year Inside Formula 1 by Guenther Steiner

Haas team principal Guenther Steiner--who you'll know of if you and yours have been hooked on the Netflix series Drive to Survive--offer's an insider's look at the 2022 Haas season.

From the ins and outs of preseason planning, hiring and firing drivers, designing and launching a car, and the competition season itself, Guenther--an unflinching, blunt communicator on the show--lays bare the behind-the-scenes goings-on for Formula 1 fans.

Surviving to Drive is the first book from a racing team principal, and Steiner promises to keep the pace moving in this no-holds-barred account.


04 Black Ball: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Spencer Haywood, and the Generation That Saved the Soul of the NBA by Theresa Runstedtler

Black Ball traces how these players, some household names, others more obscure, ultimately transformed professional basketball in this neglected yet crucial peroid.

Runstedtler turns her research skills to storytelling by exploring key events such as antitrust lawsuits, innovative playing styles, the challenges facing Black players such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and the advent of Black employees in the NBA offices who began to change the organization from inside.

Theresa Runstedtler is also the author of Jack Johnson, Rebel Sojourner: Boxing in the Shadow of the Global Color Line, about the world's first Black heavyweight boxing champion.


05 Freedom to Win: A Cold War Story of the Courageous Hockey Team that Fought the Soviets for the Soul of Its People--and Olympic Gold by Ethan Scheiner

In this David-and-Goliath story, Scheiner explores Czechoslovakian and Soviet Union international politics and their intersection with sports. Freedom to Win is a detailed, deeply researched, character-driven nonfiction account of the Czech hockey team's noble quest to win an Olympic gold medal over the juggernaut Soviet team--after the Soviets brutally invade Czechoslovakia.

Scheiner focuses on the three sons in the Holik family who made up the heart of the Czech team--and whose parents resisted the cruelties of the Communist invaders.

This is a hockey story with lots of heart.


06 Magic: The Life of Earvin "Magic" Johnson by Roland Lazenby

"I get out on the break, and I just get crazy. That's when I'm at my highest point. And I feel it crazy down to my knees."

--Earvin "Magic" Johnson, 1986

Biographer Roland Lazenby conducted hundreds of interviews of fellow players, family members, coaches, opponents, loved ones, and with Magic himself to craft the story of the celebrated, then controversial (then celebrated again) figure for Magic.

Roland Lazenby is also the author of biographies of Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Jerry West, among other books.


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