Essential Books on Michael Jordan
There are countless books on Michael Jordan, and it comes with good reason, he is widely regarded as the greatest basketball player of all time, won six NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls, and helped popularize the NBA around the world in the 1980s and 1990s – becoming a global cultural icon in the process.
“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed,” he remarked.
In order to get to the bottom of what inspired one of history’s most consequential athletes to the height of his craft, we’ve compiled a list of the 10 best books on Michael Jordan.
Michael Jordan: The Life by Roland Lazenby
The Shrug. The Shot. The Flu Game. Michael Jordan is responsible for sublime moments so ingrained in sports history that they have their own names. When most people think of him, they think of his beautiful shots with the game on the line, his body totally in sync with the ball – hitting nothing but net.
But for all his greatness, this scion of a complex family from North Carolina’s Coastal Plain has a darker side: he’s a ruthless competitor and a lover of high stakes. There’s never been a biography that encompassed the dual nature of his character and looked so deeply at Jordan on and off the court – until now.
Basketball journalist Roland Lazenby spent almost thirty years covering Michael Jordan’s career in college and the pros. He witnessed Jordan’s growth from a skinny rookie to the instantly recognizable global ambassador for basketball whose business savvy and success have millions of kids still wanting to be just like Mike. Yet Lazenby also witnessed the Michael Jordan whose drive and appetite are more fearsome and more insatiable than any of his fans could begin to know.
In Michael Jordan: The Life, Lazenby draws on his personal relationships with Jordan’s coaches; countless interviews with Jordan’s friends, teammates, and family members; and interviews with Jordan himself to provide the first truly definitive study of Michael Jordan: the player, the icon, and the man.
Playing for Keeps by David Halberstam
In Playing for Keeps, Halberstam takes the first full measure of Jordan’s epic career, one of the great American stories of our time. A narrative of astonishing power and human drama, brimming with revealing anecdotes and penetrating insights, the book chronicles the forces in Jordan’s life that have shaped him into history’s greatest basketball player and the larger forces that have converged to make him the most famous living human being in the world.
The Jordan Rules by Sam Smith
The Jordan Rules chronicles the season that changed everything for Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. After losing in the playoffs to the “Bad Boys” Detroit Pistons for three consecutive years, the Bulls finally broke through and swept the Pistons in the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals, on the way to their first NBA championship.
Celebrated sportswriter Sam Smith was there for the entire ride. He reveals a candid and provocative picture of Michael Jordan during the season in which his legacy began to be defined, and seeks to figure out what drove him.
This gem among books on Michael Jordan covers everything from his stormy relationships with his coaches and teammates and power struggles with management – including verbal attacks on general manager Jerry Krause and tantrums against coach Phil Jackson – to Jordan’s obsessions with becoming the leading scorer, and his refusal to pass the ball in the crucial minutes of big games. Jordan’s teammates also tell their side of the story, from Scottie Pippen to Horace Grant to Bill Cartwright. And Phil Jackson – the former flower child who blossomed into one of the NBA’s top motivators and finally found a way to coax Jordan and the Bulls to their first title – is studied up close.
Dream Team by Jack McCallum
Acclaimed sports journalist Jack McCallum delivers the untold story of the greatest team ever assembled: the 1992 U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team. As a writer for Sports Illustrated, McCallum enjoyed a courtside seat for the most exciting basketball spectacle on earth, covering the Dream Team from its inception to the gold medal ceremony in Barcelona.
Drawing on fresh interviews with the players, McCallum provides the definitive account of the Dream Team phenomenon. He offers a behind-the-scenes look at the controversial selection process. He takes us inside the team’s Olympic suites for late-night card games and bull sessions where superstars like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird debated the finer points of basketball. And he narrates a riveting account of the legendary intrasquad scrimmage that pitted the Dream Teamers against one another in what may have been the greatest pickup game in history.
Driven from Within by Michael Jordan
In Driven from Within, Michael makes it clear that the basis for his phenomenal success came from the inside out, thanks in part to those who guided him along the way. His skill, work ethic, philosophy, personal style, competitiveness, and presence have flowed from the basketball court into every facet of his life.
“Nothing of value comes without being earned. That’s why great leaders are those who lead by example first. You can’t demand respect because of a title or a position and expect people to follow. That might work for a little while, but in the long run people respond to what they see,” he writes.
This is a book about the power of collaboration and teamwork, the awe-inspiring energy generated when people combine their creativity and passion and a fearless desire to lead.
Whether waking at 6 a.m. to work on fundamentals as a high school junior, or spending hours with legendary designer Tinker Hatfield on the intricacies of state-of-the-art shoe design, Michael Jordan has never wavered in his desire to be the best.
Eleven Rings by Phil Jackson
During his storied career as head coach of the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers, Phil Jackson won more championships than any coach in the history of professional sports. Even more important, he succeeded in never wavering from coaching his way, from a place of deep values. Jackson was tagged as the “Zen master” half in jest by sportswriters, but the nickname speaks to an important truth: this is a coach who inspired, not goaded; who led by awakening and challenging the better angels of his players’ nature, not their egos, fear, or greed.
This is the story of a preacher’s kid from North Dakota who grew up to be one of the most innovative leaders of our time. In his quest to reinvent himself, Jackson explored everything from humanistic psychology and Native American philosophy to Zen meditation. In the process, he developed a new approach to leadership based on freedom, authenticity, and selfless teamwork that turned the hypercompetitive world of professional sports on its head.
In Eleven Rings, Jackson candidly describes how he:
- Learned the secrets of mindfulness and team chemistry while playing for the champion new York Knicks in the 1970s.
- Managed Michael Jordan, the greatest player in the world, and got him to embrace selflessness, even if it meant losing a scoring title.
- Forged successful teams out of players of varying abilities by getting them to trust one another and perform in sync.
- Transformed Kobe Bryant from a rebellious teenager into a mature leader of a championship team.
Michael Jordan and the New Global Capitalism by Walter LaFeber
With Michael Jordan and the New Global Capitalism, Walter LaFeber has written a biography, a social history, and a far-ranging economic critique. From basketball prodigy to international phenomenon to seductive commercial ideal, Michael Jordan is the supreme example of how American corporations have used technology in a brave, massively wired new world to sell their products in every corner of the globe.
LaFeber’s examination of Nike and its particular dominion over the global marketplace is often scathing, while his fascinating mini-biography of Michael Jordan and the commercial history of basketball reveal much about American society.
Michael Jordan: Life Lessons from His Airness by David H. Lewis
“Sometimes a winner is just a dreamer who never gave up.”
Michael Jordan defied gravity, transcended the world’s expectations, and exceeded the limits of age, soaring to fame as the world’s greatest basketball player of all time. While his talent was breathtaking to behold – those flying dunks and record-breaking 60-point games have inspired generations – the unseen forces behind his success are the kind we can all harness for our own.
M. J. and his accomplishments were founded on discipline, hard work, and knowing how to channel the deep, competitive drive within. Michael Jordan: Life Lessons from His Airness offers a courtside seat to the wild ride that made Michael Jordan a star and reveals valuable insights for anyone trying to make their own lofty dreams come true.
Michael Jordan: A Biography by David L. Porter
With the possible exceptions of boxer Muhammad Ali and baseball player Babe Ruth, no athlete has made a greater impact on American society – or in the world – than Michael Jordan. Follow the life of one of the most recognizable athletes and living brands inside this engaging and balanced biography.
I Can’t Accept Not Trying by Michael Jordan
With his own inspiring words, Michael Jordan, the most extraordinary athlete of our time, shares the rules he has lived and achieved by. Underlying his enormous accomplishments are a set of simple principles that provide the foundation for his entire life. He draws on these to show us all how we can learn to set goals and overcome obstacles, confront fear and self-doubt, commit to our dreams and avoid distraction, be a leader and a team player, master the basics to reach new heights in excellence, and reap the rewards of self-discipline.
Relentless by Tim Grover
Direct, blunt, and brutally honest, Grover breaks down what it takes to be unstoppable: you keep going when everyone else is giving up, you thrive under pressure, you never let your emotions make you weak. He details the essential traits shared by the most intense competitors and achievers in sports, business, and all walks of life.
Relentless shows you how to trust your instincts and get in the Zone; how to control and adapt to any situation; how to find your opponent’s weakness and attack. Grover gives you the same advice he gives his world-class clients – “don’t think” – and shows you that anything is possible.
One of the few books Michael Jordan has ever written an editorial review for, Jordan tells readers, “I consider Tim Grover to be second to none in his knowledge of sports training, and he was an invaluable part of my training program. He is a take-charge person, with a deliberate but energetic and enthusiastic technique.”
If you enjoyed this guide to essential books on Michael Jordan, check out our list of The 10 Best Books on Muhammad Ali!