Read Across America Day: SportsBiz Book Suggestions

Looking for a good sports business book to add to your library?

In celebration of “Read Across America Day”, I thought I would share a few sports business book recommendations. I tried to limit the list to just ten, including some of my all-time favorite reads. Some of the books on this list are older, some are new. Some provide great sports business insight, others explore the industry’s history, while several offer some wisdom and inspiration.

1) Believe to Achieve

Written by friend and mentor, long-time Jordan Brand executive Howard “H” White, Believe to Achieve is packed with great advice to share with students, and the underlying message in his book is truly something we can all benefit from.

2) Ice to the Eskimos

One of the most creative and innovative sports marketers in history, Jon Spoelstra’s first book remains a classic. Jon is also recognized as an “industry pioneer” in our textbook, and Ice to the Eskimos is full of examples of his influence on the business of team sports.

3) Shoe Dog

Shoe Dog is the autobiography of Phil Knight, the founder of Nike. It features great insight into the creation of one of the biggest brands in the world.

4) The Elusive Fan 

The Elusive Fan is a fantastic sports business book that examines the challenges facing marketers as they work to attract the attention of fans in today’s cluttered marketplace. 

5) Sneaker Wars

Well before Phil Knight was selling sneakers from the back of his car, two brothers built a shoe company in Germany. Nearly twenty years after the company was founded, the Dassler brothers had a major falling out. One brother started a company called Adidas, the other brother started a company just across the river called Puma. The two brands remain rivals to this day.  

6) Let Me Tell You A Story

This is an older book that I borrowed from a friend (and die-hard Celtics fan) a few years ago written by legendary Boston coach Red Auerbach. Much of the book is about basketball, but what struck me was how innovative Coach Auerbach was when it came to finding creative ways to get fans to come out to the arena for a game. Lots of anecdotes with historical relevance in this book.

7) The Red Rubber Ball

The Red Rubber Ball isn’t necessarily a sports or sports business book, but it was written by a former Nike executive. Kevin Carroll essentially took the spirit of recess and turned it into an influential message that has inspired millions of people around the world. I would strongly recommend this quick read for both teachers and students.

8) Go for the Magic!

A good friend gave me his copy of basketball Hall-of-Famer Pat Williams’ book, Go for the Magic, when I began my career working in professional sports. I have since read dozens of books written by Mr. Williams (all are excellent), but this remains my favorite. 

9) Mamba Mentality

In Mamba Mentality, the late Kobe Bryant shares fascinating insight into the determined mindset that fueled his legendary work ethic, and ultimately helped him to find success both on and off the court.

10) ESPN: Those Guys Have all the Fun

I love to read books that explore the beginnings of game-changing brands like Nike, adidas, Gatorade etc. Years ago, I read Creating an Empire: ESPN by Stuart Evey, one ESPN’s original investors and it was great. James Andrew Miller’s ESPN: Those Guys Have all the Fun takes readers from the company’s roots to the present day (well, 2011), even exposing some of ESPN’s past shortcomings from a corporate culture perspective.

Bonus: Veeck as in Wreck

Bill Veeck, otherwise known as the Godfather of sports marketing, is an absolute legend in our industry. Credited with creating some of the most famous (and infamous) promotional stunts, Veeck literally wrote the playbook for how sports teams would eventually craft marketing plans dedicated to attracting fans to stadiums all over the world.