The Top 5 Books in Basketball Fiction

Basketball Hoop, Guy Reading Book Outside

Looking for baseball fiction? There are hundreds of titles to choose from. Football? You’ll find dozens of fiction works to entertain and inspire.

Yet, for some reason, solid basketball fiction is hard to come by. Thus, you must not be surprised to learn that only a few titles on this list were written for the adult market, with the rest focused on more youthful readers.

However, some of the best books feature young protagonists, so if you can keep an open mind you’ll be introduced to some excellent literary odes to your favorite sport.

Last Shot: A Final Four Mystery

  • Author: John Feinstein
  • Publication date: 2006
  • Length: 251 pages

Here is a fast-paced, highly-regarded novel that combines mystery, March Madness, and a journalist’s curiosity. The book takes place in New Orleans, with all of the action of the Final Four happening at the famous Superdome.

However, if you’ve ever gone behind the scenes at a high-stakes sporting event, then you know that the action out on the court is nothing compared to the politics and maneuvering behind the scenes.

The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills has nothing on college ball.

The main character is an ambitious up-and-coming sports reporter named Stevie. Excited, he heads to New Orleans and the Final Four.

However, college basketball isn’t the squeaky-clean sport that many believe it to be. Stevie overhears a dastardly plot to affect the games, the wins, and the final outcome.

He’s there by grace and favor; does Stevie dare rock the boat? You’ll have to read the book to find out.

Last Shot gives standard sports commentary an intriguing spin and will appeal to both mystery readers and college ball fans. And if you do love the novel, there’s plenty more; this book is the first in a series of six.


According to The Boston Globe, Feinstein is one of today’s top basketball writers (in case you were on the fence about checking out this title).

Note: Perhaps there is such a dearth of basketball fiction simply because the game itself is so captivating, so engrossing that even the fans are exhausted after a match.

“This must be the be-all and end-all of the basketball experience,” some may think. This book proves otherwise. There is as much going on behind closed doors as there is under the basket, and beyond that there is skullduggery and obscured dealings besides.

Perhaps there is no end to the thrill that is basketball…what if the game itself is merely the tip of the iceberg?

The Final Four

  • Author: Paul Volponi
  • Publication date: 2012
  • Length: 256 pages

This book starts with the intense focus and desperation on-court during a Final Four game. Some of the top names in college hoops are facing off—some to end the day in ignominy, others to ride a wave of fame into lucrative futures.

This is the kind of pressure most humans can’t handle, which is how so many of us end up in middle management (and pharmacy waiting areas). It takes a unique personality to find these kinds of situations thrilling: thousands of spectators living or dying by your every shot, every feint, every epic fail.

But this book doesn’t stay on the court; it pauses the action and delves into the past of the main players. How did they get to that exact moment?

What factors—unique to each of their lives—propelled them to that point in time, that moment of potential greatness or utter despair?

In the same vein as Elizabeth George’s Inspector Lynley novel, What Came Before He Shot Her, this novel presents a fascinating “reverse map” of human triumphs, indignities, and the moments of uncertainty in between that drive a person unrelentingly toward a specific fate.

What is special about this book is that it causes us to reverse trace some of our biggest and most momentous decisions, the ones that perhaps seemed trivial at the time, but which landed us where we are, here and now.

We often hear of “the Butterfly Effect,” which tells us that a butterfly flapping its wings on the other side of the planet can begin a chain of events which cumulatively could end up in a hurricane.

It is also thus with our lives. I chose American River College over Texas A&M. Who knows what this choice, at the tender age of 17, shifted in my fate?

My point is, reverse engineering a person’s life is fascinating, and the self-scrutiny it inspires is even more so.

The Wizenard Series: Training Camp

  • Author: Wesley King in collaboration with Kobe Bryant
  • Publication date: 2019
  • Length: 592 pages

The first in a two-book series, this book details what happens when magic graces a down-and-out basketball team. Think: Harry Potter meets Rucker Park (the famous Harlem hoops court that has spawned so many NBA legends).

The book is written for youth, but I suspect that more than a few adults contributed to the thousands of five-star reviews for this series.

The team is the West Bottom Badgers, a name that does not inspire the players to mighty feats of brilliance. That’s why they need a coach who has more than a hint of the supernatural up his sleeve.

This book does work to instill the best of elite athletic values in the reader, no matter their age. Despite messages that are loud and clear to most readers (which typically drives me crazy since they are often done unsubtly by well-meaning but less-skilled wordsmiths) they don’t detract from this plot at all.

The fact that Kobe was involved draws many to the book, but the story itself is what sends readers to the bookstore or Amazon to buy the second in the series.

This book held the number one spot on the New York Times bestseller list.

If you didn’t like the Harry Potter books, don’t believe in the possibility of magic, or are simply an A-grade curmudgeon, you may want to skip this title. There is a genre of fiction known as “magical realism,” which superimposes magic upon everyday reality.

If, however, you love such books, this is the read for you.

Note: Kobe collaborated in another series called Legacy and the Queen. In this series, a young girl must excel at tennis in order to gain admission into a place of privilege and learning…a place she needs desperately to bring order, promise, and hope into a life that can best be described as “bedraggled.”

This Was Never About Basketball

  • Author: Craig Leener
  • Publication date: 2017
  • Length: 294 pages

Believe it or not, this is a book where basketball meets sci-fi.

Yes, it’s true. On this list we have basketball + magic, basketball + mystery, and now basketball + interdimensional fate.

What can I say? I never bore people.

But perhaps this is not a coincidence. It is possible that the combination of basketball stories and a sense of the otherworldly comes from that feeling that true fans secretly hold about hoops. There is a belief that there is something divine in the game, something that lifts the best players up to the level of angels, and loyal fans to the level of guardians of a fabled citadel.

Of course, baseball fans feel something similar, which is why we have books like Shoeless Joe and films like Field of Dreams. When it comes to certain sports, it’s easy to believe in magic.

I think I speak for everyone when I say life is hard. We need to be able to daydream about a parallel universe from time to time, where our options sparkle and we have energy not just to get through the day, but to play with our friends and climb mountains and maybe, just maybe, affect the future of basketball itself.

In This Was Never About Basketball, 17-year-old Zeke Archer knows that basketball will carry him into his future: college on scholarship and maybe a career in the pros.

When he loses his cool during an important match and is kicked out of the game, that entire future trajectory shifts.

Suddenly, the scholarship vanishes, and he isn’t even allowed to continue to attend his regular high school classes. He must finish senior year at an educational alternative, where he meets some real characters.

One of those displaced kids becomes friends with the now-morose Zeke. Together, they make a wild discovery about basketball that upends everything we think we know about the sport.

This book is the first in a trilogy, all starring Zeke Archer.

Note: Although Zeke is meant to be a teenager, the book often reads like an adult novel. Thus, don’t be shy about checking it out, even if you think you won’t appreciate a Young Adult work of fiction.

After the Shot Drops

  • Author: Randy Ribay
  • Publication date: 2018
  • Length: 336 pages

This book is considered one of the timeliest sports novels available right now.

The primary storyline is that of two friends, as close as can be. They live in a tough neighborhood where the struggle is real. One of the boys is such a stand-out basketball player that he is given entry into another world, a place where people don’t live day to day under the fear of eviction, a place where kids can focus on learning and sport without keeping an eye out for violence and disaster and all the indignities of life in a modern shantytown.

The other boy does not get into this world. He stays behind and thinks and worries and shuns his friend. He must do something; he feels too much.

You think you are impervious to this situation? Attend a high-powered job interview with a good friend. If one of you gets taken up while the other continues to work at the DMV, then see how you respond. You’ll have to do something…you’ll feel too much.

Dealing with the urban issues that don’t just affect adults, the young people in this book are up against tough decisions: friends or family? Keep up your hope, or give in and just slide into the reality of things?

When you are surrounded by the hopeless, and your best friend has gone off to a place where the people have much more to live for, how are you supposed to feel?

This book reminds me of how ridiculous it is when adults are nostalgic for childhood. Have they forgotten that kids deal with the same issues, but have far less decision-making power about anything?


A solid novel by a National Book Award finalist, After the Shot Drops compares the kids who “make it” and the ones who are left behind in the mess.

Also, anyone who has ever been dropped or ghosted by a person they thought was a good friend will find a kindred understanding in this novel. As I said, “timely.”

A Thought in Closing

We need more basketball fiction. There’s no reason for baseball and football stories to hog the shelves. Good fiction can bring new fans to the game, and vice versa.

Furthermore, everyone has the experience of failing at something, at coming up against a wall so high and so thick that there’s no point, is there? This is where sports fiction comes in. We gain knowledge of what it takes to either succumb to the failure or overcome it and see what’s over on the other side of that wall.

Sports is one of the clearest tests of a person’s spirit, of where their seesaw sits when you balance fear and humiliation against slim possibilities of ecstatic triumph.

Sport has always been, and sport will always be, and we are much better as a species for having this challenge in our lives, in front of us, every week, every season, for all our days.

Jim Beviglia
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About Jim Beviglia
Jim Beviglia has been a gambling writer at since 2018. During that time, he’s written just about every type of article related to gambling, including reviews of betting sites, guides to popular casino games, betting tips on both casino and sports betting, sports and casino blog posts, and game picks. In addition to online gambling, one of Jim’s other major interests is music. He has been doing freelance work for various music sites and magazines for two decades. Among his outlets past and present are American Songwriter, VinylMePlease, Treble, and The Bluegrass Situation. Jim has also written five books on music that were published by Rowman & Littlefield.