The teams are ready and your brackets are set. Yes, March Madness is upon us. Even if you’re not a die-hard fan, you know basketball is in the air. But why is college basketball so popular and what elevates the game to such a fevered pitch? This reading list spotlights college basketball and its culminating championship tournament known as March Madness, plus other illuminating reads on the NBA to round things out.
Curious how it all started? Making March Madness explores the early days of college basketball with thoughtful historical context and engaging insight. Learn how this annual championship tournament became one of the most highly anticipated sports events of the year.
Davis captures a defining moment in basketball history — the 1979 NCAA championship game where two soon-to-be basketball legends first go head-to-head. Larry Bird and the Indiana State Sycamores square off against Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Michigan State Spartans in Salt Lake City on March 26, 1979 in an unforgettable game that launched the two players’ storied careers. Davis recounts the season that preceded the game and spotlights the significant impact their coaches had on the players and the game.
There’s no denying the popularity of college basketball. During its annual March Madness championship, college basketball coverage often eclipses that of NBA games. Merl Code, former college basketball player who held executive positions with both Nike and Adidas, knows this better than anyone. His career led him to the business side of the game, where he learned the inner workings of a business model more profit-driven — and corrupt — than he ever imagined. Black Market is his account of that world. Code argues that for-profit college basketball programs employ tactics that exploit young athletes, particularly those of color. It’s a riveting insider look at the business of college basketball.
In 2005, the NBA instituted an age minimum and required recruits to attend college before going pro. Before then, players occasionally made the leap from high school straight to the pros. Abrams recounts a generation of “prep-to-pro” basketball stars that altered the landscape of professional basketball including: Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and others.
As the name implies, The Art of a Beautiful Game is a painstaking labor of love from Chris Ballard, former college basketball player and award-winning Sports Illustrated writer. Ballard goes well beyond the surface of traditional sports coverage to give readers an inside look at the game he loves. He interviews some of the game’s biggest stars, past and present, and weaves compelling history and insider coverage — even attending an elite NBA training camp — to give readers a truly immersive experience.
You don’t have to be a devout follower of the game to know about the “Dream Team,” the 1992 U.S. Olympic men's basketball team that captivated the world and earned Olympic gold in Barcelona. Sports writer Jack McCallum witnessed the magic first-hand. As a senior staff writer for Sports Illustrated, he enjoyed one-on-one time with the all-star players including Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan, and watched history in the making from a courtside seat. In “Dream Team” he shares that experience, while offering a fresh look at the basketball phenoms through new interviews and hindsight perspective.
About the Author: Sonia Gonzalez
Sonia Gonzalez holds a B.A. in English Literature from Lehman College, CUNY, and is a freelance writer and editor. Her work has appeared on various parenting and lifestyle websites and in New York Magazine’s 2018 Best of New York series. She lives in New York and when she's not reading or writing, she's spending time with her husband and three children and their very spirited dog.