While it may come as a surprise to many people, sports celebrities really do have relevant, real things to say that don’t revolve entirely around sports metaphors. Some of the more surprising entries on this list are a young football star who also authors children’s books, a motivational book by a disgraced world champion cyclist, and a sports memoir by one of the most celebrated novelists in America. All of these books are penned by people who are or were athletes. Some are funny, some painful, and some just outright strange. Here are the top seven books written by athletes!
This riotous memoir of a literary type trying to make the third string for the Detroit Lions football team (I’m not even going to get into all the problems with that idea) is not a boy makes good story by any stretch of the imagination. What makes this book great is Plimpton’s candid and vivid description of life in the locker room, a place most fans will never get to see outside of television.
Theo Walcott has made a big name for himself in UK football as the youngest player ever to be signed to the notorious Arsenal team from the Saints. He quickly added being the youngest player, at only a couple of months after his seventeenth birthday, to be invited to the England national football team. Bringing his experience as a striker to a quartet of children’s books with lessons such as perseverance, physical fitness, and the power of friendship and teamwork, Walcott proves that athletic doesn’t mean unable to communicate.
When this book came out, readers and reviewers alike raved about the inspiring story of Armstrong’s fight against testicular cancer and his determination to win. However, the allegations of doping that have dogged Armstrong for a decade and a half finally exploded earlier this year, transforming an inspiring story into a punch line worthy of comedian Robin William’s sketch in “Live at the Met” supporting Armstrong and resulting in the stripping of numerous awards and accolades Armstrong had “earned.” It’s not about the bike, Lance? Truer words may never have been written.
In terms of sheer likability, impeccable personal conduct, and recognizability, Mary Lou Retton may well be the most popular female athlete ever to grace the planet, never mind the gym mat. Her transition from star athlete to wife, mother, and motivational speaker was capped off by gaining her author credentials. In Gateways To Happiness, Retton relies heavily but not entirely on athletic metaphors to discuss topics such as time management, adhering to a plan, and never giving up. This highly rated book is a must have not just for the content, but for the charmingly accessible way it’s written.
While the name may not mean much to you, odds are you and/or your wife have seen The Prince Of Tides, starring Barbara Streisand and Nick Nolte and based on Pat Conroy’s book of the same name. Conroy takes a trip back in time to The Citadel, one of the most respected military academies in America, for an inside look at cadet life both on and off the court. Featuring a clueless coach and the stiff upper lipped command staff and cadets themselves, this book is an unflinchingly honest look at a place most writers consider taboo to write about.
Having a list like this and not giving a nod to the Duke of Dunk would be like talking about chefs and omitting Wolfgang Puck or Gordon Ramsay. In this short but memorable book, Jordan dissects the rules he lives (and plays) by, including tips on how to beat self-doubt and conquer fear, the importance of focus, and how to both lead and follow. This book is a must-have for anyone who’d like to get their team motivated by a man who has built an empire on doing exactly that.
7) You Cannot Be Serious
By John McEnroe
To round out the list comes this offering from the undisputed Bad Boy of Tennis. (Pre-McEnroe, the world thought there was no such thing!) This brutal, candid, funny, and honest dissection of his racquet-hurling antics on the court and his erratic behavior in his personal life is by turns savage and charming, just like “Johnny Mac” himself. While it’s not exactly motivational reading, this book is still worth giving an afternoon or two, especially on a day when you just “pulled a McEnroe.”
In an interview with FoxSports Bill Reiter, Isiah Thomas spoke about how his game compared to those of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. His comments are surprising, to say the least.
“I have no problem saying this at all,” he says. “[Magic Johnson and Larry Bird are] all 6-(feet)-9 and Jordan was 6-6 and a half. If they were all 6-1, it wouldn’t even be a question. They wouldn’t even f—ing rate. If they were all my size, s—, they wouldn’t even be talked about.
“I beat the s— out of them when they were that big. If we were all the same size, f—.” He stops to laugh good-naturedly. “Make them 6-1 and let’s go on the court.”
In basketball, there’s an obvious advantage to being tall, but if it were the only (or even driving) quality necessary to be great, Gheorghe Mureşan would have been a Hall of Famer.
Little guys have an advantage in quickness and bigger guys are closer to the rim. Isiah used his quickness to get by bigger defenders, while Jordan, Magic and Bird used their size to dominate smaller players.
Had MJ, Magic or Bird been 6-1 or 6-2, they still would have been great players. They wouldn’t have been as big, but that wouldn’t affect their ability to shoot the ball or find the open man. Isiah complaining about their height no different than if they complained about Isiah’s quickness. If you’re in the NBA, you’re gifted one way or another.
Thomas says in the piece that he’s terrible at public relations, and this is another example. But the guy can evaluate talent. The Knicks drafted pretty well under his tenure — David Lee, Wilson Chandler, Trevor Ariza, Channing Frye — and he helped the Raptors settle on Marcus Camby, Damon Stoudemire and Tracy McGrady. I doubt he would accept such a role, but Thomas would make a great VP of player personnel.
The article is really about Isiah’s exile, and Reiter mentions Thomas’ abilities in the area of player evaluation as a possible way back into the league:
In 2009, ESPN used the Estimated Wins Added stat, developed by respected basketball mind John Hollinger, to judge 20 years worth of general managers. Isiah was ranked the second-best evaluator of talent…
It will be interesting to see what the future holds for Isiah, who can’t seem to stay out of his own way, PR-wise. He has talents that could be useful to NBA teams, but there is so much baggage and ego that goes along with him that it just makes it easier for teams to go another direction. However, Knicks owner James Dolan does like him, so there’s always a chance that he could end up in New York again.
Just don’t let him participate in any trade discussions.
After a miserable start to the season in which he took shots at his players and himself, Larry Brown is out as coach of the Charlotte Bobcats in another messy exit in his well-traveled career.
The team announced later Wednesday that former Charlotte Hornets coach Paul Silas, who lives in the Charlotte area, will take over on an interim basis.
Here’s what team owner Michael Jordan had to say about the move:
“I met with Coach Brown two weeks ago about the team’s performance and what we could do to improve it,” Jordan said. “We met again this morning after practice. The team has clearly not lived up to either of our expectations and we both agreed that a change was necessary.”
Charlotte is 9-19 on the season and has lost four straight. The Bobcats won 44 games last season, so their start is obviously a big disappointment. Brown has a reputation for being able to turn around a franchise, but he has a tendency to wear out his welcome when things aren’t going well.
SIlas is a pretty good coach. His teams in Charlotte always played hard, so his presence should (somewhat) revitalize the roster. We’ll see.
For what it’s worth, Brown’s camp is saying that he fully intends to coach again.