Top 10 Sports Biographies

Top 10 Sports Biographies

How do you become a professional athlete? What is it like to be at the very top of a game? Are there downsides to fame, fortune, and constant attention? A well-written sports biography answers these questions and more. Listed below are a range of the best sports biographies currently available.

What Are the Best Sports Biographies?

  1. Open: An Autobiography by Andre Agassi
  2. Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan
  3. The Mamba Mentality: How I Play by Kobe Bryant
  4. Michael Jordan: The Life by Roland Lazenby
  5. Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Ever Seen by Christopher McDougall
  6. Tiger Woods by Jeff Benedict
  7. Undisputed Truth by Mike Tyson
  8. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
  9. Provided You Don’t Kiss Me: 20 Years with Brian Clough by Duncan Hamilton
  10. The Death of Pantani by Matt Rendell

1. Open: An Autobiography by Andre Agassi

Open is an autobiography by world-renowned tennis professional Andre Agassi. In this book, Agassi recounts in great detail all of the most important matches of his career and the life events leading up to and surrounding these games. Agassi addresses the grind necessary to become a top performing athlete, as well as how love of the game can sometimes get lost in that pursuit.

The detailed yet exciting approach Agassi takes to writing about the sport, balanced with the book’s ability to give readers a more human perspective on professional athletes, combine to make Open one of the greatest sports biographies of all time. This book was published in November of 2009 by Harper Collins and is a #1 National Bestseller.

2.  Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan

Published in 2015, Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan went on to become a New York Times Bestseller and even won a Pulitzer Prize. The book was also featured on former President Barack Obama’s 2016 Summer Reading List. Barbarian Days is a book about travel and adventure, geography, friendships, mistakes, addiction to a sport, and much more. 

Finnegan takes the reader with him as he discovers a love for surfing at a young age and then along through the years as he passionately follows that love wherever it takes him. Barbarian Days masterfully depicts a life devoted to surfing, taking the reader on countless unexpected adventures along the way.

3. The Mamba Mentality: How I Play by Kobe Bryant

In October 2018, NBA superstar Kobe Bryant published an autobiography titled The Mamba Mentality: How I Play. Bryant had a fascinating basketball mind and was well known throughout his 20 year Lakers career as not only one of the most talented players on the court but one of the most strategic and mentally tough.

This book takes you inside that mind, beyond the basketball court, beyond raw athletic talent, into the cerebral side of the game. Within this book are photographs of Kobe by Andrew Bernstein, these stunning shots even winning International Photography Awards in 2018. For any basketball fan interested in the game deep beyond the surface, Bryant’s autobiography is a great read.

4. Michael Jordan: The Life by Roland Lazenby

Published in 2014, Michael Jordan: The Life by Roland Lazenby follows the life and career of perhaps the greatest NBA player of all time. This book captures the competitive drive and tenacity that made Jordan who he was through interviews with Jordan himself and important people in Jordan’s career and personal life. Lazenby delves deep into Jordan’s psyche in this book, going beyond a typical sports biography and into the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of Jordan’s life. 

5. Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Ever Seen by Christopher McDougall

Published by Vintage Books in 2009, Born to Run is a unique biography that covers the life not of one athlete but of a whole tribe of athletes. Journalist and runner Christopher McDougall embarks on a journey to discover a running phenomenon in Mexico, a group of native Mexicans called the Tarahumara who can run for hundreds of miles. 

McDougall’s goal is to uncover how the Tarahumara people can run so long and avoid injuries, and throughout the course of the book, he discovers the answer to these questions and much, much more. This biography is well-researched, engaging, and inspires the reader to want to run, figuratively and literally, to their full potential.

6. Tiger Woods by Jeff Benedict

This 2018 #1 New York Times Bestseller by Jeff Benedict constructs a riveting recounting of the life of nearly inarguably the most successful golfer in the world, Tiger Woods. Benedict examines Woods’ upbringing, including the parents who incessantly pushed him to rise to the top of the golf game. 

Rather than shying away from the personal scandals of the Tiger Woods story, Benedict seeks to understand the legendary golfer, conducting over 400 interviews to get to the bottom of his psyche. Another book that humanizes the athlete off the court, field, or green, Benedict keeps golf fans and beyond riveted in Tiger Woods.

7. Undisputed Truth by Mike Tyson

Boxer Mike Tyson’s autobiography, published in 2013, takes an honest dive into the athlete’s troubled past and tumultuous personal life during his career. This world renowned boxer also became a New York Times Bestseller with Undisputed Truth, but his success did not come without ups and downs.

In his book, Tyson discusses his childhood in Brooklyn, where he was arrested 38 times before the age of 13, the dark side of fame and fortune, high points of his career, and much more. Readers of Undisputed Truth will find a moving story about much more than professional boxing.

8. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Great sports biographer Laura Hillenbrand hit it out of the park with her second book, published in 2010, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. Unbroken follows the amazing story of Olympic runner Louis Zamperini from the 1936 Berlin Olympics to his career as an airman in the thick of World War II. 

A sports biography about far more than sports alone, this book draws out the strength of the human spirit and capacity for human sacrifice in incomprehensible situations. Unbroken was brought to the screens in 2014 by Angelina Jolie and was on the New York Times Bestseller list not once but four times.

9. Provided You Don’t Kiss Me: 20 Years with Brian Clough by Duncan Hamilton

Written by a journalist with a front-row seat to Nottingham Forest manager Brian Clough’s career, Provided You Don’t Kiss Me is about soccer, success, short tempers, failure, capturing European Cups, and alcoholism. Duncan Hamilton manages to expertly capture a bigger-than-words man in this 2007 winner of the William Hill Sports Book of the Year. This book is one of the greatest written about the management side of sports, examining unbridled passion and both the positive and negative places that passion can lead a person.

10. The Death of Marco Pantani by Matt Rendell

The tragic story of top cyclist Marco Pantani is told in this 2006 biography by Matt Rendell. Marco Pantani reached the absolute peak of the sport in 1998, conquering both a Giro d’Italia and Tour de France in one year. Rendell masterfully spins the dichotomous life story of a super athlete plagued by a 15-year long cocaine addiction that eventually resulted in a life-ending overdose. Rendell recounts his personal experiences meeting Pantani, interviewing family, friends, and psychological experts to puzzle together the rest of the pieces. 

Honorable Mentions

  • Alex Ferguson: My Autobiography by Alex Ferguson
  • Coming Back to Me by Marcus Trescothick
  • Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success by Phil Jackson
  • Lewis Hamilton: The Biography by Frank Worrall
  • Put Me Back on My Bike: In Search of Tom Simpson by William Fotheringham
  • Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand
  • Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike by Phil Knight
  • The Accident Footballer by Pat Nevin
  • The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game by Michael Lewis
  • The Closer: My Story by Mariano Rivera


What is the best sports biography?

The best sports biography is Open by Andre Agassi. Open is a 2009 autobiography by one of the top tennis performers of all time, Andre Agassi. Agassi balances nearly photographic written accounts of top tennis matches with vulnerable explorations of what it feels like to be a top-performing athlete. This book encourages readers to love the game more but also to see the complex human experiences of the athletes playing the game.