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Best Books Written by Athletes

Best Books Written by Athletes

Best Books Written by Athletes

There’s something about sports autobiographies that tend to draw in a wide swath of readers.  Perhaps it’s the determination, the grit, and the perseverance they convey.  Or perhaps it’s our desire to root for the underdog, the lone wolf, or the unlikely hero. 

Whatever reason, we’ve compiled a list of the best books written by athletes.  These books tell their stories through their eyes, without any filter or disguise.

When it comes to books written by athletes, we looked for a wide range of books and autobiographies to choose from. 

Everything from basketball, to baseball, to football, soccer, hockey, and even horse-racing. We also looked for books written by the top athletes in their sport, aiming to gain insight and motivation to the way they played.

Looking for more sports books? Definitely check out our reviews on the best basketball leadership books and the best golf books for beginners!


Below we are going to take a look at the best books written by athletes which can be purchased on Amazon.  Please note, the product links below include links from an Amazon Associates account.  This means that we at Ball Are Life receive a small commission on any purchases made from those links.  This is at no additional cost to you and helps to keep our site free, honest, and without bias or prejudice.

The Mamba Mentality: How I Play

Written by the late, great Laker, Kobe Bryant, The Mamba Mentality: How I Play is Bryant’s tribute to the game of basketball.  We’ve previously discussed this book on our review of the best inspirational basketball books and believe it deserves another recommendation here. 

The Mamba Mentality is a deeply personal and introspective perspective on Bryant’s life, the challenges he faced, and the way he played the game.  While personal and intimate at times, Bryant also sets out to dispense useful pieces of wisdom and helps readers on a journey to fully understand what the “Mamba mentality” is and how readers can achieve it.

Beneath the Surface: My Story

Michael Phelps is the most decorated Olympian of all-time, with 28 total medals, 23 of which were gold.  But his journey was not an easy one, as the reader will see in Beneath the Surface: My Story.  Extremely personal, Phelps discusses how the trauma of his parent’s divorce, his struggles with attention deficit disorder, and the challenges of being thrust into the limelight affected him.

But it is also a story of hope.  Phelps discusses his journey of being the youngest man to set a world swimming record to becoming an international superstar with his Olympic run in 2008.  A behind-the-scenes look into one of the greatest athletes of all-time, readers will gain insight into the training, both mental and physical, that went into his training.

Believe It: My Journey of Success, Failure, and Overcoming the Odds

In 2015, Nick Foles mulled over the possibility of retiring from professional football.  Having a solid, albeit semi-disappointing career, Foles believed his NFL days were over.  However, in the 14th week of the 2017 NFL season, the starting quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles went down with a torn ACL. 

Nick Foles came off the bench and against the odds and critics, led the team to their first Super Bowl victory.  A journey of unlikely triumph, Believe It: My Journey of Success, Failure, and Overcoming the Odds is Foles’ perspective and account of his historic run.

God and Starbucks: An NBA Superstar’s Journey Through Addiction and Recovery

More than a story of redemption, God and Starbucks: An NBA Superstar’s Journey Through Addiction and Recovery, is a true story of Vin Baker, an NBA athlete who struggled with drugs and alcohol off the court.  Although he believed himself to be a functional alcoholic, Baker eventually lost his wealth, fame, and stardom.

A journey of recovery, commitment, and perseverance, this is a tale of salvation and redemption more than one of falling from grace.  Now the manager of a Starbucks and a youth minister, Baker is happier and more secure in his life than ever before.

Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds

David Goggins, author of Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds, didn’t have a happy childhood.  Physical abuse, poverty, and prejudice were just some of the challenges he faced on a daily basis.  By-and-large, Goggins was not expected to achieve much. 

However, Goggins transformed himself from a depressed, overweight young man into a United States Armed Forces icon.  One of the only people to complete elite trainings as a Navy SEAL, Army Ranger, and Air Force Tactical Air Controller, Goggins provides a path that he believes anyone can follow to push past their pain and reach their fullest potential.

Open: An Autobiography

Andre Agassi may arguably be one of the best men’s tennis players of all time.  However, his greatness did not come without its own challenges both personal and physical.  From a young age, Agassi was groomed to be the next tennis prodigy.  Although he rebelled against this decision, Agassi would emerge as a symbol of tennis’ future and become an international fan favorite.

Deeply personal, we’ll read a firsthand account of the challenges and setbacks Agassi faced in Open: An Autobiography.  From his time at a Florida tennis camp to his struggles with both winning and losing championships.  Agassi is brutally raw and honest, in a way that fans have always loved.

Courage to Soar: A Body in Motion, A Life in Balance

Simone Biles achieved international fame following her dominance at the Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro.  But there is so much more to Biles than her Olympic feats and awards.  In Courage to Soar: A Body in Motion, A Life in Balance, we hear a first-hand account from Biles herself on how she faced the odds, pushed through pain, and achieving greatness through faith and hope.

The Impossible First: From Fire to Ice

Colin O’Brady has completed what no other human has been able to do – cross the Antarctic alone.  In this gripping memoir, The Impossible First: From Fire to Ice, O’Brady details his trek.  Withstanding Antarctica’s frigid, sub-zero temperatures whilst pulling a sled that initially weighed 375-pounds, he persevered through what many called impossible.


Rafael Nadal, another tennis great, details his upbringing, the respect and admiration he had for his family and his undying quest for greatness in Rafa.  Born in Mallorca and coached by his uncle, Rafael takes readers behind the scenes as he struggles with injuries, personal problems, and an unyielding desire to be the best.

I’ll Show You

Not many athletes are afforded the opportunity to play in their hometown.  But for Derrick Rose, Chicago was more than just a hometown, it was his town.  From growing up in Englewood to making it to the United Center, Rose was destined to enter the NBA Hall of Fame.  But after four knee surgeries and being waived by the Utah Jazz, Rose had to dig deep to find the strength to persevere and succeed on the court.  I’ll Show You is a deeply personal, intimate conversation between Rose and the reader and is unlike any other novel written by an athlete you’ll ever read.


When it comes to thee best books written by athletes, there tends to be a pull towards stories of redemption, beating the odds, and overcoming obstacles.  Although the athlete life is often portrayed as glamorous and without fault, this is rarely the case.  Athletes, like regular people, have obstacles which they too must overcome to reach the pinnacle in their sport.  Be sure to read their stories to help give you new perspective and insight into their lives.