Two high school teams overcome incredible odds to play football. Women push through layer after layer of sexism to be successful. A professional league is battling to end a season in a bubble amid racial unrest, while a manager most people love to hate continues to win.
All of these stories have been highlighted by a talented group of writers who have captured our attention and taught us a lot over the past year.
Take a closer look at 10 sports books we loved reading in 2021.
“Heaven Found: The Ashes of a High School Football Team” | Bill plaschke
“Rising from the Ashes” is a common metaphor in the athletic comeback genre, but in this case it is literally the story of the Paradise Bobcats, most of whom lost almost everything in the 2018 wildfire. which reduced to ashes 18,000 homes in the Californian city. ember. The role of sport is sometimes overestimated in helping communities heal. Not here. Plaschke, a 25-year LA Times columnist, begins the book by recounting the flight to safety in poignant detail, then turns to Reconstruction, which finds its harsh and captivating voice in the individual stories of more than a dozen players and coaches.
“Across the River: Life, Death and Football in an American City” | Kent babb
Kent Babb of the Washington Post takes readers to a place they are unlikely to explore on their own: the Algiers neighborhood of New Orleans. Combining detailed reporting with fluent writing, Babb introduces us to Ednar Karr High’s coach Brice Brown and the weight he carries beyond trying to win a fourth state championship. His players are growing up in the midst of an epidemic of gun violence, leaving him to not only train the fundamentals of football, but also how to deal with the pressure of mental health issues, prolific drug trafficking and economic inequality.
“All In: An Autobiography” | Billie Jean King
Sports activism has its roots in the 1960s, when tennis star Billie Jean King – who grew up on 36th Street in Long Beach – began her fight for gender, racial and economic equality that continues to this day. today. The 432-page book, co-authored with reporters Johnette Howard and Maryanne Vollers, unmistakably carries King’s energetic and fiery voice and shares the author’s most personal struggles. Like Andre Agassi’s 2009 autobiography “Open,” King’s memoir is not only excellent read, but also essential public service.
“Bubbleball: Inside the NBA’s fight to save a season” | Ben golliver
The Washington Post’s national basketball writer was one of the few sports writers to spend the 107 days in the NBA bubble made necessary by the pandemic. It was a long and bizarre journey – albeit stationary – with 22 teams chasing a championship in a high school gymnasium environment. The Lakers would claim the title, which Golliver captures in detail, but his eyewitness on the ground floor of the real-world uproar of the summer of 2020, which included a work stoppage caused by the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis. , and the mental health of the players put to the test by the prolonged isolation is the real asset of the book. The NBA erected a bubble and it saved the season (and the Lakers’ 17th championship) but it did not isolate the real world from its occupants.
“Giannis: The unlikely rise of an NBA MVP” | Mirin Fader
Mirin Fader couldn’t have timed an inside look at the unlikely rise of Giannis Antetokounmpo better, the Greek sensation leading the Milwaukee Bucks to an NBA title in tandem with the book’s release. Fader is a gifted writer who shares vivid details about Antetokounmpo’s impoverished education in Greece. His status as an undocumented immigrant prevented him from playing in the best Greek club teams and he was selling trinkets with his family on the streets as they battled racism. Despite everything, Antetokounmpo made his way to the NBA. While he remains hard on himself as he strives to hold onto the opportunities he has won, the book is peppered with the Greek star’s humility and good humor that made him l one of the most endearing stars in the NBA.
“Glory Days: Summer 1984 and the 90 days that forever changed sport and culture” | L. Jon Wertheim
Middle-aged sports journalists have made a cottage industry by infusing their work with references to films by John Hughes, Michaels Jackson and Jordan and the “Karate Kid”, to name a few. Few, if any, turned them into a gripping 336-page, decade-long tale that, frankly, was damn fun and hilarious. Prolific Wertheim, Editor-in-Chief at Sports Illustrated and author of 15 books ranging from children’s books to memoirs of Al Michaels, reflects on a summer that spawned cultural figures and inordinate moments, including the Summer Olympics of Los Angeles, still considered the gold standard of the modern games.
“Hail Mary: the rise and fall of the National Women’s Football League” | Britni de la Cretaz and Lyndsey D’Arcangelo
You’ve probably heard of “A League of their Own,” a movie that captured the magic of a professional women’s baseball team that once thrived in the United States. Britni de la Cretaz and Lyndsey D’Arcangelo deliver equally sweet tales of another notable professional league team that has received little attention. They present the rambling women’s professional football league that operated in the United States in the 1970s. The teams include the short-lived LA Dandelions, who were competitive but couldn’t overcome geographic distance from other teams. operating in other parts of the country.
“Better to be Feared: The New England Patriot Dynasty and the Pursuit of Greatness” | Seth Wickersham
Throughout his career, Wickersham, an ESPN writer, has paid close attention to detail that can make an NFL owners reunion as captivating and entertaining as the final minutes of a Tom Brady Super Bowl return. The Brady-Bill Belichick Dynasty is an irresistible and intimidating canvas for anyone setting out to tell the definitive story of the most secretive success story in NFL history. Wickersham delivers the goods with a Halberstamian level of original detail and insight. You might hate reading the book – because the Brady-Belichick Patriots tend to inspire that sort of thing – but you won’t regret reading it with hate (unless, maybe, you’re a fan of USC. and / or the Chargers, both of whom had Brady on hand over two decades ago, to pass him up in favor of much, much less).
“Sidelined: Sport, Culture and Being a Woman in America” | Julie dicaro
Julie Dicaro shines the spotlight on subjects that are often ignored because they make writers and readers uncomfortable. While many of us love the sport and see it as a loophole, it is important to recognize the sexism, inequality and unequal responsibility of athletes involved in domestic violence that sidelines women. Along with her personal experience, Dicaro uses a mix of interview and research to give readers a more complete picture of what many women have to overcome in order to benefit from any sort of sports affiliation in America.
“Tall men, short shorts” | Leigh montville
The former Boston Globe columnist and editor of Sports Illustrated landed a second life as a journalist as one of the sports world’s foremost biographers. The latest addition to Montville’s work is more of an autobiography, the memoir of a 25-year-old Boston columnist immersed in the final days of the Celtics’ dynasty led by Bill Russell and his rule over the Lakers. While Montville is a Boston guy, he brings a new insider eye to the Lakers of Jerry West / Elgin Baylor / Wilt Chamberlain. This was the time when teams traveled commercially with the writers who covered them, when the biggest stars stayed long after the final whistle to exchange goodness with those same writers. Montville has kept his half-century-old notebooks, for which readers are rewarded with the definitive account of a pivotal season in one of the sport’s great rivalries, complemented by the personal, often hilarious, memories of a generational observer of sport.