Sport is an important part of almost every culture. Its significance helps it to permeate other parts of life, making its way into daily conversations, the media, art, and books. It’s often even included as part of arts and culture events, like Gambia’s Mboka Festival.
There are countless books written about sport each year, offering up different perspectives about each discipline and information that fans wouldn’t otherwise be privy to. Sometimes these books enable fans to gain an insight into the challenges, thoughts, and mindset of an athlete, coach, or team either through a biography or autobiography. Sir Alex Ferguson’s My Autobiography is an example of this, examining the trials and tribulations encountered on his way to making Manchester United the most successful English football club in history.
A book is often the only way to get this information across, as sports coverage on TV doesn’t have the luxury of time or hindsight that can explore these topics. Other times, sportsbooks focus on the strategy, mechanics, and technicalities of the game. These books are often aimed at people who are looking to improve their own playing abilities, though people who just want to learn more about how their favourite athletes work can also be interested.
The Little Green Book by the professional poker player Phil Gordon is a great example of this, in which he goes beyond the basic mechanics and terminology of playing poker. Rather, he explains his techniques which can help novices improve their game. Books from the first category are often the most interesting and have the broadest appeal as they focus on the human element of a story and can provide inspiration to people, even if they’re not planning to become professional athletes.
For those interested in stories of black athletes, there are a plethora of options to choose from, though here are some of the best.
Lewis Hamilton: My Story
Lewis Hamilton was the first (and so far only) black Formula 1 driver. Born to a black father and white mother in the English county of Hertfordshire, around an hour’s drive from London, Hamilton didn’t have the racing heritage that many in the sport have.
Although his father had to work three jobs to pay for it, Lewis shone in every category of motorsport he entered no matter whether it was radio-controlled cars, go-karts, or single-seater race cars.
The book, which was released in 2008, only focuses on his early life and journey through junior Formulas and his first season in Formula 1. Therefore, it doesn’t describe his championship-winning 2008 season, or his journey to becoming the most successful Formula 1 driver of all time.
However, it’s still an inspirational depiction of the struggles of a young black athlete trying to make it in a sport he loves.
Kobe Bryant, The Mamba Mentality: How I Play
The former Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard, Kobe Bryant was one of the biggest names in basketball until his tragic death in early 2020. The five-time NBA champion penned ‘The Mamba Mentality‘ to give his perspective on his basketball career and life in as a whole.
In the book, Bryant explains in detail how he trained and worked hard to prepare both physically and mentally to outclass every other player. Success wasn’t enough for Bryant – he wanted to channel his energies into being the best and the “mamba mentality” was how he did that.
The Mamba Mentality is part instruction manual on how to become the best in your field and part inspirational story that will leave you wanting to replicate him.
Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth: My Autobiography
Mike Tyson is one of the most famous boxers of all time. Most people know about his personal struggles, but his book Undisputed Truth: My Autobiography tell the story of the heavyweight champion’s rise and fall first hand.
The Washington Post described it as “the most soul-baring book” of its kind thanks to the painstaking detail that Tyson goes into while revealing his life.
Over more than 600 pages, Tyson explains how he defied the stereotypes and expectations that people had of him, coming from a tough, economically deprived part of Brooklyn. He details the challenges he faced while doing it, as well as the personal battles that came with success in brutally honest terms.
It has a happy ending though, as Tyson also explains how he fought a second time to turn his life around, build an acting career, and a life with his third wife, Lakiha Spicer.
‘Undisputed Truth: My Autobiography’ is a story that will leave anyone inspired, particularly anyone who can relate to Tyson’s personal struggles.