“He was one of my heroes growing up,” says the 11-time N.B.A. All-Star and author of “Letters to a Young Athlete.” “Any morsel of knowledge that he shared should be treasured.”
What books are on your night stand?
“Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.” “A Promised Land,” by Barack Obama. “Writings on the Wall,” by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Raymond Obstfeld.
What’s the last great book you read?
“The Innovation Stack,” by Jim McKelvey. McKelvey, a co-founder of Square, tells great stories about how he found success in entrepreneurship and the hard work that he put into the process. This book shows that in order to get an idea off the ground, you have to solve the continuous challenges that arise along the way.
Describe your ideal reading experience (when, where, what, how).
I’m wide-awake with a lovely backdrop, preferably a beach or a balcony view of a beach. I usually get my reading done in the mornings. I have my breakfast and make sure that the kids are doing their schoolwork and I sit at my desk and read. It’s usually quiet and it’s a great way to start the mind going for the day. I prefer hard copies over e-books only because I like to touch and feel what I’m reading. When I need a reference, it’s easier to pick up an old book than to search an e-book.
What’s your favorite book no one else has heard of?
“Steal Like an Artist,” by Austin Kleon. In my life as an artist, I’m always looking for inspiration. Sometimes we can get caught up in feeling a certain way about the start of creation that can be a trap. This book has helped me greatly to stay open to influences.
Which writers — novelists, playwrights, critics, journalists, poets — working today do you admire most?
Walter Isaacson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Ryan Holiday, Robert Greene.
Who are your favorite sportswriters? Your favorite memoir by an athlete?
“The Winner Within,” by Pat Riley. A former athlete turned analyst, then coach, Pat Riley has a special wisdom on getting the most out of yourself and others. This book was written at a time when he was competing for championships in New York after his illustrious 10-year run with the Lakers during the ’80s.
What are the best books about basketball?
“Dream Team,” by Jack McCallum. The Dream Team shattered popular culture, sending a tidal wave across the world and inspiring a generation of athletes outside of the United States.
“The Book of Basketball,” by Bill Simmons, is pretty much a basketball encyclopedia. If you want to learn the history of the game or just super random facts, this book is for you.
“The Mamba Mentality,” by Kobe Bryant: written by one of the greatest athletes of all time. You get insight into what made Kobe Kobe. He was one of my heroes growing up and any morsel of knowledge that he shared should be treasured.
What book (besides yours!) do you think every young athlete should read?
“Becoming Kareem: Growing Up On and Off the Court,” by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Raymond Obstfeld. He gives great insight on the challenges that he faced on and off the court during a time of civil unrest in the United States. An inspiration.
Do you count any books as guilty pleasures, or comfort reads?
My guilty pleasure reading is espionage or spy novels. Daniel Silva’s book series is awesome — he always captures my imagination.
Has a book ever brought you closer to another person, or come between you?
“Outliers,” by Malcolm Gladwell — my coach gifted it to me the first time I met him, and I replied that I had already read it. From then on, books became a topic of conversation all the time.
What’s the most interesting thing you learned from a book recently?
“Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance,” by Angela Duckworth, was one of the books that helped me get through challenges in the championship years playing in Miami. I’ve recently reread it. “Perseverance” is one of my go-to words, and “Grit” is packed with great lessons. The tools and gems I took from this book aided me in being able to handle the adversity of my career coming to an unexpected end and finding my passion in writing. You have to have passion when going after your goals, and being able to channel that fire into a positive direction is a powerful idea.
Which subjects do you wish more authors would write about?
Overcoming challenges that happen in real life. I think there is much to gain from reading someone’s story about how they rose to the occasion in the face of adversity. Because you will face adversity.
What moves you most in a work of literature?
A compelling story. I love storytelling and adventure. I am always looking for how characters, whether in fiction or nonfiction, meet their moment. The Harry Potter series is a favorite! When I first started seeing adults and children alike wrapped around the block to buy this series, I had to get in on the experience.
Which genres do you especially enjoy reading? And which do you avoid?
I especially enjoy reading biographies and autobiographies, but I welcome all of the genres.
How do you organize your books?
By size: small ones with small ones, big ones with big ones. I’m almost out of room.
What book might people be surprised to find on your shelves?
“All You Need to Know About the Music Business,” by Donald S. Passman. Music has become an important outlet for me after my basketball playing days. I eventually made up my mind that I wanted to create a label and begin putting out music for the world to hear. Being creative is wonderful, but you have to combine creativity with the correct business knowledge. So, I became a student of the music business and this book was recommended.
How have your reading tastes changed over time?
In the beginning, I read a lot of fiction, mostly adventure novels. Then, I got into the motivational/self-help genre. Now, I find myself reading more autobiography and history looking to understand the past and its role in the present.
If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be?
“Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass” offers a perspective in U.S. history that is rarely discussed. I believe all of us should read it. It is a dark part of the past, but I think it’s necessary to understand that time on a deeper level so that we know the full history of the United States of America. Knowledge is important to have as a leader.
You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?
James Baldwin, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Barack Obama. I would host them at my home because Texas is lovely in the spring. I would definitely get the best chef I could find. The common thread between these three writers would be the experience of Black males in America, from the civil rights movement, where people fought for the right to vote, to the election of the first Black president. I would listen to the things that they feel are important from their experiences in life and leadership. I would soak in as much information as I could about what it takes to be a great leader.
What do you plan to read next?
“Notes of a Native Son,” by James Baldwin. James Baldwin was such an eloquent voice. He was able to make his ideas sing, and echo, during very tense times. I knew I needed to do more research into him as well as his literary works.