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(StatePoint) This season why not give your favorite sports fans gifts that will keep them dreaming about their favorite pastimes even when the big game isn’t on?

If sport is the ultimate metaphor for life, then it makes sense that some of the most enduring stories come from sports. And when it comes time to find a gift to satisfy the needs of the avid sports fan in your life, there's a great selection of recent books that seek to entertain and educate.

Here is a selection of the top literary releases of the past year, one for each of the four major team sports:


One of the greatest b-ball tales ever told can be found in “Dream Team: How Michael, Magic, Larry, Charles, and the Greatest Team of All Time Conquered the World and Changed the Game of Basketball Forever” by Jack McCallum.

The gold-medal performance from the United States men's basketball team at the 2012 London Olympics had some people drawing comparisons with the original “Dream Team” that captured the world's imagination at the 1992 Summer Games in Barcelona. While opinions varied about how the two teams matched up, the best conclusion can probably be drawn from McCallum's thorough re-telling of how that team dominated the courts and the headlines.

20 years after one of the greatest collections of basketball talent took the court, “Dream Team” recreates the highs and lows of that historic moment in the game. The team is mostly remembered for the array of skills demonstrated by its players, but this book reminds readers that the team was also made up of some of the most unique personalities in sports history.


A great gift for the hockey fan who thinks he knows everything about the sport is “Breakaway: From Behind the Iron Curtain to the NHL -- The Untold Story of Hockey's Greatest Escapes” by Tal Pinchevsky.

Before the National Hockey League became the international league it is today, many of the most talented hockey players in the world were banned from playing in North America by their Communist governments. “Breakaway” tells the courageous stories of those players who decided they would come to the NHL no matter the consequences. With tales of secret meetings, late-night car rides, and incredible culture shock, Pinchevsky's book reads as much like a spy thriller as a hockey history.

But this book doesn't simply report these unique stories. Through a variety of interviews with hockey greats like Peter Stastny, Slava Fetisov, and Sergei Fedorov, the book shares the perspective of the athletes who made these brave decisions to leave Eastern Europe.


No football fan’s knowledge of the game is complete without knowing about Walter Payton. To satisfy this need, consider “Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton” by Jeff Pearlman.

A Hall of Fame running back considered one of the greatest football players to ever live, Payton was a true legend in every sense of the word. But the man known as Sweetness was more than just an icon. Through interviews with hundreds of friends and family members, Pearlman tells the complex story of the boy from segregated Mississippi who grew up to become one of his sports' great ambassadors, all the while confronting challenges both on and off the field.

The great Bears running back was only 45 when he died, but for the countless fans who felt they lost him too early, this book is an important document that will help people better understand one of the all-time greats.


The national pastime has inspired the greatest number of literary tomes, but nothing beats an insider’s view of the game. For your baseball nut consider “Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity and the Perfect Knuckleball” by last season’s Cy Young winner, R.A. Dickey.

After winning his first Cy Young award following the finest statistical season of his career, New York Mets pitcher Dickey had a truly great year. But he's no overnight success. That's reflected in his memoir, which tells the remarkable story of a young pitcher who, when confronted with the abrupt end of his baseball career, found a new lease that eventually made him one of the game's greats.

An extraordinary story about overcoming insurmountable odds to find greatness, Dickey's might be the feel-good-story of 2012.

This season consider sports gifts that will deepen your favorite fans’ love of their chosen sports passions.


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