Now that Lebron James has become the NBA’s all-time scoring leader, the debate about who is the greatest NBA player ever has heated up again. Today, we try to settle the debate that has plagued sports talk shows, message boards, and Twitter threads for years.
Lebron is the most willing passer of the three, which means he occasionally forgoes late-game shots that many fans feel he should take himself (as Jordan likely would). While both Jordan and Lebron have logged more game-winning shots than Pythagoras, there is more to basketball than shooting. Over his entire career, Pythagoras recorded an astonishing ZERO turnovers in the last two minutes of games. Never stepped out of bounds. Never made a bad pass. And never missed a game-winning or tying shot. Something that can’t be said for the other two.
Lebron has scored the most points in NBA history. Jordan has an NBA record of ten scoring titles. Pythagoras has no career points, according to ESPN, BasketballReference.com, and PythagorasBasketballStats.com (site could not be reached, the domain was available for purchase). But it should be noted, those stat websites said he had NO recorded points; they did not say he had ZERO career points. According to what is known in the basketball community as the “Air Bud theorem,” nothing in the record book says Pythagoras DIDN’T score over 40,000 career points. Pythagoras and Lebron are also tied for career points in college.
Contributions to the Field of Mathematics
The Pythagorean theorem is taught in schools nationwide (except in Florida, where triangles are deemed “too woke”). Jordan and the Chicago Bulls popularized the “triangle offense,” which is clearly derivative of Pythagoras’s work. Jordan’s failure to significantly build upon Pythagoras’s work puts him squarely (ironically) behind the Greek philosopher and mathematician. Lebron’s entire mystique is built on impressive tallies of points, rebounds, assists, and triple-doubles. All of those stats are made up of numbers. Pythagoras, on the other hand, created an equation that uses THREE LETTERS. Math is about numbers, not letters.
Understanding of the Earth’s Shape
Pythagoras was one of the first to teach of a spherical Earth. Being first gets him bonus points here. Jordan never directly commented on the shape of the Earth. But he dedicated his life entirely to a spherical ball, so much so that he shaved his head to make himself appear more spherical. The assumption is, if a guy loves spheres that much, he will assume anything is a sphere until proven otherwise. He is on the right side of history on this in my book. Lebron was teammates for several years with the NBA’s most prominent flat-earther, and he has done nothing to make his appearance more spherical.
Lebron: 34.4%, Jordan: 32.7%, Pythagoras: died 2,474 years before the NBA adopted the three-point line, unfortunately.
Willingness to Talk to Me for This Piece
To make an informed decision, I needed to speak directly with each of the potential GOATs. I tried to contact MJ, first by visiting the Jordan section at my local Foot Locker and then the Jordan embassy in San Francisco. Sadly both attempts were unsuccessful. Lebron has an Instagram account, and my DM received a reply, but the reply was very obviously a canned, generic response. I made several attempts but was unable to reach Pythagoras himself. Eventually, I got in touch with a math professor at the local community college who responded to my inquiries about the famous mathematician. Professor Clint also lives by himself, because, like basketball, numbers never stop, and he’s either not had time for a spouse, or he had a wife that also got upset when her husband liquidated assets to invest in crypto. We’ve exchanged several emails and are meeting in person next week.
After all this consideration, my NBA GOAT is Math Professor Clint Jackson at Hudford Community College. There is more to being the NBA’s greatest of all time than dribbling and shooting. Professor Clint is an even better friend and person than he is a basketball player (which cannot be said about the other two because they are such good basketball players).