ESPN personality Mike Greenberg has a new book out, the title of which I think does it a disservice. “Got Your Number: The Greatest Sports Legends and the Numbers They Own” is a dry, encyclopedic title for a pleasant little tome that is rote fact and persuasive writing in equal measure. Indeed, in his forward, Greenberg admits that he has gone off the beaten path in selecting No. 1 through 99, and makes the case for why he selected some people, as much as who he selected.
Some will be self-evident: No. 88 for John Wooden’s obscene (though tarnished) winning streak that I can safely say will not be topped in any of our lifetimes, if ever; No. 23 for Michael Jordan, perhaps the most competitive professional athlete to ever live, and on the very short-list of “greatest of all-time” in his sport; No. 99 for Wayne Gretzky, whose two decade-long career was filled with so many eye-popping statistics that you’d be hard-pressed to replicate them on a video game. Even then, I have my doubts.
In discussing the well-worn legends, Greenberg takes a stab at highlighting some of those lesser-known accolades. For instance, MJ being the only person to be MVP of the league, the playoffs, and lead the NBA in scoring...and he did it four times. MJ was also a 10-time scoring champion, made the all-NBA defensive team six times, led the league in steals three times, was league defensive MVP twice, and even led the league in assists twice. Insane.
Some others are far less obvious, and this is where I think Got Your Number really shines, Mike making the case for lesser-recalled legends in more obscure sports (Michael Phelps), or those whose accomplishments have dimmed with the passage of time (Babe Zaharias). You can see that when heaps lavish and well-deserved praise on the most accomplished basketball coach in Women’s history, the person most responsible for bringing the sport some popularity, and who has a legit claim to be on the very same short-list with John Wooden: Pat Summitt.
This is is where GYN gets fun, and where Greenie has to put on the rhetorical flourishes. But rather than dryly reciting some of those, I’ve included some passages below for you to peruse, to see if this is something in your wheelhouse.
Some of the career marks are so frightfully good, that you honestly wonder why we don’t discuss them more and place them in the sports lexicon alongside No. 42, 755 homeruns, 323 wins, etc.
Overall, this is a thoroughly enjoyable read for fans of sporting history. If nothing else, you’ll be armed with enough minutiae to win any bet at any sports bar in America by the time you’re through the very digestible 315 pages — 315 pages made even more palatable by the selections being dissected into very nice 3-5 page vignettes.
It really is the perfect book for some Alone Time Pooping. Surely, Greenie had to know that is where most copies will be found across America. He knows his market, that’s for certain, and caters to it admirably.
Got Your Number: The Greatest Sports Legends and the Numbers They Own, ISBN 1368073565 (Hyperion Avenue (April 4, 2023) is available at all retailers now.