clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

What is the correct number of basketball points?

Efficiency, competition, bathroom breaks: an argument for the correct number of basketball points

107 is the correct number of basketball points. I give you full permission to go to the comments right this second and tell me I’m wrong. But I need attention, so if you have the time, please humor me. This is my argument for the ideal number of points an NBA team can score in a game, and it is correct in all parts.

What I am looking for in an NBA game:

  • Flashy yet efficient offensive spectacle by both teams
  • Some level of defensive competence
  • A competitive contest throughout so I don’t risk changing the channel and missing the part where it gets good
  • Freedom to comfortably do a pee as needed

For guidance, I’m using 2019-2020 season averages. Teams scored 111.8 points per game in the regular season. That allows us to find a starting point. In order to help guarantee a competitive game, I’m going to eliminate everything over that 112 average. Since we have two teams involved I want to aim for the lower end to guarantee both teams have a better chance of flirting with that 112. Competitive balance: check.

Not only will that help maintain the competition though; it also implies some defensive display and freedom for bio breaks. The ability to easily go the bathroom actually impacts things quite a bit. I don’t want to rely just on the play or the broadcast to tell me when to pee. Maybe I didn’t need to go at commercial? Maybe my last trip broke the seal? It’s a very helpful consideration when it comes to the ideal pace of play.

With that 112 number still in mind, teams averaged 89 shot attempts per game, so a combined 178 between the competitors. That means a game ending in regulation features one shot every 16.2 seconds. According to Discover Magazine, the average pee takes 21 seconds. If I add on the approximate eight seconds of walking from my living room to the bathroom, that means one bathroom break is roughly 37 seconds in total (in this scenario, an elastic waistband is assumed). Ed note: WASH YOUR HANDS WILL!!!! And before any of you jump on the fact that the 21-second pee doesn’t factor in other aspects of peeing that aren’t the specific act of urination, I am canceling out that time with the time spent inbounding the ball.

So what does that do for us? Well, nearly everything. First, it is only fair to split that 37 seconds between the teams. If they are each allowed a shot in that span, then the game would average one attempt per 18.5 seconds. One attempt every 18.5 seconds means a combined 155.6 shots in a game. Using the league average for field goal percentage (46 percent), that would mean each team would make roughly 36 shots compared to the 41 makes per game they averaged in 2019-2020. That five field goal difference means a change somewhere between 10 and 15 points. If we take the high end and subtract that from the average, we have the full range where the perfect number of points lies within: a low of 97, a high of 112. All that from bathroom break timing.

Now to hone in on the perfect score, we must determine offensive efficiency. The goal is to encourage scoring without asking anyone to be too efficient. I don’t want to know a shot will go in, but I do want to trust the shooters to make a shot more often than not. This may sound unfair of me or like I’m dismissing the difficulty of shooting a basketball (a seemingly random act of god, in my personal experience). Even Michael Jordan was a career 49.7 percent shooter. It’s tough, I get it. But this isn’t a quest for a merely good basketball score; I want perfection, and if that’s tough, well ... tough.

So I’m asking the players to make 51 percent of their shots. That feels good to me. It’s compelling but realistic, just better than a coin flip that any given shot will go in. The above-average shooting also fulfills one of the reasons I watch sports: I want to feel like a lesser being. There isn’t an ounce of masochism in that statement; I simply enjoy being awestruck by their athletic abilities while also being free — encouraged, even — to heckle them. I can watch Alex Caruso drain a three or be a defensive pest then cast him off as a goof personified while I watch at home, prone atop a spine recalibration device I bought off Instagram to fix a back that’s sore from sitting on a couch too long.

Anyway, 51 percent feels like a good mix of heightened performance that can be appreciated in real-time without the risk of a lead getting out of hand. If we take that low-end score of 97 points (at 46 percent shooting) and account for the adjusted percentage (51 percent), that puts us at 107.5 points. Unfortunately, you can’t score half a point. (The first sport that allows this will be better for it, if only to fully piss off Vegas.) But since 107.5 can’t be a final point total and we need to determine whether to round up or down, it is now time to introduce the final piece of criteria. The correct number of basketball points is prime. Prime numbers are simply better. They’re more interesting. And for a continuation of an earlier theme, prime starts with P. That means, between 108 and 107, we’re rounding down.

And so, the correct number of basketball points is 107. I look forward to hearing your agreement in the comments.