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Steve Ballmer brags he beat Bill Gates in math competition

Commentary: Talking to Conan O'Brien, the former Microsoft CEO can't help but boast about his math prowess.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.

He's pleased with himself.

Team Coco (screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET)

It's a story some have already heard.

There was once a time when former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer beat company co-founder Bill Gates in a math competition.

But when Ballmer sat down with Conan O'Brien on Tuesday and was asked about the momentous contest, the ex-chief added a little nuance.

Ballmer explained this was the Putnam Math Prize Competition -- which The New York Times remembers as the William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition.

Ballmer tried to laugh it off, sarcastically calling it "well-known to most people, I'm sure."

Still, when asked about Gates' math wizardry, Ballmer couldn't help but let his ego slip out a little. He said that, yes, Gates was very good at math while they were both at Harvard.

"Tenth in our dorm," he qualified, with a trace of a sniff.

This he contrasted with his own math prowess in those Harvard days: "I was about second in our dorm and 57th in the country." Gates was 95th, apparently.

But wait, about second? Is third, in some eyes, about second? Saying you're about second suggests, well, a lack of mathematical exactitude.

I suspect one or two (or about three) people might, indeed, wonder at the math skills displayed by Ballmer's NBA team, the LA Clippers.

They haven't been perfect in managing the salary cap. Somehow, the assembled team always promises much and delivers slightly less.

Some teams are winners. Some are about second. (Disclosure: Golden State Warriors fan.)