NBA stars rip Lyles over 'world champ' claims

US sprint star belittled US basketball league’s fame for not facing global rivals

AFP August 29, 2023


American NBA stars ripped world sprint king Noah Lyles on social media for comments saying he is offended when teams declare themselves "world champions" for winning an NBA crown.

US sprint star Lyles won the 100- and 200-meter titles and helped the US 4x100 relay capture gold at the World Athletics Championships in Budapest.

But Lyles said he is offended when US sports league champions like those in the NBA declare themselves "world champions" after capturing a crown without facing global rivals.

"You know, the thing that hurts me the most is that I have to watch the NBA Finals and they have 'world champion' on their head," Lyles said.

"World champion of what? The United States?"

The NBA fills rosters with top talent from around the world, and its one franchise outside US borders, the Toronto Raptors, took the NBA crown to Canada in 2019.

The past five NBA Most Valuable Player awards went to players born in other lands – Greece's Giannis Antetokounmpo in 2019 and 2020, Serbian center Nikola Jokic of reigning NBA champion Denver in 2021 and 2022 and Joel Embiid of Cameroon this year.

NBA players would argue that they compete in the world's best league and deserve the label of global best.

"Somebody help this brother," wrote Phoenix's Kevin Durant, a two-time NBA champion and two-time NBA Finals MVP.

"When being smart goes wrong," wrote four-time NBA champion forward Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors.

Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns simply posted a facepalm emoji.

And Aaron Gordon of the reigning champion Denver Nuggets offered a bit of a challenge, writing, "Whatever... I'm smoking buddy in the 200m."

Lyles made the point that they only beat other US-based teams or the Raptors, not great squads from around the world.

"Don't get me wrong," Lyles said. "I love the US – at times – but that ain't the world. We are the world. We have almost every country out here fighting, thriving, putting on their flag to show that they are represented. There ain't no flags in the NBA."

The "world" champion is decided by national teams at the Basketball World Cup, now being contested in Asia with a US squad of NBA players competing for the crown.

"Why bro care so much?" Sacramento Kings All-Star guard De'Aaron Fox asked on social media with a laughing until crying emoji.

The debate went to NBA fans in other sports such as US tennis star Frances Tiafoe, who was asked about the controversy after his victory in a first-round match at the US Open.

"To Noah Lyles, Jesus Christ. Like, I get what he was saying but I don't get what he was saying. You know what I'm saying?" Tiafoe said. "What he said made sense but what he said also did not make sense.

"Because it's the best league in the world, NBA. You can argue the three, four best players in the NBA are not American at the moment. I mean, so what do you say to that?

"The best foreign players are playing in the NBA. But then on the flip side, yeah, it's played in the States. So I get both sides, but I'm definitely probably leaning more to all the hoopers' responses, for sure."

It's an issue that doesn't connect to other US sports leagues as much.

Major League Baseball draws similar comments for its best-of-seven final being called the World Series when no teams from Asian or Latin American leagues can play for the title.

The NFL is generally recognized as world champion largely because American football is played so few other places in the world at that level, even Canada's league using some key different rules.

The world championships in ice hockey are generally played during the NHL playoffs, with national teams in the global event generally getting NHL talent only after clubs are eliminated from the title chase.


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