To paraphrase the legendary Ron Burgandy, it escalated quickly.
It all started with America's sprint king, Noah Lyles, making inflammatory remarks about other sports in the United States during the World Athletics Championships.
Stream 50+ sports live and on-demand with Kayo. Sign up now and start streaming right away >
Lyles was speaking at a news conference last Friday night, local time, after securing his third consecutive World Championship gold medal in the 200m, adding to the 100m title he had previously clinched at the Budapest competition.
When asked about the state of athletics on a global scale, the 26-year-old gave an impassioned response to both the marketing of his sport and some of the terms used in other sports.
“You know what hurts me the most?” he began. “I have to watch the NBA Finals and they have the title ‘World Champion' on their mind.
“World champion of what? The United States?
“Do not get me wrong. Sometimes I love the USA. But that's not the world. This is not the world – we are the world.
“Almost every country out here is struggling, thriving and raising a flag to show they are represented.
“There are no flags in the NBA. We must do more. We need to be presented to the world.
“I love the athletics community, but there's only so much we can do within our own bubble. There's a whole world out there.”
Lyle was referring in part to the “NBA World Champions” caps, along with t-shirts and other merchandise that are printed and displayed on each player on the winning team right after the final whistle, last season it was the Denver Nuggets .
The US has often been ridiculed for labeling its actual national competitions with the word “world champions,” even though leagues like the NBA, NFL, and Major League Baseball are considered the pinnacle of those sports.
Lyle's comments received an extremely rare round of applause from the media in the room that night and were well received by most sports fans.
Until some NBA players got wind of it.
America's professional basketball players are some of the best-known, most popular, highest-paid, and most open players in any sport.
The people at the top typically have millions of followers on social platforms and are not shy about speaking their minds.
As such, the reaction from players like Phoenix superstar Kevin Durant, Suns teammate Devin Booker, Golden State player Draymond Green and current NBA champion Aaron Gordon was quick and largely predictable.
Durant, who is known to have burner accounts on social media and often interacts with his followers, was the first to respond to a SportsCenter post about Lyle's comments, saying, “Somebody help this brother.”
Booker just responded with the face-palm emoji and Lillard used the letters “TF” with some laughing emojis. If you don't know the meaning of these two letters used together, we suggest you look them up. However, suffice it to say that it is NSFW.
Gordon took a different view, saying that he and his 203cm height were “a smoking 200m dude”.
Juan Toscano-Anderson, a role player who also won a “world title” with Golden State in 2022, at least tried to explain his point of view.
“Last time I checked,” he wrote, “the NBA was the best competition in the WORLD.”
The outspoken Green, who describes himself as a leader of what he calls “new media,” replied: “When it goes wrong, be smart.”
However, Lyle received plenty of support, particularly from the track and field community as well as celebrity and fitness advocate Mario Lopez.
Lopez pointed out that the English Premier League “has the best football players in the world, but the champions of the league don't call themselves world champions.” And literally EVERY country in the world plays football.”
We have the last word with Darrell Hill, an American who competed in the shot put at the 2016 Olympics and grappled with the international status of the NBA.
“NBA guys think they're world champions because they're playing the Toronto Raptors,” Hill wrote.