NBA stars anger sprint king Lyles over ‘world champion’ claims

WASHINGTON — American NBA stars have angered sprint world champion Noah Lyles on social media for commenting he is offended when teams declare themselves “world champions” for winning an NBA crown.

US sprint star Lyles won the 100m and 200m titles and helped the US 4x100m relay win gold at the IAAF World Championships in Budapest.

But Lyles said he was offended when US sports league champions like those in the NBA declared themselves “world champions” after capturing a crown without taking on global rivals.

“You know, the thing that hurts me the most is that I have to watch the NBA Finals and they have the ‘champion of the world' on their mind,” Lyles said.

“World champion of what? The United States?”

The NBA has rosters of top talent from around the world, and its only franchise outside US borders, the Toronto Raptors, brought the NBA crown to Canada in 2019.

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

NBA players would argue that they play in the best league in the world and deserve the Global Best designation.

“Someone help this brother,” wrote Kevin Durant of Phoenix, two-time NBA champion and two-time NBA Finals MVP.

“When you're smart, you're wrong,” wrote four-time NBA champion forward Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors.

The Phoenix Suns' Devin Booker just posted a facepalm emoji.

And Aaron Gordon of reigning champ Denver Nuggets posed a bit of a challenge, writing, “Anyway…I'm a good 200m buddy.”


Lyles emphasized that they only defeated other US-based teams or the Raptors, not great teams from around the world.

“Don't get me wrong,” Lyles said. “I love America – sometimes – but this is not the world. We are the World. Almost every country out here is struggling, thriving and raising their flag to show they are represented.”

“There are no flags in the NBA.”

The “world champion” is determined by the national teams at the Basketball World Cup currently being held in Asia, with a US team of NBA players battling for the crown.

“Why do you care so much bro?” Sacramento Kings all-star guard De'Aaron Fox asked on social media with a laugh-to-cry emoji.

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

“To Noah Lyles, Jesus Christ. I understand what he said, but I don't understand what he said. Do you know what I'm saying?” said Tiafoe. “What he said made sense, but what he said didn't make sense either.

“Because it's the best league in the world, the NBA. It can be argued that the top three or four players in the NBA right now aren't Americans. I mean, what do you say to that?”

“The best foreign players play in the NBA. But on the other hand, it's also played in the USA. So I understand both sides, but I'm definitely leaning more towards the basketball players' responses.”

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

Major League Baseball has received similar criticism because its best-of-seven finals are dubbed the World Series and no teams from Asian or Latin American leagues can compete for the title.

The NFL is universally recognized as the champion of the world, largely because so few other places in the world play American football at this level, not even the Canadian League, which uses some significantly different rules.

The world hockey championships are typically played during the NHL playoffs, with national teams typically not receiving NHL talent in the global event until clubs are eliminated from the title fight.

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