Adding to his already impressive accolades, Noah Lyles, the accomplished American sprinter, secured gold medals in the 100 meters and 200 meters at the recent Track and Field Worlds in Budapest. Lyles, who also established a new American record for the 100 meters—marking it as the third fastest time ever—is now a two-time world champion. His exceptional feat draws parallels to Usain Bolt’s double victory in 2015, underscoring Lyles’ well-deserved World Champion status.
However, when it comes to NBA teams being hailed as “world champions,” Lyles raises a pertinent question. In the aftermath of the NBA Finals, where teams proudly don the title of “world champions,” Lyles brings into focus the global scope of this title. He points out that the term “world champion” may not accurately reflect the international diversity of the sport. Lyles observes, “The United States? Don’t get me wrong. I love the U.S. at times. But that ain’t the world…. We are the world. We have almost every country out here fighting and thriving and putting on a flag to show that they are represented. There ain’t no flags in the NBA.”
Numerous NBA luminaries, including Kevin Durant, Damian Lillard, Devin Booker, and Aaron Gordon, engaged in a discourse with Lyles over his remarks. The sentiment reverberated with Gregg Popovich, the esteemed coach of the San Antonio Spurs, who concurred with Lyles’ perspective. Popovich has previously expressed reservations about designating his team as world champions, emphasizing that they haven’t competed against the best from Europe or other international regions.
Lyles is technically correct in his assessment, although his stance does not entirely align with the underlying sentiment. While it is true that NBA champion teams, like the Denver Nuggets, do not engage with international club teams on their path to victory, the argument that an international club team would outperform an NBA playoff team is questionable. For instance, last season’s Euro League winners, Real Madrid, showcased a lineup of proficient players including Rudy Fernandez, Sergio Llull, Facundo Campazzo, Mario Hezonja, and Guerschon Yabusele. Despite their prowess, such teams would likely struggle against NBA playoff contenders like the Denver Nuggets.
Ultimately, the NBA champions rightfully earn their title as the best club team in the world. While the nomenclature may be subject to interpretation, their distinction as world champions is a point that remains indisputable.”