The “World Champion” title isn’t new for American sprinter Noah Lyles, and he ruffled some NBA stars’ feathers when he gave his opinion on what it means.
The 26-year-old won his third straight 200m world title at World Athletics Championships in Budapest this past weekend. That was only one of his three medals of the competition. He also won 100-meter gold in the third fastest time ever, becoming the first person to sweep the 100 and 200 since Usain Bolt in 2015.
After anchoring the U.S. 4x100m relay to first place and adding another medal to the tally, he used his final media conference of the meet to get some things off his chest:
“I have to watch the NBA Finals and they have world champion on their heads. World champion of what? The United States?” Lyles said on Sunday. “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.”
ESPN shared Lyles’ take on Instagram and it didn’t take long for Phoenix Suns stars Kevin Durant and Devin Booker, Golden State Warriors veteran Draymond Green, Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers and Miami Heat’s Bam Adebayo to sound off in the comments.
“Somebody help this brother,” Durant said. Meanwhile, Booker chimed in with a singular face-palm emoji. “Lol is somebody going to tell him??” Adebayo wrote. “Why bro care so much?” Sacramento Kings star De’Aaron Fox asked on X with a crying laughing emoji.
For Lillard, “Tf” and two laughing emojis did the job. Green’s comment read, “When being smart goes wrong.” “
The NBA prides itself on being an international league. The best of the best come from all over the globe to play in the NBA. 2023 No. 1 overall pick Victor Wembanyama of France is a great example. Nuggets MVP Nikola Jokić is from Serbia. More current international stars include Giannis Atentokounpo, Luka Dončić, the list goes on.
If the NBA being widely viewed as the pinnacle of the sport wasn’t enough, the U.S. international basketball team has been dominant for years, claiming 16 gold medals at the Olympic Games, five at the FIBA World Cup and seven at the FIBA AmeriCup.
Lyles’ comments had some adverse timing as well, as the United States easily advanced to the second round of the FIBA World Cup with a win over Greece on Monday. On the same day, Dončić scored 34 points in Slovenia’s blowout win.
But there’s another layer to Lyles’ comments that was clipped off from most social media pages. The track star is striving to put track into mainstream conversation, and he’s done that. He and Bolt are the only three-time World gold medalists in the men’s 200. When Lyles ran in Jamaica earlier this summer, Bolt told him track needed his personality.
Lyles is currently being filmed for an NBC Sports documentary and will also feature in a Netflix series on the 100m. He wants the sport to have more visibility.
“Medals are the first step because then people pay attention to you,” he said on Sunday before setting his sights on the NBA. “We’ve got to do more. We’ve got to be presented to the world. I love the track community, but we can only do so much within our own bubble. There’s a whole world out there.”
He may have had better luck conveying that sentiment if he’d called out the NFL.