Track star Noah Lyles questions NBA title winners being called “world champions”

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Noah Lyles is a world champion. Again.

The American sprinter swept the 100 meter and 200 meter gold medals at the Track and Field Worlds in Budapest this past weekend and in the process set a new American record for the 100 (the third fastest time ever). Lyles is the first person to sweep the 100 and 200 since Usain Bolt in 2015. Lyles has earned his World Champion moniker.

He doesn’t believe NBA teams have.

“I have to watch the NBA Finals and they have world champion on their heads. World champion of what? 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.”
A who’s who of NBA stars fired back at Lyles, including Kevin Durant (“Somebody help this brother”), Damian Lillard, Devin Booker (face palm emoji), Aaron Gordon (“I’m smoking buddy in the 200”) and more.

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Hall of Fame Spurs coach Gregg Popovich agrees with Lyles — after San Antonio titles he has chaffed at the idea of calling his team world champions saying they hadn’t played the best of Europe or anywhere else. He is the exception to the rule, however.

Lyles is right on a technicality, but not by the spirit of the sentiment. Not even close.

The NBA champion Denver Nuggets did not have to beat any international clubs to win their title last season, that is true (remember we’re talking club teams here, not national teams). However, the idea that an international club team would beat Denver in a seven game series is just wrong. Last season Real Madrid was the best club team outside the USA and won EuroLeague — an international competetion between the top club teams in Europe — thanks to a lineup filled with guys who can’t stick in the anymore: Rudy Fernandez, Sergio Llull, Facundo Campazzo, Mario Hezonja, and Guerschon Yabusele, to mame a few. Real Madrid has a good roster that plays quality basketball, but they are not beating the Nuggets. Or any other NBA playoff team.

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The NBA champion is the best club team in the world. Call them whatever you like, the idea they are the world champion is not up for debate.

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