Track and field superstar Noah Lyles sparked a bit of a brouhaha on social media during the weekend with his claim that NBA champions are undeserving of the “world champion” title.
Lyles, 26, won three gold medals at the track and field world championships in Budapest, Hungary last week, including victories in both the 100-meter and 200-meter dash. At a news conference Friday, he was asked about how to grow or improve his sport and responded, in part, by drawing a distinction between track world champions like himself and those in American pro sports leagues, such as the NBA.
“You know the thing that hurts me the most is that I have to watch the NBA Finals and they have ‘world champion’ on their head,” Lyles said. “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. That is not the world. We are the world. We have almost every country out here fighting, thriving, putting on their flag to show that they are represented. There ain’t no flags in the NBA.”
Naturally, several current and former NBA players – including Phoenix Suns star Kevin Durant – were none too pleased with Lyles’ comments. And in response to social media posts with his comments, they chirped back.
“You know what hurts me the most is that I have to watch the NBA Finals and they have ‘world champion’ on their head. 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. That is not the world. We are the world. We have almost every country out here fighting, thriving, putting on their flag to show that they are represented. There ain’t no flags in the NBA. We gotta do more. We gotta be presented to the world.”
NBA players have been firing back at Lyles, primarily because the NBA is the highest-level basketball league in the world, and also has the best players from all over the world. With the NBA’s best player being from Serbia, its reigning league MVP being from Cameroon, and so many of its superstar players being from outside of the United States, many players in the league feel these comments were out of line.
It’s very understandable why NBA players would feel this why, because while Lyles is technically correct, the best players from all over the world play in the NBA. While FIBA World Cup play is technically more of a “World Championship” than the NBA Finals, the best players in the World Cup all play in the NBA.
“You know what hurts me the most is that I have to watch the NBA Finals and they have ‘world champion’ on their head. World champion of what? The United States?” said Lyles, responding to a question after his 200-meter victory.
“Don’t get me wrong. I love the U.S., at times, but that ain’t the world. That is not the world. We are the world. We have almost every country out here fighting, thriving, putting on their flag to show that they are represented.
This was on Team USA’s mind as it prepared for its matchup against Greece on Monday night. The Americans weren’t in the same precarious spot as France, but their opener against New Zealand, a 99-72 victory, wasn’t impressive by their standards. And Greece had played the U.S. even for the last 25 minutes of a friendly game 10 days ago in Abu Dhabi.
“All of our guys saw the result last night with France, and it’s a good, good reminder to all of us that you just can’t ease into any game in this tournament,” Team USA coach Steve Kerr said.
Kerr has compared the World Cup to the NCAA tournament. Players are following games on local TV this is a massive nationwide event in the Philippines and their phones, keeping track of what the competition is doing. Australia, another medal contender, lost to Germany on Sunday.
Team USA’s effort against Greece, a 109-81 win on Monday in which there was no drama, boosted the team’s confidence. Hart played his best game of the summer on Monday, flying everywhere as he got 11 rebounds and handed out five assists as part of another great effort by the bench. With Paolo Banchero totally holding down the backup center spot by looking considerably better defensively, some minutes are there for Hart in a small lineup, and he’s earning them.
“They’re not a real second unit,” Hart said. “They’re a first unit in disguise. … It’s like, showtime, man, you’re watching the whole show.”
He had 15 more points, six rebounds and five assists as well as a highlight dunk to extend his brilliance for Team USA on Monday. Reaves has hinted at what were some whispers that he didn’t deserve a spot on the team when it was announced in June, though after his great playoffs, those were the exception.
The Filipino fans love to call Reaves “him,” a reference to his viral reaction when he was miked up during a playoff game in Memphis in April. His teammates enjoy teasing him when they hear it. Reaves walks the line between acting like a humble guy from Newark, Arkansas, and playing with extreme confidence.
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