- Track star Noah Lyles sparked controversy by stating that NBA champions shouldn’t be called “world champions.”
- Lyles won three gold medals in track and field world championships, including 100m and 200m dashes.
- NBA players, like Kevin Durant and P.J. Tucker, responded critically to Lyles’ remarks on social media.
Track and field sensation Noah Lyles caused a stir on social media over the weekend when he asserted that NBA champions shouldn’t be labeled as “world champions.”
Lyles, aged 26, clinched three gold medals at the recent track and field world championships held in Budapest, Hungary. Among his triumphs were wins in the 100-meter and 200-meter dash. During a press conference on Friday, he was questioned about strategies to enhance his sport. In his response, he highlighted the difference between track world champions, including himself, and those in American professional sports leagues like 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 expressed. “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. He further said, “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.”
It goes without saying that a number of NBA players, both active and retired, including Kevin Durant of the Phoenix Suns, were not happy with Lyles’ remarks. And they chirped back in reaction to his comments on social media platforms.
Durant wrote in an Instagram comment Sunday evening, “Somebody help this brother.”
“Can’t make this (expletive) up,” Philadelphia 76ers forward P.J. Tucker added in another.
“Put his brain in a bird and the bird will start flying backwards!!!” is what retired NBA player and ESPN pundit Kendrick Perkins said about Lyles.
With the top basketball players in the world competing in the NBA, free agent guard Austin Rivers was one of those stating that “winning (an) NBA championship qualifies as world champs.”
“(I don’t know) what’s more cringe,” Rivers added, “(Lyles’) comment or his voice and delivery.”
While Aaron Gordon of the Denver Nuggets was less diplomatic, he said, “Whatever… I’m smoking buddy in the 200m.”
In the online arguments, people often forget that these two sports are organized very differently. Track and field is mostly about individual performance, where athletes represent their country and sometimes a brand. But in the NBA, it’s a team game where players represent their team and city.
Even though both sports attract top players from all over the world, NBA games happen in the United States and Canada and don’t include teams from other countries like Spain or France. On the other hand, track and field events are held in many places globally, so athletes have to compete on various stages against the best from around the world.
Lyles made the case that those in charge of track need to make a better job of making this distinction and highlighting how truly global their sport is after making a reference to the NBA.
“We’ve got to do more,” he remarked. “We’ve got to be presented to the world.”