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U.S. Sprinter Makes Controversial Comments About the NBA’s Prestige

Following a dominant performance in the World Athletics Championship (WAC), U.S. sprinter Noah Lyles challenged the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) use of the title “World Champion.” “What hurts me the most is that I have to watch the NBA Finals, and they have ‘world champion’ on their heads,” he said. “World champion of what? The United States?!”
Contrasting the WAC with the NBA, Lyles said: “The United States… That is not the world. We [the WAC] 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.”  

NBA players quickly fired back over social media. Videos of Lyles’ press conference were crowded with comments such as “When being smart goes wrong” (Golden State Warriors’ Draymond Green) and “Somebody help this brother” (Phoenix Suns’ Kevin Durant). 

However, other stars, such as Paul George and Greek native Giannis Antetokounmpo, supported Lyles. “I don’t think in any other sport you are called the world champions,” Giannis argued. George voiced a more lukewarm opinion, partially agreeing with Lyles. “With all these other countries and national players being a part of our league, yeah, you’re a world champion,” he said.

The consensus around the Heschel school is varied as well. “I agree [with Lyles],” senior Ben Hymowitz said. “However, the NBA is comprised of the most concentrated basketball talent in the world,” Hymowitz mentioned that the NBA champions have beaten the best international talent. Yet, “when the NBA style of play clashes with the international style of play, the latter nearly always comes out on top,” Hymowitz said, referring to the FIBA World Cup of 2023, in which the U.S. failed to win a medal. 

Taking a slightly different angle, senior Zach Lukeman said, “Technically, Lyles is correct, but I don’t know why he would use his winning moment to demean other athletes.”

While Lyles’ comments were, in fact, poorly timed, he presents a solid argument: a team can technically achieve “World Champion” status only after they have conquered teams from around the globe.

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