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Noah vs the NBA: Why did the sprinter speak out?

BY: Rachel Boswell
02 September 2023

He crushed the opposition to win three at the 2023 World Athletics Championships in Budapest. He then slammed the NBA for its own use of the term ‘world champion’. Does sprinter Noah Lyles make a case with his basketball rant?

Who is Noah Lyles?

Freshly crowned the 2023 world champion in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay thanks to his outstanding performances in Budapest, sprinter Noah Lyles is one of America’s finest talents on the track. He is the first athlete to win this trio of events since Usain Bolt at the 2015 World Athletics Championships in Beijing, and this only adds to the many podium places Lyles had already secured at previous World Athletics Championships, the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, multiple Diamond Leagues and more. 

At only 26 years old, Lyles has plenty of life left in him to achieve great things in athletics. He also seems to have plenty of energy for the press, which has very recently sparked some interesting sport–related debate…

What’s the NBA beef?

The sprinter – whose 100m time of 9.83 seconds makes him the American record holder for the distance – seems to be getting more attention for his comments about the NBA than his triple gold heroics. 

At a press conference directly following his three wins at this year’s World Athletics Championships, Lyles openly questioned why the term ‘world champion’ was used at the NBA Finals. “World champion of what?” Lyles quizzed. “The United States?”

While Lyles went on to express his love for his home nation and make some light of the situation, his point is worth considering.

Unlike athletics – which, in Lyles’ own words at the press conference, has “almost every country out here fighting, thriving, putting on their flag” – the NBA is almost exclusively made up of US teams. In fact, 29 of the 30 NBA teams are based in the US, with the only other team being based in Toronto, Canada (which still shares the same continent as the US). And let’s face it – the NBA was established in the US in 1937 as the National Basketball Association, and almost a century later that name still stands.

On the flip side, you can rightly argue that the inclusion of a Toronto-based team does still make the NBA Finals an international championship, albeit only just. Furthermore, within the teams themselves there is a huge mix of international players from across the world. So, even though the vast majority of teams are born in the USA, the same is not true of all the players. 

Where do things stand?

Of course, Lyles’ remarks received much backlash from NBA players on social media. Prolific player Kevin Durant said “Somebody help this brother”, while Devin Booker facepalmed and other basketballers chimed in with similar sentiments.

But what are your thoughts on Lyles’ comments about the NBA? Do you think the term ‘world champion’ can be used at the NBA Finals, or is it just a championship for the US?

Image credit: IOC



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