Noah Lyles, the fastest man in the world at the moment, has caused a stir and appeared to irk some of the NBA’s biggest stars by questioning why basketball players call themselves world champions after winning the NBA Finals.
The US sprinter won both the 100m and 200m world titles last week at the World Athletics Championships, becoming the first man to win a sprint double since Usain Bolt in 2015.
When speaking to reporters at the World Championships in Budapest, Hungary, Lyles said: “World champion of what? The United States? Don’t get me wrong, I love the US, at times, but that ain’t the world.”
“We are the world,” he added, referring to athletes at the World Athletics Championships.
“We have almost every country out here fighting, thriving, putting on their flag to show they are represented. There ain’t no flags in the NBA.”
Lyles, who is never shy in front of camera, appeared to be making the remarks tongue in cheek, laughing and smiling with reporters throughout his answer. He did, however, spark a reaction from some NBA stars.
Kevin Durant, who has been named NBA Finals MVP twice in his illustrious career, led the charge.
“Somebody help this brother,” he wrote on Instagram, responding to an ESPN post.
Four-time NBA champion Draymond Green also got involved, writing on Instagram, “When being smart goes wrong” with the face-palm emoji.
Denver Nuggets star Aaron Gordon, though, appeared to see the funny side, writing on Instagram: “Whatever … I’m smoking buddy in the 200m.”
While the NBA consists only of teams from the US and Canada, the majority of the world’s best players play in the league.
Many of its biggest stars are from overseas, such as two-time NBA MVP Nikola Jokić from Serbia and superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo from Greece.
Fellow US sprinter and 100m women’s champion Sha’Carri Richardson weighed in on the debate and defended Lyles.
“I’m standing with Noah on this one,” she posted on social media.
“The organization [NBA] have players from different countries but do they compete against different countries. You have to go against the world in order to be a world champion.”
We may not be seeing Lyles, or Richardson, courtside at an NBA game anytime soon.