It isn’t uncommon for American sports champions to declare themselves “world champions.” After all, America is the most powerful country in the world and the de facto big man on campus. What harm is there to add a touch of hyperbole when celebrating a championship?
Certainly, America doesn’t excel at all sports. Soccer, hockey, rugby, and even, at times, Olympic sports like curling and gymnastics have seen far superior athletes from other parts of the world. Is it really fair for America to declare themselves “world champions” at a sport that the rest of the world doesn’t necessarily aspire to greatness at?
Of course it is! Being the best is what America is all about, and if the rest of the sports world internationally wants to compete in American football and basketball with the US, then they should expect to hear about it when they lose.
However, one American sprinter and prospective Olympian has heard enough of the ‘world champion” talk. Noah Lyles took home three gold medals at the World Championship in Budapest last week, but on Friday night, he took exception to NBA players claiming the moniker of world champion.
In an interview after winning his gold, he said: “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 they are represented. There ain’t no flags in the NBA. We gotta do more. We gotta be presented to the world.”
While it sounds as if Lyles is salty that his sport doesn’t get the notoriety that American professional sports do, he didn’t exactly air his grievances in a patriotic manner. Loving the U.S. “at times” isn’t sufficient if one is going to represent the country on the world stage. Just ask Megan Rapinoe.
Lyles’ point isn’t entirely lost, but it is misguided. The NBA, in particular, is populated with numerous international players. In fact, some of the best players in the league are from other countries. However, almost every other country in the world competes in American basketball, and all fall well short on the Olympic stage. In fact, when faced with using even the best college players, the United States almost always took gold. When America started allowing professionals to compete, the results were laughable.
The truth is, if there is a sport that can legitimately boast about being world champions, it is the NBA. Just because they don’t directly compete with teams from other countries doesn’t mean they aren’t light years ahead.
Lyles’s point might have come from a competitive heart and a good place, but it is wrong. It’s not a good look for an athlete trying to turn himself into a household name. he concluded with his lofty aspiration: “I want people to say ‘Wow, this isn’t just a fast guy, he’s a well-rounded guy with a good personality, and I want to follow him for that,’”
If Lyles wants people to follow him and admire his competitive achievements, he might first take a minute to measure his words moving forward.
Featured image screen grab from embedded YouTube video
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