Noah Lyles reflects on backlash he received for NBA ‘world champions’ comment

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After winning three gold medals at last year’s world championships, Noah Lyles held the title of world champion.

After doing so, he suggested NBA players didn’t have the right to call themselves world champions for winning the NBA Finals.

“I have to watch the NBA Finals, and they have world champion on their head. World champion of what?” Lyles said at the time. “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.”

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Noah Lyles running 60-meter

Noah Lyles of the U.S. competes in the men’s 60-meter dash at the World Athletics Indoor Championships Glasgow 2024 at Emirates Arena March 1, 2024, in Glasgow, Scotland.  (Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Almost immediately, NBA players clapped back. Kevin Durant said “somebody” needed to “help this brother,” while Utah Jazz forward Juan Toscano-Anderson noted “the NBA was the best competition in the WORLD.” 

Others supported Lyles, like Giannis Antetokounmpo and CJ McCollum, but the opposition was loud.

“When I first seen the comment, I’m at the club celebrating three gold medals. We’re walking out, all of a sudden, my phone’s blowing up, and my boy’s like, ‘You need to tell KD to shut up,’” Lyles said in a recent interview with Fox News. 

“I’m looking at my phone like, ‘What are you talking about?’ Wake up the next day, still talking about it. Get into the night, Drake is talking about it. I don’t know what Drake’s doing here, but, ‘Wow, this is getting somewhere.’”

Noah Lyles poses with gold medal

Gold medalist Noah Lyles of the U.S. reacts after winning the men’s 100-meter final during the World Athletics Championships Budapest 2023 at National Athletics Centre Aug. 20, 2023, in Budapest, Hungary. (David Ramos/Getty Images)

US TRACK STAR NOAH LYLES SAYS REPRESENTING COUNTRY AT OLYMPICS IS ‘BITTERSWEET’

Lyles mentioned that Stephen A. Smith called him an “idiot” but apologized. He also made note that he feels most of the backlash has come from within the United States.

“It’s the U.S. vs. the world. And anybody that has lived in or is outside the U.S. agrees with my comments. Most of the people in the U.S. do not,” he says.

Lyles said he was surprised at the backlash he received, but “mainly because I’ve said that comment many times.”

“This was the time it actually picked up traction, which was never the actual goal,” he said. “The question was talking about how the sport views us in the U.S., and how does that feel. So, talking about it sucks, all that. Then, all the sudden, the example becomes the main thing.”

Noah Lyles in Hungary

Noah Lyles of the U.S. celebrates anchoring his team to gold in the men’s 4×100-meter relay final during the World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hungary Aug. 26, 2023.  (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

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McCollum’s verdict was that the Olympics were “definitely ‘world championship.’ 100%. Because it’s every country.”

Lyles will be fighting for four “world championships” in Paris this summer.

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