World champion of what?

A few weeks ago, American sprinter Noah Lyles decided to take on the entire American sports community with the comments he made after winning both the 100 and 200 meter World Championship events. 

In his post-race interview, Lyles said, “I watched the NBA Finals and they have ‘world champion’ on their head. World champion of what? The United States?”

The backlash from Lyles’ comments was led by National Basketball Association (NBA) superstars Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Damian Lillard. 

It seemed like the whole NBA community was able to agree on something for the first time; they all hated Lyles’ comments. Their responses varied but all basically said the same thing: you’re wrong.

The crux of the argument for why the winner of the NBA finals can be called “world champions,” is that the NBA is the best league in the world and has the best players in the world. 

The statement that the NBA is the best league in the world cannot really be disputed. 

All of the best talent from all over the world come to the NBA because of the prestige of winning an NBA championship and competing against the players that many idolize. 

However, I believe that just because your league is the best in the world, that doesn’t mean the winner of that league is the “world champion.”The first issue that I have with the term has to do with how other sports
and leagues label their champions. 

In Europe, when teams win the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) Champions League, they are crowned “European champions,” despite it being the most prestigious club soccer tournament in the world. 

They are called “European champions” because they only beat the best soccer teams in Europe, not the whole world. 

Whereas in the United States, all of the major sports leagues seem to collectively name their champions as “world champions.” The issue goes further than the seeming superiority that the American leagues give their
own champions.

Sports, at the end of the day, are a type of entertainment. However, what makes them special, is the fact that no one knows who will win. 

It’s the “upsets” that make people tune into sports. It’s the historic comebacks. It’s David beating Goliath. 

The parity is what makes sports so great. Every single time people compete, they have a chance of winning, no matter how small. For this reason, I personally have to agree with Lyles’ statement. 

Other talented athletes around the world are not given a chance. NBA players can claim they’re the world champion all that they want, but they’re not giving the European, Chinese, Australian and other leagues around the world a fair shot. Sure, the NBA teams would pretty much always come out on top, but the other teams would have a chance to fight for the title. 

The title of “world champion” should be earned from beating the other teams in the world, not just by winning in what some consider to be a tougher league. 

College football has taken notice of the same problem, which is why the college football playoffs started in the first place, so that the best teams can play each other in order to properly determine the national champion.

Finally, the Fédération Internationale de Basketball (FIBA) Basketball had a World Cup took place a few weeks ago. 

Going into the tournament, the United States was a massive favorite, with 61.5% of the media predicting them to win. 

The United States cruised through the group stages up until their final match, where they were shocked by Lithuania. 

Most saw this as a wake up call for the entire nation, that the loss was just a fluke and they would now show out throughout the knockout stages. The performance of the United States shouldn’t have added or taken away from the comments that Lyles made. 

However,  their shocking performance once again proves the parity that exists in sports.

People will say that the United States team was without their best players, which is correct. 

The United States still had the most NBA talent by far, which poses the question once again: world champion of what?