Over the summer, track star Noah Lyles ruffled some feathers when he said NBA players did not have the right to call themselves “world champions” after 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 in August shortly after he won three gold medals at the world championships. “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.”
He continued: “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 got to do more. We got to be presented to the world.”
Plenty of basketball’s biggest names, like Kevin Durant and Devin Booker, were quick to combat the sentiment, but others understood his point of view.
Durant said “somebody” needed to “help this brother,” while Utah Jazz forward Juan Toscano-Anderson noted that “the NBA was the best competition in the WORLD.”
New Orleans Pelicans star CJ McCollum understands why NBA champions call themselves “world champs,” as he echoed Toscano-Anderson’s sentiments.
“I think ‘world champion’ is interesting, but if you really think about our sport, we got players from everywhere,” McCollum said in a recent interview with Fox News Digital. “We got players that represent lots of different countries, so I think the premise of it is that we have, collectively, the best basketball players in the world playing from all over representing their teams here in the United States, and that’s why they call it world championship, because it’s the best players in the world.
“Now, obviously, you got countries, and you got all of that stuff, you got the Olympics, which is different, you got track athletes who are running against players from other countries. So that is also considered ‘world championship.’”
But McCollum’s final verdict?
“The Olympics is definitely ‘world championship.’ 100%. Because it’s every country,” McCollum concluded.
McCollum will begin his quest for his first NBA, not world, championship when his Pelicans open their season against the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday.