On Aug. 28, 2023, U.S. Olympic Bronze Medalist Noah Lyles won the 100 and 200-meter races at the 2023 World Athletics Championships and, in the process, became just one gold medal behind Usain Bolt in the 200 meter in the overall rankings, with a total of three. After the championships, however, Lyles would soon spark controversy with NBA players after making remarks to the media.
“The thing that hurts me the most is 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,” Lyles said.
As expected, NBA players did not take kindly to these comments. Kevin Durant posted on a social media platform afterward, saying, “Somebody help this brother.” Juan Toscano-Anderson with the Utah Jazz tweeted, “Last time I looked, the NBA was the best competition in the world.” Despite the backlash, Lyles has also received support from fellow sprinter Sha’carri Richardson, saying“I’m standing with Noah on this one !!”
Sports analyst Stephen A. Smith, known for holding strong opinions on controversial subjects, stated on the ESPN analyst show “First Take” that Lyles “came across as ‘flagrantly ignorant,’” while also pointing out that the NBA has 140 players from 40 different countries that play in the league. Smith would later apologize for taking Lyles’ comments out of context.
Through all this controversy, the world showed that they know a thing or two about basketball too, as on Sept. 3, Team USA lost to a Lithuanian team with one NBA player, New Orleans Pelicans center Jonas Valančiūnas. Ahead of the game, the American team was expected to win handily. Instead, they struggled throughout the first half, scoring just the points Lithuania had in the first quarter alone.
Five days after falling to Lithuania, Team USA would fall once more to Germany in the semi-final with a crushing 113-111 score. In a tight back-and-forth game throughout the first half, Germany could pull it out at the very end after Minnesota Timberwolves star shooting guard Anthony Edwards threw the ball away when they had a chance to make it a one-possession lead. Following the loss to Germany, Lyles would post on social media platform X a clip containing both the score and his controversial comments, with the intention of mocking Team USA’s loss. Lyles would later delete the tweet.
Even with these losses, Team USA would have one more chance to win a medal as they faced Team Canada, led by Dillon Brooks and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. In a game that went to overtime, we saw a competitive back-and-forth game with both teams outscoring the other each quarter. However, Team Canada would outscore the U.S. 16-7 in overtime, winning third place while winning Team Canada’s first-ever medal, while Brooks scored the most points in a medal-winning game with 39. For the U.S., it marks the second straight World Cup that has ended with disappointment after 2019, when they placed seventh.
The championship game was back and forth between Germany and Serbia in the first half, tied at 47 at halftime. Though it was close, Germany’s strong third quarter, where they outscored Serbia 22-10, helped hold off a strong fourth-quarter comeback, giving Germany an 83-77 victory for their first-ever FIBA cup championship.
The last few years have proven the level of difference between the United States and other countries’ levels of talent is diminishing. The three players who have won Most Valuable Player in the past five years are all international players: Joel Embiid for Cameroon, Nikola Jokic from Slovenia and Giannis Antetokounmpo from Greece, with the latter two winning the designation on two occasions. The difference is becoming obsolete, with other international players like Luca Doncic of Serbia and Lauri Markikken of Finland seeing success on the court. The more the difference in ability disappears, the better it will be for basketball.