Professional sprinter Noah Lyles ruffled some feathers in recent days when he took a shot against the fact that champions of the NBA call themselves “world champions”. Lyles argued that doing so isn't the most accurate portrayal of an NBA team's achievement, since they do not compete against other teams from the rest of the world, making them “mere” champions of the United States of America. This, naturally, drew some pushback from a ton of prominent NBA personalities, with Kevin Durant, Damian Lillard, and Devin Booker reacting incredulously to Lyles' assertions.
Adding to those who have pushed back against Lyles' statement is Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer Mitch Richmond, an NBA champion with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2002. Richmond justified NBA champions' claim as champions of the world by using the timeless argument that it's in the NBA where the best basketball players in the world ply their trade.
“I have no problem [with calling us world champs], it's the best in the world. I mean every other [player from other leagues] is trying to get to the league,” Richmond said on the SiriusXM NBA Radio. “Until now, the NBA is the best basketball in our era, in our country, and in any other country, so being best in the world, I have no problem with it.”
“The NBA is the best basketball in our era, our country, in any other country”
— SiriusXM NBA Radio (@SiriusXMNBA) August 28, 2023
Mitch Richmond's argument is certainly a strong one, as it's difficult to assert otherwise. The quality of basketball in the NBA keeps on growing, with even the best players from countries other than the United States, such as Nikola Jokic, Luka Doncic, and Giannis Antetokounmpo, all making their marks stateside. Moreover, the scouts in the NBA also do their due diligence on finding the best talents in the world, so it's not a stretch to say that almost all of the best players in the planet play in the US.
Perhaps it's time for there to be an international club tournament where all the best professional teams across all major international leagues compete, just so this entire discussion can be put to the test. But that may be too big of a logistical nightmare to organize, relegating Noah Lyles and all of the NBA's arguments into mere hypotheticals.