Noah Lyles is taking a victory lap of sorts Friday after the U.S. was upset by Germany in the semifinal round of the FIBA World Cup.
The U.S. sprinter caught a lot of flak from NBA players and fans last month for a comment he made after winning his third world championship in the men’s 200 meters.
Now Lyles is giving a little of that flak back to the basketball community after Team USA’s upset loss.
Lyles retweeted a post (and later untweeted) that combined the final score from that game with a meme of himself delivering his now-famous sound bite with an incredulous look on his face: “World champion of what?”
Many others were posting similar memes, in support of Lyles and/or to mock a U.S. team that had been a gold-medal favorite.
The quote was part of Lyles’ response to a question about the state of track and field. He talked at length about his frustration over the lack of attention for some of the sport’s stars even after proving themselves against the best competition in the world.
“You know what hurts me the most is that I have to watch the NBA Finals and they have ‘world champion’ on their head,” said Lyles, who also won gold in the men’s 100 and 4×100 relay at the event. “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. That is not the world. We are the world. We have almost every country out here fighting, thriving, putting on their flag to show that they are represented. There ain’t no flags in the NBA. We gotta do more. We gotta be presented to the world.”
Numerous NBA stars — including Kevin Durant, Damian Lillard, Draymond Green, Bam Adebayo, Devin Booker, Aaron Gordon, Tyus Jones, Juan Toscano-Anderson and Udonis Haslem — took to social media to express their displeasure with Lyles’ comment, pointing out that the NBA features the best talent in the world and that the U.S. won Olympic gold in 2020.
Germany’s team features four NBA players (Dennis Schroder of the Toronto Raptors, Daniel Theis of the Indiana Pacers and Franz and Moritz Wagner of the Orlando Magic). The U.S. has a dozen NBA players on its roster. After Friday’s result, the team with fewer NBA players is the one that still has a shot at becoming world champion.