Giannis Antetokounmpo defends track star’s take on ‘world champions’: ‘So much backlash for stating the obvious’

Noah Lyles’ recent criticism of NBA players calling themselves “world champions” garnered heat from current and former basketball players.

But the American track and field star has a towering figure at his side: one of the best players basketball has ever seen.

Giannis Antetokounmpo is a seven-time All-Star, two-time MVP and one-time NBA champion. But Lyles says the Milwaukee Bucks superstar is just an NBA champion, not a world champion — and the “Greek Freak” himself agrees.


Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks dribbles the ball in the first half against the Philadelphia 76ers at Fiserv Forum on March 4, 2023 in Milwaukee. (Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

During an appearance on the “48 Minutes” podcast, Antetokounmpo said Lyles stated “the obvious” in his now-controversial comments.

“I wanted to support him so much. He got so much backlash for stating the obvious,” Antetokounmpo said. “I don’t think in any other sport they call you world champion. In football, which is much bigger than the NBA, more popular than the NBA, when they win the Champions League they say you are the champions of the UEFA Champions League. or whatever it is, they don’t say “the world champions”. When they win the World Cup, they play against the USA team, they play against teams around the world, countries around the world, and then they say they’re the world champions. But in the NBA, you say they’re the world champions.”

“At the end of the day, to become a world champion, you have to beat the world.”

Antetokounmpo went on to say that the NBA has “the best talent you’ll ever see in your life… but we can’t say you’re the world champion because you play in the best league in the world.”

But when it comes to competition between countries, the argument is different.

Giannis Antetokounmpo plays against the Bulls

Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks in action against the Chicago Bulls during the first half at the United Center on February 16, 2023, in Chicago. (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)


“I think Germany won the World Cup, right? Yes, Germany can say: ‘Yes, we are world champions.’ They just won the World Cup. …Man, I might get some negative reactions about it, but I really don’t care. I totally agree with him. Because I feel like he is on the world stage. He’s the best in the United States, for example, and then he goes and competes against other athletes from other countries, and then he thrives in that, so that’s where you are world champion. When you compete against everyone in the world.

“So, long story short, I totally agree with him.”

Lyles ruffled feathers last month after winning three gold medals at the world championships in Budapest, Hungary.

“I must watch the NBA finals, and they have the world champion on their heads. World champion of what? Lyles said as laughter filled the press room. ” United States ? Do not mistake yourself. I like the United States sometimes, but it’s not the world. It’s not the world. »

Noah Lyles holds the flag

American Noah Lyles celebrates after winning the gold medal in the men’s 200 meters during the World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hungary, August 25, 2023. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)


“We are the world. Almost every country here is fighting, thriving, flying their flag to show they are represented. There are no flags in the NBA. We need to do more. We need to be presented to the world .”


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