Damian Lillard weighs in on NBA ‘world champions’ debate
A Team USA side stacked with a full lineup of NBA players was unable to take home the gold medal at the 2023 FIBA World Cup earlier this month. The result still hasn’t changed Damian Lillard’s mind surrounding the recent “world champions” debate.
US Olympic sprinter Noah Lyles first sparked the discussion with a polarizing speech calling out the NBA at the World Athletics Championships last month. Lyles took umbrage at the use of “world champions” to describe NBA Finals winners.
Despite Team USA’s fourth-place finish in Manila, Lillard still firmly believes that the NBA champion deserves to be called the world champion. The Portland Trail Blazers guard was asked to weigh in during an episode of the “Back On Figg” podcast released on Tuesday.
“The NBA champs is [sic] world champs. … If you take the best team in the NBA and just send them on a tour to play in the best leagues everywhere else, [other leagues are] getting smoked. … I don’t understand what the debate is,” said Lillard.
Lillard answered back to those pointing to the Team USA loss by citing that the best players on the other teams also play in the NBA.
Lillard’s point does ring true given that NBA players Dennis Schroder and Bogdan Bogdanovic headlined the two World Cup finalists. On the other hand, the tournament also saw standout performances from names like Andreas Obst and Aleksa Avramović. Neither of them play in the NBA.
The counterpoint some would make against Lillard would likely revolve around the lack of an actual competition to prove it.
Few would argue against an NBA team being heavily-favored to win any league overseas. However, given that there’s no global tournament to determine such a result, the use of “world champions” to describe the NBA champ does not feel deserved to some.