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“Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”

— US President James Madison

Popular ESPN pundit Stephen A. Smith was flagrantly ignorant in his response to Noah Lyles about Lyles’s comments regarding the National Basketball Association (NBA) not being a world championship.

What Smith said

“First of all, congratulations to your greatness. Continue to represent this country the way you did, major props to you. He just came across as flagrantly ignorant. And that needs to be said. The NBA has established itself as a global iconic brand.”

Branding does not make the NBA league championship a world championship.

He carried on, “Arguably the best player in the game today, in a lot of people’s eyes, is Nikola Jokic. You have guys from Serbia, Slovenia, the list goes on. Luka Doncic, where’s he from? Slovenia. Giannis Antetokounmpo, where’s he from? Greece.”

Were international players on teams that represent cities, not countries, still does not constitute a world championship. The NBA playoffs result in a league championship. Most other leagues understand this. For example, the National Hockey League, like the NBA is the greatest league in the world in its respective sport. Players come from Canada, the US, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Finland, the Czech Republic, Russia and elsewhere to play in the NHL. The NHL refers to the league championship as the Stanley Cup Playoffs, not the world championships. The International Ice Hockey Federation, known as the IIHF would have something to say about that.

The real basketball world championships

Like the IIHF’s tournament, there is already a world championship in basketball. Modelled after the FIFA World Cup, it at one time was named the Fédération Internationale de Basketball Amateur (FIBA) World Championships. Currently, the name is FIBA Basketball World Cup. The tournament runs every four years and includes 32 countries (not cities). While the Women’s NBA (WNBA) is enjoying its 27th season, the FIBA Women’s World Cup has been in play since 1950. The Naismith Cup and Naismith Arena were named after the inventor of the game of basketball, Canadian James Naismith — not an American.

Noah Lyles aired that it bothered him that although he loves his home, the US, and basketball, he is concerned about America’s view of its place in the world. “It isn’t the world,” he said.

“Of course, maybe there will be opinions that will change and maybe there won’t, but at least we’re having the conversation. It’s funny, you look at my comments, you’ll have people in the US versus the world. Everyone in the world is very much on my side and the US is usually leaning towards the opinion of the NBA.

“But that just goes to show how we view ourselves in the U.S. and I’m just glad we’re having the conversation.”

Lyles won the 100m, 200m and 4 x 100m relay gold medals at the 2023 Budapest World Athletics Championships. Over 100 countries were represented. Not cities. Lyles, having won three world championship golds, is a three-time 2023 world champion. He took an opportunity during a post-meet press conference to tell the world how he feels. He is correct. And Stephen A. Smith, in this particular instance, is flagrantly ignorant, a phrase he applies incorrectly to Lyles.