August 2023

Winning a Civil War Doesn't Bring World Domination, Winning a Domestic League Isn't a World Champ: Here are the Rules

Place Your Bets
Play now
Play to Win Big
Play now

The claim of "World Champion" in sports is a prestigious honor that every athlete wishes to declare at least once in their lifetime.

However, as proven by Noah Lyles, and the backlash he received from the NBA world for calling them out as fake world champs, the criteria for who's entitled to this claim is up for debate.

Are only athletes participating in a globally sanctioned event, like the World Cup or Olympics entitled to the claim, or are athletes participating in the best league with the best competition entitled to this claim too?

related: Dillon Brooks Trolled His Way to $80 Million Payday and Taught a Valuable Business Lesson

Why is it always Americans claiming entitlement to being World Champs outside of globally sanctioned sports?

It doesn't make them necessarily wrong in all cases, but there should be some clear cut criteria as to whom gets a pass.

The nuances that set the NBA, NFL, MLB, apart are the fact that they are the most competitive, highest level leagues in their respective sport. When you've just beaten the best in the world, and there's no collection of challengers that could possibly be assembled by any country, should you be entitled to the claim of world champ?

If the winner of a civil war cannot rightfully claim global domination, why should the victor of a domestic league be entitled to the title of World Champion?

Navigating the Terminology: A League-by-League Analysis

NBA: A Global Exception? The NBA stands as an exception in the world of American professional sports. With an international player base and a global following, the league possesses a stronger claim to the "world champions" title. The NBA's transcultural appeal, combined with its elite competition, lends credence to its global championship status.

Michael Jordan may be the most popular athlete of all time, and the NBA has had an influx of internationally born champions and MVP winners along with an increasingly international talent base.

With Spain the most recent FIBA Champions, are they more entitled to claim the title of basketball World Champs?

Verdict: NBA gets a pass

NFL: The Domestic Domain

While the NFL reigns supreme on the American football stage, the "world champions" claim encounters skepticism due to its limited international reach. Unlike global events, the NFL's competition doesn't encompass teams from various nations. The title, though widely accepted in the United States, raises questions in the context of worldwide sports events.

Verdict: The NFL doesn't get a pass

MLB World Series: National Yet Global?The MLB's World Series is another intriguing case. While it involves teams from the United States and Canada, its global legitimacy can be debated. The absence of international representation challenges the notion of "world champions." Despite this, the event enjoys a dedicated following across the Americas.

Verdict: The MLB doesn't get a pass

General Guidelines for "World Champions" Validation

1. Global Participation: Is your opponent representing a country? A credible claim to the "world champions" title necessitates the involvement of teams from various countries and regions, ensuring a truly international representation. This is the biggest knock on the NFL and MLB, these sports aren't globally respected, with little to no viability outside the United States.

2. International Competitions: Sports and athletes who engage in international tournaments, like the FIFA World Cup or the Olympics, provide stronger grounds for embracing the "world champions" moniker.

3. Cross-League Challenges: Inter-league play or cross-league tournaments indicate a team's ability to transcend its immediate league and challenge teams from other regions. The NBA does not do this, but the talent from all the top leagues seek out the NBA as the most elite arena in the sport. The NFL doesn't get to claim this, there are no challengers, and 97% of the talent is from the United States.

4. Global Fanbase: A substantial international fanbase signifies a league's global appeal and supports the legitimacy of the "world champions" claim. It's tough to claim World Champ in a sport that only you play.

5. Inclusivity of Talent: A diverse roster of players from around the world contributes to the credibility of a league's "world champions" claim. The NFL fails this test, the MLB is much better, and the NBA thrives with the sport becoming ever increasingly international.

5. Sustained Success: A history of international dominance or consistent top performance on a global stage bolsters a league's entitlement to the title. Team USA and the Dream Team are the ultimate World Champs in basketball, and the Olympics are the ultimate stage for the claim of World Champs with the World Cup in football (soccer) being the most supreme version of the title of World Champ for team sports, with any Olympic gold medalist winner also being entitled to the claim.

The main takeaway, the sport must extend beyond borders.

The declaration of being "world champions" stretches beyond mere words—it reflects a team's prowess, international inclusivity, and competitive mettle. While some leagues, such as the NBA, boast a broader global footprint, others, like the NFL's Super Bowl champs and the MLB World Series winners don't pass scrutiny due to their regional dominance being tied to one country.

The assessment of a team's right to the "world champions" title transcends semantics and into the core of international sportsmanship, competition, and representation. As the world of sports evolves, the criteria for bestowing this title will continue to evolve, reflecting a dynamic relationship between athletes, leagues, and the global stage.

But we all should be able to agree on one thing, and that's the beauty of sport and the constant debate that it inspires, which brings us together, lights up social media, and fires up the group chats, and Noah Lyles would've been fine if he'd just picked on the NFL.

Issa Hall, Esq

Issa has founded multiple ventures, is an author, and founding partner of Hall & Dixon law firm, with over a decade of experience in tech and law.

Thank you! Your submission has been received! You can view your comment by refreshing the page.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.