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Why are the NBA champions called world champions?

Basketball is one of the most popular sports extending its reach from the United States to the rest of the world. More and more people are watching different competitions and leagues, hence, resulting in the growing popularity of this sport.

Why the NBA champions are called world champions? While there are other leagues around, the NBA is the best basketball association in the world, where top players from the United States and the rest of the countries are playing against each other and the level of competition is huge.

The NBA has always been at the forefront of basketball’s popularity and with time its publicity only grows around the world. In this article, we will talk about several factors that shape NBA’s strength compared to other leagues.

What determines the “world championship”?

Of course, there is no single set of rules that would define what the world champion means. While this term was mostly used in the past, right now you will still hear experts and people that consider title-winning teams in the NBA as world champions. There are several factors behind this claim that we are going to go through below.

Level of players 

The NBA is a league where top players around the world are playing. In addition to LeBron James, Steph Curry and Kevin Durant, European players such as Giannis Antetokounmpo (who has already become MVP twice) and Luka Doncic are also considered as one of the best players in the league. They average solid statistics both during regular and post-season. If we take a look at the status and level of different players, the abundance of world-class athletes is visible. Even novice players who are making first steps in basketball have the ultimate goal of competing in the NBA. Because of their level compared to EuroLeague’s, the teams feature top-class athletes.

Team USA and its dominance

The United States has dominated the basketball world for the past decades winning the gold medals in the 2008, 2012, 2016 and 2020 Olympics. The domination of the United States is visible and because of the fact that they have the strongest team in the world, it also affects their status as world champions.

In addition, the United States is often considered the first country in the world based on many criteria. This has deep historic roots and shows the relative dominance of the country, which is directly depicted in sports as well.

The origin of basketball 

James Naismith American sports coach invented basketball at the beginning of the 20th century. Since then basketball has been considered as a “native” sport in the United States, similar to the NFL and the MBL. The BAA was the first division created in the United States and after that, the NBA followed. Because of the fact that basketball was conceived in the US, champions of this competition are considered the best in the world.


While this factor is less related to the “world championship”, we still need to talk about it. The NBA is one of the most-watched competitions in the world, compared to Euroleague and minor basketball tournaments, it garners a lot of viewership from spectators. The popularity of the league impacts its overall range in sports. 

NBA champions vs Euroleague champions 

Some of you might be wondering whether there has been a match between NBA and Euroleague champions to determine the best in the world. First, in 1997, the Chicago Bulls, under Michael Jordan played against Olympiacos and they easily won the match 104-78. For the second time in 2007, the San Antonio Spurs played against Panathinaikos which the former also won 113-91. In the third one which took place in Barcelona, the Los Angeles Lakers were defeated by Regal Barcelona 88-92 and it was pretty surprising because the Lakers featured Kobe Bryant and other elite class players as well. In total NBA teams have a 75-16 record against Euroleague teams. 

The first match was played between the NBA and Euroleague was Washington Bullets vs Maccabi Elite Tel Aviv which the Bullets won by a slight margin of 98-97 in 1978.

What does the situation look like now? 

Right now there are no more matches held frequently between NBA and Euroleague teams. Once in a while, you will see friendly matches, but there is no such thing as an ultimate match between the champions which would determine the world championship winner. 

What are the arguments for Euroleague?

America is both the birthplace of basketball and the eternal trendsetter in this area. The best championship, the best players, the best TV product – all this is pointless to dispute. But is there something in which the Old World has outdone the founders of the industry? 

A simple question: if in the decisive stage of a tournament the favourites’ chances are not protected by a solid guarantee, is that a good or a bad thing? Is it good that in the last three Euroleague Final Fours in a row, The underdogs celebrated victory? From the point of view of intrigue – definitely good. The leaders of the superclubs who risk losing the season due to a single unsuccessful match will probably disagree with this thought, but fans like this format. American fans, by the way, too. The “Final Four” of the NCAA championship often garners better TV ratings than the final series of the NBA playoffs.

However, it is not enough to surpass the popularity of the NBA and right now American teams are way better than their Euroleague counterparts. Thus the title of a world champion is justified.