'Avengers assemble': Gauff thanks Lyles for inspiring men's USA basketball super-squad

LeBron James, Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant part of a star-studded line up headed to the Paris Olympics this summer

LeBron James is part of a star-studded USA squad headed for the summer Olympics, with a stop-off in Abu Dhabi first. Reuters
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Tennis star Coco Gauff has thanked American sprinter Noah Lyles for “assembling the Avengers” – in other words, inspiring USA Basketball to put together its most lethal squad for this summer’s Olympic Games.

Lyles infamously questioned the NBA for calling its title winners “world champions”, explaining how the term is inaccurate for a North American league that only includes teams based in the USA and Canada.

The track star, who won gold in the 100m and 200m at the World Athletics Championships in Budapest last year, faced a great deal of criticism from NBA playersfor those comments, with many dismissing his rationale by saying the NBA features the very best basketball players in the world.

Team USA then underperformed at the FIBA Basketball World Cup, placing fourth after losing to Germany in the semi-finals and Canada in the bronze-medal match, but have since assembled a super-squad for the Paris Olympics that features the likes of LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Joel Embiid, Jayson Tatum, Anthony Edwards and Kawhi Leonard.

Gauff is in awe of the star power on USA’s men’s basketball team, which is Abu Dhabi-bound this July to take part in two exhibition games ahead of the Olympics.

“I’m super stoked for the Olympics – our squad is unbelievable,” said Gauff, the reigning US Open women's champion and a serious medal contender in singles, doubles and mixed doubles in Paris this summer.

“If we lose man … if we lose, I don’t know, the world has stopped rotating. With that squad, I don’t know how many Hall-of-Famers are on that squad.

“Noah Lyles, I haven’t met him, but people like to say that he kind of started that super squad because of his comment about NBA [champions] being world champions. So, thank you, Noah Lyles for assembling the Avengers,” she added with a laugh.

Ranked No 3 in the world and in Madrid this week for the WTA 1000 tournament, Gauff has developed a strong and outspoken voice from a young age. Whether it’s speaking up about social injustice, educating the public about Black history, or taking a stand for gender equality in sport, the 20-year-old is unwavering in her convictions and it seems she’s getting ready to take that to the next level.

After Serena Williams recently told CNN she was interested in becoming an owner of a WNBA team, Gauff was asked if she too would consider investing in women’s sport.

“It's definitely something I have talked to my dad about that I want to do. I don’t have Serena pockets yet, but maybe like a small stake I mean she could afford to own the whole team,” said Gauff.

“But you know, maybe like a small percentage. That is something that I really want to do, whether it’s in the WNBA or women’s soccer. Just to invest and promote it.

“I’m just really happy, this whole, I guess, last two years, of seeing the boom of that has inspired me to do that. I honestly always felt like I should do stuff later in life because I am so youn, g but I’m like, why not take the opportunity now? So eventually one day. But Serena, she’s got it.”

Updated: May 02, 2024, 8:12 AM