Cool or Drool: Irving’s Flat Earth Nonsense

Dan Bisno, Columnist

On a typical All Star Weekend in the NBA, the buzz surrounds the most exciting innovation from the dunk contest or the rappers and actors balling in the celebrity game. Kyrie Irving, star point guard of the Cleveland Cavaliers, had something else in mind this year. Several days prior to losing in the three-point contest in New Orleans, Irving revealed on a podcast hosted by teammates Channing Frye and Richard Jefferson that he believes the Earth is flat.

To flat Earthers, the concept of the round Earth is “not even a conspiracy theory,” according to Irving, but rather something we have all been brainwashed to believe as fact. Irving unloaded a slew of these radical ideas during the hour-long podcast. He questioned the existence and appearance of dinosaurs, other planets and pretty much anything else he has not seen with his own eyes at the ripe age of 24. Furthermore, he continued to blame “them” — i.e. the government, NASA or some other anonymous influencer— for the world’s lack of awareness of what’s right in front of us. Are we living in the Matrix?

Following Irving’s comments, Golden State Warriors rival Draymond Green weighed in on the issue to the media. (Recall that the Warriors fell to the Cavaliers last year after the Cavs mounted a historic effort and came back from a 1–3 deficit to win the NBA Finals. Just a few months ago Green stated, “I want to destroy [Cleveland].” Green did not commit to a stance on the Earth’s shape, but he did say, “It may be flat.” I can make a round picture with my iPhone on the panorama camera and make it look round.” However, Green’s tone reeked of sarcasm. Green might have been making fun of his foe rather than supporting him but with just enough ambiguity to avoid a hefty NBA media fine.

Suddenly, two of the highest profile members of the sports world seem to be showing a complete disregard for basic science. Green went to Michigan State University for four years, but maybe Kyrie’s behavior is a result of his departure from Duke University to go to the league after only one year (the “one-and-dones,” as they are called). Of course, that’s not the reason, although I am doubtful he would have passed an astronomy course. In fact, many famous people are flat Earthers — B.o.B., George Bernard Shaw and Tila Tequila, to name a few.

A quick Google search will take you to the internet home of The Flat Earth Society. Not only can you purchase unironic apparel in support of the flat Earth theory, you can also read an extensive database of blogs and articles outlining the history and thought behind this debate. They declare a war against “oppression of thought and the Globularist lies of a new age.”
One might see this as a tornado of conspiracy theories, lies and confusion, but the man upstairs in the NBA sees it as a need for damage control.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver, also a Duke alumnus, attempted to save the day for Irving, suggesting that his conspiracy theories were “a larger comment on the sort of so-called fake news debate that’s going on in our society right now.” Silver’s attempt to draw attention away from Irving’s questionable judgment was quite transparent. Realistically, Irving was hardly politically criticizing Kellyanne Conway’s Bowling Green Massacre and the rest of the fake news. But Silver did manage to shift the press conference conversation to political issues such as the Trump travel ban, which is quite impressive for a sports commissioner.

Just when everyone thought Irving had escaped the backlash for his comments, every millennial’s favorite scientist weighed in on the issue: Bill Nye the Science Guy. While it may have been a ploy to market his show and book, Nye lamented, “It shows you I have failed as a science educator.” He emphasized the importance of the roundness of Earth with regard to feeding the world, technology and many other scientific innovations.

This story was particularly fascinating in how it drew attention away from the other dramatic events of the weekend: Russell Westbrook playing on the same all-star team as Kevin Durant and the growing feud between Carmelo Anthony and Phil Jackson. However convenient Irving’s comments were as a distraction during a contentious weekend, he was also met with harsh criticism from fans on social media who ruthlessly insulted his intelligence.

There is no question Irving can put the ball in the hoop, even if he thinks his planet is flat. If Irving played in the NFL, his intelligence would actually be a very important part of his player portfolio. Prior to being drafted to an NFL team, players take the Wonderlic Cognitive Ability Test, and their scores are released to the public and used by scouts to determine draft positions. In short, the idea is that a player’s general aptitude and intelligence can translate into their creativity and playmaking ability.

Fortunately for Irving, the NBA has made no indication that they are going to assess their players’ intelligence any time soon. Irving has been fortunate to receive an astounding amount of support for his comments. LeBron James even weighed in.

“If he decides the Earth is flat, that’s OK,” James said.

Despite what his teammates say, I am worried about Irving’s well-being and his strange notions of reality. Furthermore, the ambiguity of the situation has escalated given Green and Silver’s sarcastic responses. Are ten-year old NBA fans going to abandon their science class lessons because of their favorite NBA player’s opinion? Despite Silver’s attempt at damage control, Irving’s outlandish comments still receive a drool.