Kyrie Irving, the All-Star point guard of the Cleveland Cavaliers, made headlines this past week for reasons completely unrelated to his on-court prowess. Just before All-Star Weekend kicked off in the Big Easy, news broke that Irving believes the Earth is flat, saying, “This is not even a conspiracy theory, the Earth is flat. The Earth is flat. It’s right in front of our faces. I’m telling you, it’s right in front of our faces. They lie to us.”
This revelation shocked many, and has some denouncing Irving as a poor role model for children. The statements also prompted some entertaining discussion in the NBA world, including an uncomfortable disclaimer offered by Commissioner Adam Silver, and later, a rebuttal of Irving offered by popular science educator Neil DeGrasse Tyson.
Before hopping aboard the “Kyrie is a Flat-Earther” bandwagon, though, let’s take a moment to be rational or, at the very least, optimistic.
Irving’s initial statement came on a teammate’s podcast, and was made in decidedly less than serious circumstances. Furthermore, he added that he really just wants people to “do their own research” and make a decision.
This makes it clear that he is not being entirely serious, and that his words should probably not be taken at face value. It gives reason to doubt whether Irving actually holds his so-called belief, and allows some measure of hope that Irving is not, in fact, a wildly-unhinged conspiracy theorist.
Additionally, when asked point-blank about his views, Irving chose only to comment on the prevalence of fake news, perhaps hinting that he is simply providing social commentary on the current status of the media.
Commissioner Silver advocated for this view, saying in his own interview that “… he was trying to be provocative, and I think it was effective. I think it was a larger comment on the sort of so-called fake news debate that’s going on in our society right now […] personally I believe the world is round.”
In the same interview, Silver, seeking a lighthearted tone, joked: “Kyrie and I went to the same college. He may have taken some different courses.”
Clearly, this event should not be taken terribly seriously, and it is certainly ridiculous to condemn Irving’s actions. At best, he was making an astute social commentary, and at worst, he truly believes that the Earth is flat.
Most likely, however, the truth lies somewhere in the middle, and this entire episode is more of a commentary on the lethargy and lack of actual hype surrounding the NBA All-Star Game.
All in all, this mediastorm over Irving highlights the dearth of buzz for NBA special events. Perhaps next year the NBA will learn a lesson from the Irving case and spice up the All-Star Proceedings.