Kyrie Irving has had a busy 2017. Just this past month, he requested a trade away from the three-time defending Eastern Conference champions. Since, he reportedly won’t talk to anyone from the Cavaliers organization, and hasn’t exactly put himself on good terms with the people of Cleveland.
Irving doubled down on the theory too, despite it being flat-out wrong. The stupidest NBA story of the calendar year worked itself into such a frenzy that even NBA commissioner Adam Silver was asked about it. The internet could not get enough of it.
And yet, while we laughed about Irving’s belief at the time, there’s a serious side to the story too. Irving is a public figure — one whom a lot of young kids look up to — and he was publicizing pseudoscience, lending apparent credibility to something that deserves absolutely nothing of the sort.
And there are consequences to that. Real, harmful, frightening consequences. From an NPR story on “the ongoing battle between science teachers and fake news”:
As hard as they try, science teachers aren’t likely to change a student’s misconceptions just by correcting them.
[Middle school teacher Nick] Gurol says his students got the idea of a flat planet from basketball star Kyrie Irving, who said as much on a podcast.
“And immediately I start to panic. How have I failed these kids so badly they think the Earth is flat just because a basketball player says it?” He says he tried reasoning with the students and showed them a video. Nothing worked.
“They think that I’m part of this larger conspiracy of being a round-Earther. That’s definitely hard for me because it feels like science isn’t real to them.”
The circus surrounding the Irving story probably didn’t help. Irving’s fellow NBA players didn’t unequivocally deny his theory — they had fun with it too. Others, like Shaquille O’Neal, joked that they agreed with Kyrie, except that nobody knew it was a joke until O’Neal later clarified.
That Irving’s belief is influencing grade school students is honestly kind of scary, especially in a time when pseudoscience and fake narratives have frequently been disseminated by American politicians and have heavily influenced elections and the nation’s governance.
Gurol’s class, the one mentioned in the NPR story, probably isn’t unique either. His students can’t be the only ones who have developed similar theories thanks to Irving. The NBA flat Earth stories were fun in the moment; not so much anymore.
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