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NEW ORLEANS — When NBA Commissioner Adam Silver strode to the podium in the belly of Smoothie King Center on Saturday night to deliver his annual All-Star Weekend “state of the NBA” address, there was only one question that everybody in the room really wanted to hear him weigh in on:
So, Mr. Commissioner, do you think the Earth is flat?
Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post posed the question that — thanks to Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving suggesting he does believe the planet is flat during a recent appearance on teammates Richard Jefferson and Channing Frye’s podcast, on which the All-Star doubled down on Friday night and received support from compatriot LeBron James and combatant Draymond Green on Saturday — has come to dominate social-media and real-life chatter during the first two days of All-Star Weekend. The commissioner, to his credit, took the query in stride:
“Kyrie and I went to the same college; he may have taken some different courses than I did,” Silver joked. “In all seriousness, though, as he made clear today, he was trying to be provocative, and I think it was effective. I think it was a larger comment on the so-called ‘fake news’ debate on what’s going on in our society right now, and what’s reported, and it led to an interesting discussion.
“But, personally, I believe the world is round.”
Silver was referring to Irving’s comments during Saturday’s All-Star media session about his claim that the world is flat. (A claim that came in response to a question about whether he believes in aliens, which was a whole ‘nother kettle of fish.) As detailed by Joe Vardon of cleveland.com, Irving struck a somewhat defiant tone, responding “with incredulity that his statement was ‘news,’ and […] with questions of ‘why does it matter?'”
“I mean, the fact that that could be news all over the world just shows you how … I mean, the fact that it’s a social phenomenon that Kyrie thinks the world is flat is hilarious to me,” Irving said.
When pressed on the question of whether he truly believes the world is flat, Irving deflected.
“I mean, it doesn’t really have any relevance over my life,” he said. “I mean, you know, I just feel like the fact that it’s even a conversation is hilarious. That that can actually be news is hilarious to me.”
So, Kyrie: were you joking, or trolling, or what?
“I mean, it was just like, a point,” he said. “Like, the fact that that could actually be real news. Like, [with] everything that’s going on, that Kyrie Irving thinks the world is flat? So, I mean, we can ask, like, relevant questions about what’s going on in the world — like, what’s really going on. You know what I’m saying? Or what I really believe. Or who I really am. That’d be nice. But the fact that that’s what everyone got out of the podcast, that’s hilarious to me.”
Asked about his insistence that the world is flat in the broader context of the Trump administration’s characterization of a variety of unflattering reports about its operations as “fake news” — with an intimation that arguing over a matter in which the science has long been settled and established is, if not bad, then at least kind of dumb — Irving remained resolute.
“Yeah, [the science would suggest] that it would be scientifically impossible” for the world to be flat, Irving said. “Which, I’m totally aware of that.”
And, evidently, he wants to make us aware that there are more important things for us to be paying attention to than his positions on the dimensions of our planet.
“There’s just so many real things going on, things that are going on that’s changing the shape of our lives,” he said, according to Vardon. “I think sometimes it gets skewed because of who we are in the basketball world: ‘Oh, man, what does he actually think? I don’t like Kyrie Irving because he thinks that the world is flat, or he thinks that the world can’t be wrong.’
“I know the science,” he continued. “The fact that that can be real news and people are actually asking me that. It’s a social phenomenon: ‘What do you think about it? Are you going to try and protect your image?’ No. It doesn’t matter.”
So, there you go: as the commissioner interpreted Irving’s statements, the point guard was poking at the content-industrial complex. Not everyone is convinced.
Well, at least the commissioner of the NBA is now clearly on the record about it. Thank heaven for small mercies, I guess.
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