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Not even Shaq is safe from the NBA’s flat-earth mania

Photo: NBC NewsWire / Getty Images
Photo: NBC NewsWire / Getty Images

This March, there’s a different kind of madness spreading through the basketball world: Flat earth conspiracy theories. As ABC News reports, the belief that that the Earth is not round like a basketball, but flat like the paint, is spreading like a bad case of athlete’s foot through the basketball community.

This mental fungus first sprouted when the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kyrie Irving expressed his doubts on the Road Trippin’ podcast. (And by “expressed his doubts,” we mean he said, “the earth is flat,” then repeated it three more times.) Next up were Denver Nuggets and Golden State Warriors players Wilson Chandler and Draymond Green; Green even explained that photos of a round Earth taken from space didn’t prove shit, because if his phone has photo-editing software on it, then NASA’s cameras must too.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver tried to squash the paranoid trend by saying, “I believe the world is round,” at his “state of the NBA” address before last month’s All-Star game, and suggesting that Irving may have been trying to make some sort of satirical point with his statements. But nope, Irving was serious, and now a bona fide Hall of Famer is getting in on the flat-earth action. That’s right: Four-time NBA champion, three-time NBA Finals MVP, rapping genie, and all-around lovable goofball Shaquille O’Neal is also a flat-earth truther. As he said on his own The Big Podcast With Shaq:

It’s true. The Earth is flat. The Earth is flat. Yes, it is. Listen, there are three ways to manipulate the mind—what you read, what you see and what you hear. In school, first thing they teach us is, ‘Oh, Columbus discovered America,’ but when he got there, there were some fair-skinned people with the long hair smoking on the peace pipes. So, what does that tell you? Columbus didn’t discover America. So, listen, I drive from coast to coast, and this shit is flat to me. I’m just saying. I drive from Florida to California all the time, and it’s flat to me. I do not go up and down at a 360-degree angle, and all that stuff about gravity, have you looked outside Atlanta lately and seen all these buildings? You mean to tell me that China is under us? China is under us? It’s not. The world is flat.

In the audio clip, O’Neal and his co-hosts laugh as the X-Files theme plays, so maybe he’s just joking. After all, one would think, at 7’1”, that O’Neal would be able to see the curvature of the Earth from his vantage point. Or maybe, because of his height, he knows something we don’t.

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