Celtics guard Kyrie Irving is known for many things — being a championship-winning point guard, playing Uncle Drew in those Pepsi commercials, and believing in flat-earth conspiracies. This week, after the Celtics-Sixers game in London, Irving joined The J.J. Redick Podcast to expand on his conspiracy-theory research, discuss how his trade from Cleveland to Boston went down, and explain what it’s like to play for Brad Stevens.
Listen to the full podcast here. This transcript has been edited and condensed.
Conspiracy Theories and That Flat-Earth Interview
J.J. Redick: Now, you know what we’re talking about — conspiracy theories. Is the flat-earth —
Kyrie Irving: — thing real?
Redick: Is that a conspiracy, or is that just an opinion?
Irving: No, when I said it, I had been watching a whole bunch of Instagram videos. Meaning, like, I had the specific pages on Instagram that were like, “The truth given to you,” and videos like, “This is the flat earth, and the horizon evens out only on a flat earth.” I didn’t do as much research as I [should have] in order to say something like that, because I was just ready to blurt it out like, “Flat earth, it’s a conspiracy theory. They want to get us!” When you start thinking about it, the actual intent behind it was just, like, do your own research.
Redick: When you backed it up and said “Do your own research,” I immediately thought of just questioning authority — figure out things for yourself a little bit. But what is on your Explore page that you are coming across the videos about flat earth? Do you follow conspiracy theory pages on IG?
Irving: The thing about it, J.J., is … I can’t even call them “conspiracy theories,” you know what I mean? Some of the pages that I follow, they’ll actually list some of the laws and some of the things that have transpired throughout history, and they’ll just give it to you — almost like a History Channel of other things that aren’t on History Channel. … They’ll give you stuff on the government, geo-engineering, chemtrails, and everything else. It just makes you think. That was the beautiful thing about it — it made me think. It made me think twice about shit.
On Leaving Cleveland
Redick: Once you made that request [to be traded from Cleveland], you had to have known that at some point it was going to leak — that [it] wasn’t going to be like, I make the trade request, I get traded the next day, I don’t have to deal with it. … So you had to know there was going to be backlash. What was your mindset in anticipation of that? …
Irving: Initially, it was a sense of relief to be able to take that step professionally: to go to your owner and have a meeting like that; to be able to discuss things that would be beneficial for you. Of course, the backlash was going to come. I was unsure of when, but I didn’t have any thoughts about whether it was going to leak or not. I went in there professionally and I handled it, because I felt that was the best way to do it. I did it out of respect for the organization, what they’ve given to me. I felt like I took the necessary steps to prepare for that moment, and once everything started unfolding, the more connected I knew I had to be with the people around me.
Usually as the nucleus — and I compare myself to a nucleus — I have a giant barrier of individuals that work on their own, but we have a connection, a bond for life. I think you know what that means. You have a bond that’s unbreakable. There’s a loyalty — there’s a love that’s unwavering. I had to prepare them more than I had to prepare myself for [the backlash] because I knew what was going to come with all of this. I knew the things that were going to be said, and we all knew the truth. That was the beautiful thing about it, because I told everybody, like, “This is what’s going to happen. I’m unsure when it’s going to happen, but this is going to happen, and I don’t want you guys to be responding out of spite, out of anger, out of anything that we don’t represent as people.”
I think the thing that got missed in all this is that, in this business, some people lose their sense of being a human being. You know what I mean? There actually is real life going on outside of this trade, or the NBA, or this moment. It was made to be the center of everything for a reaction and for emotional pull. … I appreciate all the past players, I appreciate all the current players saying things. But in the back of my mind — and I came forth and said it as well — it just had nothing to do with them. I took part in this because I wanted to. I didn’t do it for your acceptance. I didn’t give it for you giving a point.
Redick: Giving a point? … Are you talking about one of the shows on ESPN there? …
Irving: I had to process all that, J.J., while all this was going on. And the way to react to it was just not saying anything until it was the right time. Still, like everyone else, I had to read about it, I had to hear about it. Everyone kind of forgot that there was only one voice that actually mattered — and that was mine. And [I] was taking control of what I wanted to take control of. … It’s just having that confidence to be able to look someone in the face and tell them the truth, like, “OK, this is what I want to do with my life, I really don’t care what you think about it.”
Redick: Yeah, I get what you’re saying. You obviously weren’t after mine or anyone else’s acceptance — I can appreciate that so much. Honestly it takes courage, because what you said is true: There’s an element of athletes being perceived as robots — we’ve lost some humanity, for whatever reason. And there’s all the backlashes that come with it.
On Playing for Brad Stevens
Redick: You end up getting traded to Boston, which has been great for you. I want to talk to you about [head coach] Brad [Stevens], though. I’m an NBA Twitter guy. I’m on NBA Twitter, I’m an NBA fan, I watch League Pass every night. And consistently, when people talk about the top coaches in the league, Brad’s name gets brought up. You guys lose Gordon Hayward minutes into the season. … You have to be at least somewhat surprised — I think after [Thursday] you’re 34–10 — so you have to be somewhat surprised by that. This is your first year playing for Brad, so what is it that makes him so great? … Is it end-game stuff? Is it discipline? What is it?
Irving: He brings the ultimate unwavering confidence: Assertive, demanding, but he does it in the most unique way. It’s like almost bringing college to the NBA. I feel like we’re a very professional team, but the way we run things and the way we demand excellence out of each other is something like being on a college team. Our film study, our preparation, our walk-throughs, our shoot-arounds — he has adjusted to the NBA life, but he still has the high character and integrity of being that up-and-coming college coach that he was. … He was always unwavering and he was always chill. [But] he demands it out of you!
Redick: But he does it in a different way.
Irving: Yeah. You want to do it. You want to play for him.
Redick: It sounds like he has a unique personality. Is there a coach that you’ve had that you could compare him to, personality-wise?
Irving: No. Not anybody, no. He’s Brad Stevens. And [he’s] got something special. He’s yet to be on the plateau of a championship winner, but he’s definitely on his way.