Photo by Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
When superstar Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving started making headlines last year for his decidedly unorthodox views regarding the shape of the planet, it always felt like such a strange contrast. Irving is obviously a smart guy and a downright genius on the basketball court. And while he does have a seemingly gravity-defying handle, it’s not like the laws of physics actually don’t apply to him. Yet here he was, just casually dismissing centuries-old settled scientific reality as some kind of conspiracy; a psychic cage imprisoning us all that he had managed to free himself from. He caught plenty of ridicule at the time—and still does—but I had questions that weren’t getting answered.
Besides, even the hopeless, ignorant cave dwellers of Plato’s most famous allegory would surely also mock and dismiss the all-knowing philosopher king who deigned to make their presence known to them. Was Kyrie just a misguided millionaire with too much time on his hands, or had he really ascended to some kind of higher plane of consciousness? What the hell was he seeing that the rest of us weren’t?
Just a few weeks ago, on J.J. Redick’s podcast, he admitted what he was seeing, and the answer was simpler than any of us expected: Instagram. While this too invited plenty of ribbing from the usual peanut gallery, I realized that there was a coded message within his words; an invitation. As one of the latter 20th century’s greatest philosophers once said, “No one can be told what The Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.” There was a way to follow Kyrie down the rabbit hole, so to speak. So I created a dummy account, followed every person that Kyrie does and strapped myself in for a week of memetic indoctrination that would, hopefully, open my third eye to the true nature of reality.
For the most part, Kyrie’s Instagram feed looks just how you imagine it would. Fellow celebrities, motivational quotes and whole lot of basketball. But you can’t scroll too far without coming across some kind of mind-expanding meme. There’s one of Kyrie’s Duke teammates. There’s The Rock. There’s Jemele Hill. There’s a “Never Stop Believing In Yourself” quote superimposed over the picture of a sunset. There’s… incontrovertible evidence that shape-shifting lizard people exist.
This was the content I was looking for.
And as the days passed by, Instagram’s artificially-intelligent algorithm began to learn exactly what type of posts I was interested in interacting with and started serving them up more frequently. Slowly my perception of reality began to change as the conventional worldview that I had unquestioningly accepted for my entire life was challenged. That the Earth was flat became a mere sidenote. Of course it was flat. In fact, as it turns out, this is easily verifiable. You just need a bottle of water.
But it wasn’t just my idea about the shape of the earth that began to shift. That only scratched the surface of the distant dome surrounding our planet.
I began to question everything. Were the pyramids really ancient power stations?
Was I being mind-controlled by chemtrails?
Were compasses really just junk science? A tool used by the lizard people ruling class to enslave us?
Was the (flat) Earth really… a clock? Were we living on a damn clock?
Nothing made sense to me anymore. It felt like my world (whatever shape it was) was spinning out of control, but even that classic metaphor no longer had any meaning. I stopped eating and sleeping. My body temperature was fluctuating wildly. My eyes were red and dry. I was constantly suffering from dry, spasmodic coughing fits. In highsight I most likely had the flu during this period. But even after recovering to some semblance of physical normalcy, my brain still felt just as broken. How are you supposed to go about your life when there’s hard evidence of the goddamn alien agenda staring you in the face every time you open your phone?
I didn’t know how Kyrie Irving gets out of bed every morning, let alone dominates a professional sport at the absolute highest level on a nightly basis. Was he possibly an alien too? Was he reading my thoughts right now? Everything was on the table. I had truly passed through the looking glass.
In desperate need of clarity, I turned to space enthusiast and writer @Phylan for answers. I knew from my former life of blissful ignorance that he was familiar with these kinds of subjects and I needed someone to talk me back from the metaphysical ledge, before I was too far gone to come back to anything resembling the reality I was once familiar with. He assured me that he was not, in fact, a part of the vast conspiracy of scientists, politicians and media figures that were colluding to keep us in the dark regarding the true shape of the planet. After I showed him some of the evidence I had collected and he was less than impressed, I asked him point blank if the Earth was round or flat.
“I am certain that it is round,” he said. “There is an enormous mountain of verifiable evidence that this is the case.”
But @Phylan was not unwilling to hear Kyrie’s Instagram out.
“That being said, we should always be open to new evidence about our universe, provided it is rigorously measured and reliably replicated,” he said. “I would of course have to be receptive to any such evidence.”
He seemed very convinced, but I, sadly, was not. The scientific mumbo jumbo he was telling me sounded just like the kind of stuff a reptilian shapeshifter would use to confuse and obfuscate the matter for intrepid, truth-seeking minds like mine. He had denied being part of the conspiracy, but wouldn’t that be the exact thing a Ball Earth propagandist would say? My quest for answers had just left me with more questions. More confused and frightened than ever, I presented my findings to my wife, who gently suggested that I had perhaps gotten too close to the truth and that it might be beneficial to take a step back from my meme research to recenter myself. It occurred to me that she might also be part of the conspiracy, but ultimately I decided to heed her advice once she interrupted me during a particularly unhinged, wild-eyed rant to our two-year-old son and threatened to make me sleep in the basement indefinitely.
So, I signed out of my fake Kyrie account and haven’t been back since. Ever so slowly, the conventional view of reality that had previously governed my life began to come back into focus. But a lingering seed of doubt remained. Once you open your third eye, is it really possible to close it again? I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to answer that question. As for Kyrie, the events of this season seem to indicate that he very well may be blessed with the power to see beyond time and space. At the time, his decision to bolt from the Cavs, away from one of the greatest players ever, might have seemed inexplicable to the rest of us mortals, but as he observes his flailing former team from a comfortable perch as unquestioned top dog on the East’s best squad, it’s hard to argue that he’s not operating on a different material plane than the rest of us. So, while the average sheep-like automaton may not be able to truly harness the Kyrie mindset, perhaps we shouldn’t be so quick to judge. I know I won’t be.
This article originally appeared on VICE Sports US.