Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving’s talk at Forbes’ “Under 30 Summit” Monday was initially listed on the event’s schedule simply as “Keynote with Kyrie.”
What was Irving planning to discuss during his 20-minute slot?
Forbes didn’t have any details Friday ahead of the session, as Irving was a late addition to the lineup of speakers that included former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Olympian Adam Rippon, and Spanx founder Sara Blakely.
Come Monday afternoon, a few hours after wrapping up practice at the Auerbach Center, Irving strutted onto the stage at the Emerson Colonial Theater to field questions from Kurt Badenhausen, a senior editor at Forbes. The 26-year-old touched on a collection of wide-ranging — some new and some old — topics during their conversation, which ended up being officially billed as “Hoops to Hollywood.”
Here’s what Irving said:
1. He apologized for saying the Earth is flat.
After sparking an innocuous debate about whether the Earth is flat or round, Irving wants to put questions about his lambasted beliefs to bed.
“I’m sorry about all that for all the science teachers, everybody coming up to me, like, ‘You know I have to re-teach my whole curriculum,’” Irving told the hundreds of audience members seated in the crowd. “I’m sorry. I apologize. I apologize.”
Irving said he was “huge into conspiracies” when he told then-teammates Richard Jefferson and Channing Frye of the “Road Trippin’” podcast in February 2017 that the Earth is flat. He said he didn’t realize the “effect” of his words at the time.
“Everybody’s been there, like, ‘Yo, what’s going on with our world?’” said Irving, who admitted going down a rabbit hole of YouTube videos spurred his initial comments.
“At the time, you’re like innocent, but you realize the effect of the power of voice, and, even if you believe in that, it’s like, don’t come out and say that stuff. That’s for intimate conversations because perception and how you’re perceived changes. It’s like, no, I’m actually a smart-ass individual. It’s not like I was just coming out and saying that. At the time, I just didn’t realize the effect. I was definitely at that time, ‘I’m a big conspiracy theorist. You can’t tell me anything.’”
Irving had told Jefferson and Frye unequivocally “the Earth is flat” in February 2017, but in the 20 months following his initial statement, he has continually clarified that the proclamation was a way to inspire people to “do [their] own research.”
Irving was, of course, asked about his plans for his looming free agency — a topic he has recently been more candid about after shooing off the question for a brief period this offseason. Irving said, at this point in his career — the five-time All-Star is entering his eighth NBA season — he’s more focused on his happiness and comfort level, rather than money and “any of the extracurricular things.”
“Who’s going to give me that intimacy that I would love to grow as a human being every single day?” he asked, stressing the importance of environment by noting he spends more time with his teammates than he does with his family.
Thoughts of “starting over again” and moving to a new location do creep into Irving’s mind, but he said he’s still prioritizing comfort over change. He expressed great satisfaction with his current situation in Boston, giving a shoutout to the Celtics’ new practice facility and the incomparable feeling of playing at TD Garden.
“What’s better than being in Boston?” he said. “This year has felt much different because of the environment that has been created for me and by me.”
After the crowd applauded Irving, he interrupted to offer extra reassurance.
“By the way, I didn’t say that to appease you guys,” he said. “I actually love Boston.”
With under a minute remaining in Game 7 of the 2016 Finals, Irving drilled a clutch three-pointer to give the Cleveland Cavaliers a three-point lead over the reigning champion Golden State Warriors. Irving said hitting the shot “felt great,” but he was quick to point out something was still lacking, even though the basket propelled both him and Cavs to their first-ever NBA title.
“It felt good,” he said. “Obviously, being one of the historic teams — we’re like one of, I don’t know, 50-something teams to come back from a 3-1 [deficit] in the Finals, and that was pretty special. But after the game, I was just like, ‘What’s next?’”
“I didn’t even realize how big that shot was,” he continued. “At the end of the day, I just wanted to hug my dad [and] hug my sister. I was just ready to move on. It was a weird point in my life at that point, so it was like, emotionally, I just wasn’t as invested as I should have been to enjoy it, and the magnitude of it. But it was pretty cool.”
4. He’s already thinking about life after basketball.
What’s next for Irving?
Though he potentially has a decade-worth of seasons left in the tank, Irving said he “absolutely” is already thinking about positioning himself for life after basketball. He said it’s difficult to maintain high accessibility and visibility, but he recommended connecting with others who have successfully transitioned (e.g. Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, retired Lakers guard Kobe Bryant) as a way to help find direction.
There appear to be several available avenues for Irving in retirement — he recently starred in his first movie, “Uncle Drew” — but the so-called Renaissance man suggested it’s also possible people won’t see him much in 20 or 30 years.
“I’ll probably be in 800 acres in Texas in the middle of nowhere,” he said, laughing. “Off the grid in a self-sustaining community, just living with no power. Like this is fun and all, but technology is just killing me, man.”