The Shady Side Of Kyrie Irving

Since joining the NBA in 2011, Kyrie Irving has gained a reputation as one of the league's top players, known for both his speed and unpredictability. "I watched a lot of tape on Kyrie, and I watched a lot of the moves to see if there were any pattern to them. In many ways, there isn't," Boston Celtics radio commentator Sean Grande once told ESPN of Irving's abilities on the court. "You're just trying to find as many 25-cent, one-syllable words as you can to describe the 28 seconds worth of things he does in a three-second span." Irving himself has compared his unique style of playing basketball to that of an artist creating a painting. "It's just a lot of movements — a lot of thoughts that you have to put into action," he said in an interview with "It's just a constant masterpiece that you have to paint."

Beginning his NBA career with the Cleveland Cavaliers, the point guard went on to play for the Boston Celtics, the Brooklyn Nets, and then, since 2023, with the Dallas Mavericks. However, Irving's prowess at basketball, as prodigious as it is, has often been overshadowed by his various controversies, brought about by a combination of outspokenness, a stubborn refusal to back down, and a fondness for conspiracy theories — the wilder, the better!

To find out more about this aspect of the superstar athlete, read on for a look at the shady side of Kyrie Irving.

He dissed former teammate LeBron James

After graduating from Duke University, Kyrie Irving was the first player selected in the 2011 NBA draft, snapped up by the Cleveland Cavaliers. He proved to be a solid choice for the Cavs, being named the NBA's rookie of the year after his debut season. Irving may have been the team's hot young prospect, but he quickly realized that no matter how hard he played, he'd always be in second-place position to LeBron James — who, like Irving, was the first draft pick when he joined the Cavs in 2003.

In 2017, Irving asked to be traded — reportedly because he'd grown weary of constantly being in King James' shadow, and instead sought an opportunity with a team on which he could shine as its focal point. The Cavaliers agreed to his request and traded him to the Boston Celtics. Years later, Irving praised then-teammate Kevin Durant's skills while seemingly throwing shade at James. "This is the first time in my career where I can look down and be like, 'That motherf***** can make that shot, too,'" Irving said on Durant's "The ETCs Podcast," as reported by CBS Sports

James responded while appearing on the "Road Trippin' with R.J. & Channing" podcast. "I only wanted to see him be the MVP of our league. I only cared about his success, and it just didn't align," James said of Irving's comments. "And it kind of hurt me a little bit."

He believes the Earth is flat

Arguably, Kyrie Irving's most notorious moment came in February 2017. While appearing on the "Road Trippin' with R.J. & Channing" podcast, he made a startling declaration. "The Earth is flat," Irving said (via USA Today), restating that statement twice more. "They lie to us." NBA commissioner Adam Silver — who, like Irving, attended Duke University — offered a wry response. "Kyrie and I went to the same college. He may have taken some different courses," Silver joked, as reported by Irving, however, doubled down when he appeared on Geno Auriemma's "Holdin' Court" podcast later that year. "When I started actually doing research on my own and figuring out that there is no real picture of Earth, not one real picture of Earth — and we haven't been back to the moon since 1961 or 1969 — it becomes like conspiracy, too," he said, via

Speaking with The New York Times in 2018, Irving was still not convinced that Earth was shaped like a globe. "Can you openly admit that you know the Earth is constitutionally round?" he asked. "Like, you know that for sure? Like, I don't know."

Eventually, Irving backtracked, insisting he'd been deep-diving into some conspiracy-theory rabbit holes at the time. "For all the science teachers, everybody coming up to me like, 'You know I have to reteach my whole curriculum!' I'm sorry. I apologize. I apologize," he said while speaking at Forbes' Under Summit, as reported by ABC News.

He's propagated conspiracy theories about JFK, Bob Marley, and dinosaurs

"Did you ever grow up with a guy in high school who smoked a ton of weed, who is constantly thinking about s*** all the time?" an unidentified sports agent told New York magazine, describing Kyrie Irving's embrace of conspiracy theories. During the same podcast in which he shared his flat Earth beliefs, Irving opined about why President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. "He wants to end the bank cartel in the world, and all of a sudden 21 days [later] he's assassinated," Irving said, reported Yahoo! Sports, which noted that Irving had apparently read Jim Marrs' book "Crossfire: The Plot That Killed Kennedy," which first introduced that particular conspiracy theory.

Meanwhile, in that same conversation, Irving also propagated an oft-debunked conspiracy theory that the botched assassination attempt on reggae superstar Bob Marley — who subsequently died of cancer at age 36 — was actually a hit job orchestrated by the CIA. "He tried to bring people together and the fact that it was fundamentally built on love and truth, and we kill people for doing the right thing like that," Irving said of Marley.

In addition, Irving also believes that dinosaurs didn't look the way most people believe they did, explaining the rationale for his belief in an on-camera interview. "They find one bone and they make up 98% of it digitally [to create] pictures of what they think [dinosaurs] should look like," he said.

He refused to be vaccinated for COVID-19

In September 2021, the NBA introduced new safety protocols to address COVID-19, including severe restrictions on players who refused to be vaccinated for the virus. Kyrie Irving, then playing for the Brooklyn Nets, was among the NBA players who declined the vaccine; however, New York City had instituted its own restrictions, requiring that all athletes playing or even practicing in the city be vaccinated. As a result, when the team held a media day, Irving could only participate via Zoom and not in person. 

Irving wound up sitting out the season because of his refusal to get vaccinated. "I made my decision already and I'm standing on it," he said during a press conference, as reported by NBC Sports. According to Irving, his decision to refuse the vaccine wasn't necessarily due to anti-vax beliefs, but as a protest against the mandates insisting he be vaccinated in order to play. "That's for all the unvaccinated people being fired from work," he added. "It's not just about me, that's been my message the whole time."

He opened up even more when he appeared on Kevin Durant's "The ETCs" podcast. "It was like an ultimatum given to me," he said, via the New York Post. "It's either you work and get vaccinated, just like this ultimatum was given to other people ... I knew I was doing the right thing for me. And I had to stay rooted in that decision."

He's a big fan of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones

Kyrie Irving's fascination with conspiracy theories extended to conspiracy-spouting Infowars founder Alex Jones. While Jones has propagated a seemingly endless stream of dubious claims — including that the government controls the weather and that chemicals added to the water have caused frogs to become gay — he's best known for his lies about the Sandy Hook school shooting, a horrific tragedy that left 26 dead, including 20 young children. Jones, however, told his listeners that the tragedy was a hoax, a black-ops false-flag operation intended to restrict gun ownership; those claims led to a groundbreaking lawsuit that forced Jones into bankruptcy after a jury awarded the victims' families $1.5 billion.

In September 2022, the New York Post reported that Irving had shared one of Jones' videos on Instagram Stories. "There is tyrannical organization calling itself the 'New World Order,' pushing for worldwide government," said Jones in the video, detailing a nefarious plot to abolish cash and introduce socialized healthcare. "And by releasing diseases and viruses and plagues up on us, we basically get shoved into their system where human beings are absolutely worthless," Jones continued.

Irving indicated that he was buying Jones' conspiracy theory hook, line, and sinker when he added a caption to the video, "Never forget." He followed that by writing, "Alex Jones tried to warn us," with Irving apparently implying that Jones' prediction about viruses being intentionally unleashed upon humanity had come to pass with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rumors that he and Kevin Durant were responsible for Steve Nash's firing

In November 2022, the Brooklyn Nets fired coach Steve Nash, a former NBA star who'd never coached professionally before. "We both felt that this was time," Nets GM Sean Marks said of axing Nash during a news conference, reported The New York Times.

While Marks insisted he made the decision without any input from players, a report emerged claiming that NBA star Kevin Durant and Nets teammate Kyrie Irving had orchestrated Nash's firing — by deliberately playing as terribly as they could. That was the opinion of New York Daily News NBA reporter Kristian Winfield, who believed the star players had underperformed to seal Nash's fate. "And you had guys like Kevin Durant and Kyrie who were actively trying to get him fired by how they were playing." Winfield said, as reported by Fadeaway World

Neither Durant nor Irving ever confirmed Winfield's claim. However, ESPN sports commentator Stephen A. Smith told viewers that Irving was no fan of Nash and was so dismissive of his coaching abilities that he'd taken matters into his own hands. "You know what I've been told?" Smith said. "So, when Steve Nash had the team on the floor, and they practiced, they would finish, and he'd go and get five guys and conduct his own practice ... Do you have any idea how disrespectful that is to the Steve Nash? He conducted his own practices after Steve Nash conducted a practice."

He flipped Celtics fans the bird

During Kyrie Irving's second season with the Boston Celtics, CBS News reported that he told cheering fans in TD Garden he was planning on sticking around. "If you guys will have me back, I plan on re-signing here," he said. Instead, he signed with the Brooklyn Nets, raising the ire of Boston's notoriously passionate fans.

Since then, there's been open warfare between Irving and Celtics fans, with Irving dissing his former team whenever he plays in Boston. For example, he was spotted during one game deliberately stomping on the Celtics' leprechaun logo. In another incident, a rowdy fan hurled a water bottle at Irving, which Irving chalked up to racism. "It's been that way in history in terms of entertainment, performers and sports for a long period of time," Irving later told reporters (via CNN), "just underlying racism and just treating people like they're in a human zoo."

Things got even uglier during a 2022 Nets-Celtics matchup when Boston fans enthusiastically chanted, "F*** you Kyrie!" Irving responded by placing his hands behind his head, keeping his back to the crowd while extending both of his middle fingers. At another point in the game, he flipped the bird once more. "It's nothing new when I come into this building what it's going to be like," Irving said, defending his gesture during a postgame press conference, "but it's the same energy they have for me, I'm going to have the same energy for them."

He promoted a bonkers video promoting an antisemitic conspiracy theory

In 2022, Kyrie Irving issued a post on X (formerly Twitter) promoting a film titled "Hebrews to Negroes." The film — based upon a book of the same name — claims that Black Americans are the true descendants of the Israelites depicted in the Bible and that European Jews are imposters. Other social media users were quick to point out that the film is bursting with antisemitic tropes and has been flagged by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) for that reason. Irving was hit with backlash; as The Associated Press reported, the NBA offered him an opportunity to "unequivocally say he has no antisemitic beliefs." When he declined to take it, he was suspended.

Irving later issued a joint statement with the Brooklyn Nets and the ADL and made a $500,000 donation to charities battling intolerance. "I am aware of the negative impact of my post toward the Jewish community and I take responsibility," he said. The Nets subsequently lifted its suspension after he sat out eight games.

The suspension wasn't the only fallout; his sponsorship deal with Nike was terminated, with plans for Irving's new line of shoes quashed. "Kyrie is no longer a Nike athlete," a Nike rep told ESPN. Irving's agent, Shetellia Riley Irving (who is also his stepmother), insisted the decision to cut ties was reciprocal. "We have mutually decided to part ways and wish Nike the best in their future endeavors," she told CNBC.

He threw shade at the Nets after his trade to Dallas

In February 2023, Kyrie Irving was traded from the Brooklyn Nets to the Dallas Mavericks. Shortly after the news was announced, he revealed why he'd been so adamant about being traded from the team — particularly after all the bad blood that had been stirred up when he exited the Celtics to join the Nets. When discussing his departure from the Nets, he also threw some serious shade the team's way. 

"For me, personally, sitting in this seat today, I just know I want to be in a place where I'm celebrated, and not just tolerated, or just, you know, kind of dealt with in a way that doesn't make me feel respected," Irving said during a press conference, as reported by The New York Times

While he didn't specifically reference his issues with the team regarding vaccination or his eight-game suspension over his antisemitism controversy, it was clear that there was some lingering bitterness. "There were times throughout this process when I was in Brooklyn where I felt very disrespected," he shared, explaining his intention to shift the focus away from his various scandals and place it on what he accomplished on the basketball court. "I worked extremely hard at what I do. No one ever talks about my work ethic though," he complained. "Everyone talks about what I'm doing off the floor. So I just wanted to change that narrative, write my own story."

He got into a shouting match with a fan during a game

Even though Kyrie Irving's defection from the Boston Celtics was several years in the past, Boston fans continued to deride him when the Nets played at TD Garden in June 2024 during The Finals. In addition to the usual "Kyrie sucks" chants, Irving was also distracted by one particular fan.

Former Celtics announcer Mike Gorman revealed what he'd seen during the game while appearing on 98.5 The Sports Hub's "Toucher and Hardy." "He was very busy during the game. I've never seen this," Gorman said. "He had a running dialogue with a guy in the sixth row. He's running up and down the court, and he's yelling at this guy. It's just crazy."

Gorman, who said he was sitting about nine rows back, noted that whatever the guy was saying had really gotten under Irving's skin — so much so that the athlete had addressed the Celtics fan directly at several points throughout the game. "One of the possessions, he made a couple moves, he couldn't do anything and decided to turn around and decided to go back-and-forth with the guy again. It was crazy. I've never really seen that," recalled Gorman, who couldn't believe how distracted Irving became. "You see that stuff all the time where somebody yells at somebody during a time out, but not while the game is in progress," he added. "And he just didn't let it go."