With the news that the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers will sign veteran Andrew Bogut, the basketball team loaded with all-stars now also boasts the most conspiratorially minded roster in a league that’s had its share of conspiracy theories and, now, theorists.
Bogut rarely had much of an impact this season, save for the fact that he’s the only player in the NBA publicly Just Asking Questions about Pizzagate.
While he claims he’s not a political ideologue, for years, Bogut’s Twitter feed has been peppered with grumping about the grave threat that “Social Justice Warriors” pose to the very fabric of a functioning democracy and he’s made more than a few comments in the past about his fellow NBA’ers that smack of sneering bigotry. Libertarian or right-wing bent notwithstanding, at some point Bogut was radicalized, and in 2016, he began following a slew of alt-right Twitter accounts. Shortly thereafter, he threw himself into the Pizzagate conspiracy-mongering.
As the criticism mounted, Bogut found a friendly reporter to reject any connections to white nationalism. That said, he never actually went so far as to call Pizzagate a ridiculous fever dream. Quasi-denials from Bogut or not, some sleuths at r/The_Donald later speculated that Bogut’s absence from the lineup was a form of “punishment” for daring to speak truth to power. (It was not. He was injured.)
Another Cavalier, Iman Shumpert, once glommed on to a far tamer conspiracy theory. In 2015, Shumpert was convinced that a plotline and characters from the TV show Empire had been swiped from his life.
“They’re using my girl’s character, her style, her look and she’s not getting anything for it,” Shumpert told Northeast Media Group. Shumpert was and is romantically involved with Teyana Taylor, a singer and actress who shared a different-spelled name with a character on the show. “They could have at least let my girl audition for the part instead of stealing her character completely.”
Also, there’s the question of Shumpert’s then-trademark hairstyle.
“Come on man, they’re really using a guy with a flat-top like me,” he said. “Come on. That’s ridiculous. They never called us. We were blindsided. We found out by our family and fans when the show aired.”
Shortly after the article ran, Shumpert apologized to the show’s writers and fans, claiming that his words had been “twisted,” and he actually did not believe that any plagiarism had occurred.
Which brings us to Kyrie Irving. During All-Star weekend, Irving appeared on a podcast hosted by two of his fellow Cavs, Channing Frye and Richard Jefferson, and he said what everyone is thinking but is too darn scared to just state outright: the world is actually flat.
Irving, evidently, had bought into the Flat Earth Theory, a relatively obscure conspiracy theory in which devotees are convinced that the Earth is in reality a large disk, gravity is a myth, and the North Pole is a massive wall that prohibits anyone from, you know, falling off the planet. Oh, and that NASA is covering it all up.
The next day, he was mobbed by reporters, all of whom were eager to learn if Irving was serious or he was just trolling the hell out of his teammates. At first glance, it appeared he was not.
By Saturday he’d stepped a few feet back from the ledge, explaining that he was engaging in a performative meta-commentary about the power of a questionable viral news story. “[A flat Earth] would be scientifically impossible, which I’m totally aware of that,” Irving said.
That’s a pretty convenient answer. Unless, that is, the right people got in Irving’s ear and nipped this controversy in the bud. Take NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who, by some odd coincidence, used the same set of talking points that same day, glibly dismissing Irving’s stunt as, “a larger comment on the sort of so-called fake-news debate that’s going on in our society right now.” (And Silver, it should be noted, succeeded longtime Commissioner David Stern, who remains the subject of several conspiracy theories involving, among other things, his alleged plot to use a refrigerated envelope to rig the 1985 draft lottery and to let refs rig the 2002 Western Conference finals.)
To get to the bottom of all these questionable theories and hasty recantations, The Daily Beast consulted the sports world’s foremost numerologist and astrologer, Gary Grinberg, also known as “Gary the Numbers Guy.” Way back in 2014, while LeBron James’s talents were still firmly ensconced in South Beach, Grinberg predicted that James would return to the Cavaliers and that they’d win the title in 2016, holding steady even as the Warriors built up 3-1 lead.
Reached by phone, Grinberg had some choice words for Irving.
“First of all, you’re a moron if you believe in a flat Earth,” he said. “Now, I do believe the Earth is hollow. That is a whole different thing.”
Grinberg explained that any heavily guarded secret will eventually be made public. Therefore, the best means of hiding the truth in plain sight is to put forth a more ridiculous version and “contaminate it,” he explained. Hence the flurry of stories published about Irving, whom he called “a useful idiot.” The mockery came with a specific purpose: to dissuade anyone from the real truth. Namely, that the Earth is hollow.
“They’re going to laugh at these morons and they’ll associate flat Earth with hollow Earth,” said Grinberg. “So that’s how the PSYOP works.”
When it comes to Pizzagate, like Bogut, Grinberg isn’t exactly sure what the true nature of the conspiracy is, but he’s sure that something is going on. Grinberg stressed that his area of expertise is numerology and astrology and has hasn’t truly delved into the subject. However, “I’m pretty good at reading between the lines,” he said.
“When you’ve got a guy named John Podesta and the first four letters of his last name, you know, p-o-d-e. You just mix the ‘e’ and the “’o’ you have ‘pedo.’ That kind of stands out to me.”
Numerology does provide one clue as to Pizzagate’s importance, according to Grinberg.
“Pizza adds up to 33,” he said, by substituting a number for each letter of the alphabet. ”In numerology, that’s a big, big number… You knew that was going to make it just by the name, ‘Pizzagate.’ If it was bullshit, that’s not the name they’d use.”
“So that gives it a little bit of credibility,” he continued. “And you look at a guy like [Cleveland Cavaliers owner] Dan Gilbert. He says in his [Twitter] bio, ‘I’m a retired pizza delivery guy.’ That just tells me he’s laughing in people’s faces. There’s something to this.”
Grinberg also added that Bogut was born on November 28, 1984, making him an ideal fit with the Cavs, numerologically-speaking. Unfortunately, Grinberg isn’t as bullish on the Cavs in the long run. He said he couldn’t reveal the specific numerological formula by which he came to this revelation, but he predicted that 2017 would be the Cavs and James’ final title.
What’s more, James will suffer a career-altering injury in 2018, he said, one that will reduce him to a hollow shell of the NBA-eviscerating colossus he has been to date. As evidence, Grinberg noted that he’d made similar injury predictions about Dwight Howard and Gilbert Arenas that came true.
Sorry about that, Cavs fans.