Updated, 3:40 PM: On Wednesday, Shaquille O’Neal announced on “The Art of Charm” podcast that he believes the world is round, contradicting his previous statement on his own podcast that the world is flat. The post with the original information is below.

Former NBA all-star and sometimes fictional genie Shaquille O’Neal believes that the Earth is flat. This resoundingly inaccurate belief, which he shared this weekend on his podcast, throws O’Neal into a growing “Earth is flat” club that includes other NBA greats like Kyrie Irving, Wilson Chandler, and Draymond Green.

In a chat about Irving’s own flat-Earth theory, which he has reiterated multiple times, O’Neal threw down his support in an argument that deserves to be read in full:

It’s true. The Earth is flat. The Earth is flat. Yes, it is. Listen, there are three ways to manipulate the mind — what you read, what you see, and what you hear. In school, first thing they teach us is, ‘Oh, Columbus discovered America,’ but when he got there, there were some fair-skinned people with the long hair smoking on the peace pipes. So, what does that tell you? Columbus didn’t discover America. So, listen, I drive from coast to coast, and this s* is flat to me. I’m just saying. I drive from Florida to California all the time, and it’s flat to me. I do not go up and down at a 360-degree angle, and all that stuff about gravity, have you looked outside Atlanta lately and seen all these buildings? You mean to tell me that China is under us? China is under us? It’s not. The world is flat.”

There’s a lot to unpack here and deserves a thorough fact-check, so let’s do this step by step:

How O'Neal might envision Earth.
How O'Neal might envision Earth.

“It’s true. The Earth is flat. The Earth is flat.”

People who think the Earth is flat generally think it is shaped like an edged disc with the Arctic at the center. In reality, Earth is an oblate spheroid — a fact that follows from satellite technology data revealing that the surface of the Earth is not perfectly symmetrical. Photographs of Earth taken from space are concrete evidence that the planet is not flat, but other explanations include (but aren’t limited to) the fact that constellations are seen in different regions of the world, that the timing of the sun’s movement reveals Earth’s curvature, observations that the Earth casts a roundish shadow on the moon, and the disappearance and emergence of ships on the horizon. You can even prove that the Earth isn’t flat by sticking two twigs in the ground in different spots and watching the length of their shadows change throughout the day.

GIF made from NASA satellite imagery.
GIF made from NASA satellite imagery.

“Listen, there are three ways to manipulate the mind — what you read, what you see, and what you hear.”

This is an inherently problematic statement on multiple accounts, and essentially sets up O’Neal to not believe anything, ever. Informing oneself involves sorting through multiple different forms of evidence and deciding what to believe. It’s selective exposure to content, which Shaq seems to advocate by raising suspicion, that creates an echo chamber of misinformation. While O’Neal can’t see that the Earth is spherical with his own eyes, he can also see the shape of the Earth from satellite imagery of Earth. Instead of believing he is being manipulated by misinformation, O’Neal might do well by checking what he’s reading through various esteemed fact-checking websites.

story continues below
Did this dick discover the United States? Nope.
Did this dick discover the United States? Nope.

“In school, first thing they teach us is, ‘Oh, Columbus discovered America,’ but when he got there, there were some fair-skinned people with the long hair smoking on the peace pipes. So, what does that tell you? Columbus didn’t discover America.”

O’Neal is right! Columbus didn’t discover America and he definitely didn’t discover the United States. Columbus, who actually had a copy of a book arguing that Earth is spherical, landed in the Bahamas and Hispaniola in 1492 and never made it up to North America. Who actually landed upon North America first is still debated; some academics say it was a fleet of Vikings led by Leif Eriksson half a millennium before Columbus, and others think it was a fleet of Chinese sailors sometime between 1405 and 1435. O’Neal’s “fair-skinned people” is confusing at best, but he should know that humans migrated from Asia to North America an estimated 13,300 years ago.

A round earth doesn't mean driving at a 360 degree angle.
A round earth doesn't mean driving at a 360 degree angle.

“So, listen, I drive from coast to coast, and this shit is flat to me. I’m just saying. I drive from Florida to California all the time, and it’s flat to me. I do not go up and down at a 360-degree angle, and all that stuff about gravity, have you looked outside Atlanta lately and seen all these buildings?”

Although Earth is spherical, it doesn’t mean that O’Neal would be driving at a 360-degree angle (a literal circle!) on his commute. As Yahoo! Sports points out, Earth’s circumference is 24,873 miles around, so humans simply can’t tell that they are moving across a rounded planet, especially if they’re only driving the 2,291 miles from Florida to California. Also, the “stuff about gravity” has been proven time and again.

China and Argentina are antipodes.
China and Argentina are antipodes.

“You mean to tell me that China is under us? China is under us? It’s not. The world is flat.”

O’Neal is right again! But not for the reasons he thinks he is (that the Earth if flat). If you went to the spot that is diametrically opposite the United States, you’d hit somewhere in the Indian Ocean. If you did the same from China, you’d end up in Argentina.

Again, Earth is not flat.

Photos via Pixabay, NASA/Giphy, Wikimedia Commons, Flickr, FindALatitude , Wikimedia Commons/Flickr