Unrivaled: Kyrie Irving Is Throwing Away A Championship Shot By Not Getting Vaccinated

Oct 17, 2021, 8:01 PM
Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)...
Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
(Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — With the NBA season fast approaching there is a spotlight on one key player and on a team that is favored to win it all. That person is Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving and his stance for not being vaccinated against COVID-19.

Through September, it was reported that 95% of NBA players had been fully vaccinated, which is an amazing feat and will surely slow the spread of the coronavirus amongst teams. The issue with Irving is that he plays in the state of New York, where he must be vaccinated in order to be in public buildings, including Barclays Center, where the Nets play home games.

By not being able to play, Irving would not be paid and could miss out on over half of his $33.3 million salary. Irving would not be able to play at home or away games against the New York Knicks and the Golden State Warriors. The state of California has similar restrictions to New York and would prevent Irving from playing at the Warriors’ arena in San Francisco.

There was an initial idea of Irving only playing in road games where he is eligible but general manager Sean Marks decided that option was not best for the team.

“We looked at everything. When you make a decision like this, it’s one that you don’t want to do hastily,” Marks said. “… I think we all know what our objective is this year and how this, a decision like this, may be able to (impact) that ultimate objective. They are never easy decisions, but at the end of the day, I think we are looking at putting a group of people that are going to be able to participate fully and that is what this comes down to. And we’re not looking for partners that are going to be half-time.”

The Nets made the move to bring in James Harden to pair with Kevin Durant and Irving and form a super team with eyes on a title. Brooklyn was a heavy favorite with Irving. Without him, the Nets still are capable of winning a title, but Irving apparently is voluntarily giving up that opportunity.

Irving might miss out on a title if he decides to sit out the whole season over not getting a shot that has proven to be effective against COVID-19. He doesn’t seem to care or be motivated by the loss of millions of dollars. The Nets are also unlikely to offer him a contract extension that could pay him $186 million.

Irving is taking a big stand by not getting vaccinated. KSL Sports’ Alex Kirry understands the conviction but also thinks the Nets star is thinking too much of himself and not others.

“This guy is standing up for something — whatever it is fine — if he is willing to give up the millions and millions of dollars which he would be giving up to make this point, I can’ fault him for it,” Kirry said on KSL’s UnRivaled. “I have a little bit of ‘hey man, you are a bad teammate. right now.’ Other than that I can’t say anything other than he isn’t going to work or play the game he loves so much because he feels so passionately about not being vaccinated.”

Irving is taking himself away from the team on a voluntary basis, something that is 100% avoidable.

Voice For The Voiceless?

Irving’s career and attitude have always been a bit different. He is a “flat-Earther,” who had issues playing with the best player in the world, despite winning a title in Cleveland with LeBron James. He also had a rocky relationship while he was with the Boston Celtics and head coach Brad Stevens.

This may be harsh to say but his track record is not ideal and not getting the COVID-19 vaccine seems a bit selfish. Irving has not really said why he isn’t getting vaccinated.

Irving took to Instagram to discuss his stance”

“I am staying grounded in what I believe in. It is as simple as that. It is not about being anti-vax or about being on one side or the other. It is just really about being true to what feels good for me. … If I am going to be demonized for having more questions and taking my time to make a decision with my life, that is just what it is. … I know the consequences of the decisions that I make with my life. I am not here to sugarcoat any of that.” – Kyrie Irving

What is confusing is that Irving wants to claim some sort of privacy but also says he wants to be a “voice for the voiceless.” Irving is offering up quite a few “no comments,” and saying he does not want to be a distraction to his team.

If he truly wanted to give a voice to those who are not in a prominent position like him, Irving would give a more clear stance on what he is doing. Right now, he doesn’t want to get the shot. He can do whatever he wants but there are consequences for him not wanting to be vaccinated.

One consequence is missing out on half of his salary but he has made millions of dollars throughout his career. His stance is also impacting the Nets organization and his teammates, who count on him to be on the court in pursuit of an NBA title. Harden, who has never won a championship, can’t be too happy with Irving being the only Nets player to not be vaccinated.

What About His Team?

The reason Harden came to the Nets was to play with Durant and Irving and to win a title. Winning a title could happen without Irving’s help. Those three have only played in eight games together with the Nets.

Scott Mitchell, who played in the NFL for 12 years, has a unique perspective of the Irving situation. Mitchell recently discussed the situation from the perspective of a former pro athlete and said would be very upset if a teammate took themselves away from the team over something that is avoidable.

“If you really want to play and participate then there just certain things you are asked to do,” Mitchell said. “I would be furious about this. … You are out and you don’t need to be out for this. The part that is really hard is that you have a window and only so many opportunities and if you don’t take advantage of the time you have. Kyrie Irving is on almost a Dream Team, everyone thinks the Nets are the team to beat with James Harden, Kevin Durant, and Blake Griffin.”

“Whether they are a great team or not, I don’t know, but they have a lot of really good players. You are personally saying, ‘oh well,’ it is kind of a tough break here. You have just one time in your life to be this athlete and to be on this stage. It is so hard to win. and be part of a great team, and. you squander this away.”

Irving can do whatever he wants in regards to getting vaccinated, but those choices have consequences. Irving will be sidelined until the situation has changed and he gets his shot or by some drastic change to requirements from the state of New York.

Tune into KSL Unrivaled every Monday through Friday, 7-9 p.m., or subscribe to the podcast. Also, download the all-new KSL Sports app on iOS or Android

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Unrivaled: Kyrie Irving Is Throwing Away A Championship Shot By Not Getting Vaccinated