On Tuesday, just a week away from the start of the 2021-22 NBA season, the Nets announced that Irving will not be allowed to practice with the team or play in games until he’s vaccinated. The explosive decision doesn’t just threaten Irving’s season, but it might just be the fatal blow to his whirlwind of a career.
Kyrie Irving remains unvaccinated from COVID-19
When the NBA put in place its new COVID-19 protocols for the 2021-22 season, the league expected all (or at least most) of its players to receive the vaccine. For the most part, vaccinated players will be able to operate like normal this year, whereas unvaccinated players will have to keep their distance from the rest of the team in locker rooms, on team planes, and even during team meals.
Unvaccinated players will also face harsher penalties if they test positive for the virus or come in close contact with another person who has tested positive.
Players in New York and San Francisco received even more of an incentive to get vaccinated when the city governments decided on new policies that restricted unvaccinated people from entering the arenas for Nets, Knicks, and Warriors games. That’s not just the case for fans, though. Even players, coaches, and referees must receive one dose of the vaccine before attending home games in New York and San Francisco. Additionally, those teams can choose not to pay unvaccinated players for the home games they miss.
Andrew Wiggins, who plays for the Warriors and was hesitant about the vaccine this summer, received his shot once he learned he would miss 41 games this season otherwise.
But even with the new policies in place, Irving has still refused to get vaccinated himself. With just a week until Brooklyn opens its season against the Milwaukee Bucks, the stubborn point guard is running out of time.
Nets pull explosive power move that threatens Kyrie Irving’s season
Irving has been absent from the Nets for much of the last few weeks, and the team has been mulling how to handle the bizarre situation as the season quickly approaches. Well, on Tuesday morning, the Nets made their final decision on Irving’s future, and it could mark a devastating blow to his career.
“Given the evolving nature of the situation and after thorough deliberation, we have decided Kyrie Irving will not play or practice with the team until he is eligible to be a full participant,” Nets general manager Sean Marks said in a statement on Tuesday, per Malika Andrews of ESPN. “Kyrie has made a personal choice, and we respect his individual right to choose. Currently the choice restricts his ability to be a full-time member of the team, and we will not permit any member of our team to participate with part-time availability. It is imperative that we continue to build chemistry as a team and remain true to our long-established values of togetherness and sacrifice. Our championship goals for the season have not changed, and to achieve these goals each member of our organization must pull in the same direction.”
There you have it. No vaccine, no basketball for Irving in 2021.
A potentially career-ending blow
The Nets’ decision to hold Irving out of practices and games until he’s vaccinated doesn’t just threaten the point guard’s 2021-22 season. It might just spell the end of his NBA career altogether.
It’s clear that Irving has little to no intention of receiving the vaccine at this point. The threat of missing half the season and losing out on half of his paychecks wasn’t enough to convince Irving to get the shot, so this latest development still might not be enough to change his mind.
Irving has always been firm in his beliefs, no matter how peculiar or controversial they might be. COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere soon, either. We’re approaching two full years of the pandemic, and Nets players still can’t play in their home arena unless they’re vaccinated. If Irving decides to sit out this season and stay unvaccinated, who’s to say the same vaccine rules won’t apply in New York next year? At that point, he might just be too exhausted by the drama to lace up his shoes ever again.
Basketball has always been secondary to Irving. It’s a hobby that he just happens to be one of the best in the world at, but it won’t change the way he lives his life off the court.
As he approaches 30 years of age next March, it’s quite possible we’ve seen the last of Kyrie Irving on an NBA court.