Basketball

Kyrie Irving on not getting vaxxed: Just doing what's best for me

Nets star breaks silence on missing NBA games, training as he is not inoculated

Kyrie Irving said he was "being true to what feels good" by choosing not to get vaccinated, after the Brooklyn Nets decided he will not be allowed to train or play with them until he complies with New York City's Covid-19 vaccine mandate.

The rules require proof of at least one shot of the vaccine to enter large indoor spaces. The NBA has said players who are unable to compete due to local mandates will miss out on pay.

"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," the 29-year-old guard said on Instagram on Wednesday.

"If I am going to be demonised 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.

"The financial consequences, I know I do not want to even do that. But it is the reality that in order to be in New York City, in order to be on a team, I have to be vaccinated. I chose to be unvaccinated and that was my choice and I would ask you all to just respect that choice."

Irving is due US$35.3 million (S$47.8m) this season in the third year of a four-year deal he signed in 2019, although the players' association could move to challenge salary withheld over vaccination status.

Nets general manager Sean Marks said in a statement that while they respect Irving's decision, they also have to comply with regulations regarding training and games.

"Kyrie has made a personal choice, and we respect his individual right to choose," said Marks. "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."

Unvaccinated players will have to follow a list of restrictions to take part in the new season, according to a memo obtained by Reuters.

A day after the Nets determined that Irving will not participate in team activities until he is vaccinated against Covid-19, coach Steve Nash called the decision "difficult".

"Everyone had their say," Nash told reporters after the Nets' practice on Wednesday.

"It takes time to make decisions like that. This is a difficult decision. But I think it was a sound one and one that makes complete sense to everyone."

Star guard James Harden said it's time to proceed without Irving, but both said they would happily welcome him back.

"We are just going to move on, and if things change, it would be incredible to have him back in the fold," Nash said.

Harden said he and star forward Kevin Durant talked with the personnel involved in the Irving decision and that all parties see eye-to-eye.

"Sean, Steve, me, KD, Kyrie, we all had conversations," Harden said. "Kyrie believes in his beliefs, and he stands firm and strong on that.

"And for us, we respect it. We all love Ky. But, as far as us, we have a job to do.

"Individually, myself, I am still wanting to set myself up for a championship."

The Nets, who lost to eventual NBA champions Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference semi-finals last term, will open the new campaign at Milwaukee on Tuesday. - AFP, REUTERS

Basketball