NBA star Kyrie Irving’s COVID-19 vaccination status has become a hot-button topic with figures from various walks of life chiming in on his hesitation to take the shot, a decision that’s led him to become estranged from his teammates and the Brooklyn Nets organization.
NBA Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, shared his disappointment in Irving’s actions, or lack thereof, pointing to the player’s platform and influence as reasoning for him to be more responsible for his messaging regarding the vaccine.
“Let’s not pretend Irving is just an innocent martyr asserting his rights,” wrote Kareem in a recent column. “Yes, he is making a stand and is willing to spend millions to do so. That kind of commitment may seem admirable until you realize how many people he influences (with 15.4 million Instagram followers) to do themselves and others harm by not getting vaccinated. The fact that he refuses is the only encouragement the uniformed need.”
Irving, who missed the Nets’ 127–104 season-opening loss to NBA champions the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday night (Oct. 19), also drew the ire of NBA legend and NBA on TNT host Charles Barkley, who touched on Irving’s non-compliance and the impact it’s having on his family, teammates, and the general public at large.
“First of all, you don’t get the vaccine for yourself,” explained Barkley. “You get it for other people,” said Barkley, adding, “I got vaccinated, and I can’t wait to get the booster. You don’t get vaccinated just for yourself. You get vaccinated for your family first, you get vaccinated for your teammates second.” The former NBA MVP continued, “That’s what bothers me about this whole thing. I think everybody should get vaccinated.”
He also commended the Brooklyn Nets organization for not allowing Irving to participate in team activities until he’s vaccinated. “I really am proud of the Nets for putting their foot down and saying we’re not going to deal with this half-on, half-off. The only thing that bugs me is he’s still going to make $17 million sitting at home.”
"First of all, you don't get the vaccine for yourself. You get it for other people."
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) October 20, 2021
Former Los Angeles Lakers champ Magic Johnson also shared his thoughts on the controversy, explaining how Kyrie’s decision is insensitive to his teammates, who are depending on him to help lead the Nets to an NBA title. “You have said to your teammates, ‘I’m gonna be there for you,’” said Johnson. “Well, you can’t be there if you don’t get vaccinated. You letting them down. And then that hurts our chances of winning a championship. I would never do that to my teammates. Never.”
While Irving has suffered a considerable amount of backlash in light of his recent Instagram Live session, during which he admitted to not being vaccinated, he has also received support from others opposed to the vaccine mandates, one of them being R&B star Chris Brown.
The singer posted a photo of Irving on his Instagram Story praising his friend for his decision to go against the grain, writing “THE REAL HERO!!!I stand with my brother. WHOEVER DON’T LIKE IT … Go live your damn life .. IT’S HIS CHOICE AND A DAMN GOOD ONE.”
Earlier this month, Nets general manager Sean Marks announced that Irving would not be able to join the team until he’s able to fully participate in team activities. It was previously reported that Irving could play road games while sitting out home games and matchups against teams like the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State Warriors, and New York Knicks, which play in cities with vaccination mandates.
“My job here is to make what we deem as the best decision and best choices for the organization moving ahead as a whole,” said Marks this past Tuesday (Oct. 19). “They’re not always ones that are going to be met with open arms and a thumbs-up. These are hard decisions. Just like I’m sure it wasn’t easy for Kyrie either to have to make that [decision] to not be around his teammates.”