NBA

Irving standing by vaccine decision but has no retirement plans amid Nets ban

By Sports Desk October 13, 2021

Kyrie Irving reiterated he will stand by his decision to remain unvaccinated after the Brooklyn Nets confirmed the NBA All-Star will not play until he receives the COVID-19 vaccine.

Irving has not been vaccinated and is therefore ineligible to play in home games with the championship-chasing Nets due to New York City mandates.

Nets general manager Sean Marks confirmed on Tuesday that the franchise will not accept Irving playing on a part-time basis and thus overlook him for selection until he is vaccinated.

Irving, who is part of the Nets 'big three' alongside Kevin Durant and James Harden, broke his silence via social media on Wednesday, stating he will not change his stance leaving him in limbo.

"I'm standing with all those that believe in what is right and are doing what is right for themselves," Irving said in an Instagram Live. "Everybody has a personal choice with their lives. Everybody is entitled to do what they feel is what's best for themselves.

"Seeing the way this is dividing our world up, being vaccinated or unvaccinated. It's sad to see. It's creating a lot of division.

"Don't believe that I'm retiring or I'm going to give up this game for a vaccine mandate, don't believe any of that."

Irving stressed that he had no ill feeling towards the Nets nor his team-mates, explaining that his decision was in the interests of him and his family.

"I'm not going to sit here to give you information or wisdom beyond my years, I'm here just to stay real and true to me," he said. "It's my life, I get to do whatever I want with this, I get one body.

"You're telling me what to do with my body. It has nothing to do with the organisation. I'm going to put that out there, it has nothing to do with the Nets or my team-mates. This has everything to do with what's going in our world, I'm being grouped in with something's that's bigger than a game of basketball."

He added: "It's not being anti-vax. It's not about being one side or the other. It's about what feels good to me. I'm feeling uncertain about a lot of things and that's OK. If I'm going to be demonised for having more questions and taking my time to make a decision with my life, that's just what it is.

"I know the consequences of the decision I make with my life. I'm not here to sugarcoat any of that. It's crazy times that we're in… I haven't hurt anybody. I haven't committed a crime. I'm not out here acting dumb or stupid. I'm out here looking after my family and kids.

"If you choose to get the vaccine, I support you. Do what's best for you. I continue to pray for all those out there who have lost people to the pandemic to COVID."

Irving said he had not anticipated that he would be mandated to be vaccinated ahead of the new NBA season which starts for the Nets against defending champions the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday.

"What would you do, if you felt uncomfortable going into the season when you were promised that you'd have exemptions or you wouldn't be forced to have to get the vaccine," he said.

"This wasn't an issue before the season started. This wasn't something that I foresaw coming and I could prepare for it and I could strategise on what would be best for me and my family. I came into this season thinking I was going to be able to play ball."

In 2020-21, Irving averaged 26.9 points, 4.8 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game as the Nets lost in the Eastern Conference semi-finals to the Bucks. 

Irving enjoyed a career-high 50.6 field-goal percentage and joint-career best 92.2 free-throw percentage last season.

It has been reported Irving, who will not be paid for missed home games, will not be offered a contract extension by the Nets.

Irving added: "You think I really want to give up on my dream to go after a championship? You think I really just want to just give up my job? You think I want to sit at home and not go after the things with my team-mates that I've been able to grow with and learn with?"

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