Kyrie Irving has had a turbulent year. Despite a New York City requirement that unvaccinated people not attend athletic events, the Brooklyn Nets guard chose not to get vaccinated. This regulation applied to players as well, and Irving was unable to play at home until the requirement was overturned near the end of March. During the first part of the season, the Nets also chose to rest Irving on the road. He had only appeared in 29 games before the Nets were routed in the first round of the playoffs.
Despite continuous reports that Irving might pursue a sign-and-trade with another team, Irving exercised his player option and will earn $36 million this season. Irving chose this path after observing that there was no demand for him in the market. He feels it cost him a large sum of money.
“I gave up four years, $100-something million, deciding to be unvaccinated,” Irving stated during Brooklyn’s media day. “That was the choice. It was contract [and] be vaccinated or be unvaccinated, and your future is unknown. “
Irving went on to say that being unvaccinated had become “a stigma within my career” and that he saw himself as a “voice for the voiceless.” He feels the ambiguity surrounding his eligibility is why a deal was not reached before the offseason, and he believes the Nets handed him an ultimatum by providing him with the option of playing and signing a new contract or remaining uninfected. However, Nets general manager Sean Marks disagrees.
“It’s not giving somebody an ultimatum to get a vaccine,” Marks explained. “That is entirely up to the individual. Kyrie has my support. I believe he has made that decision if he so desires. That is entirely his prerogative. “
Irving has already amassed a fortune of $150 million in his career, so he’s done well for himself. Nonetheless, his actions were certain to cost him millions of dollars. Kevin Durant was offered a four-year, $194 million contract extension by the Nets in 2021. Irving would not have earned that much money, but he is still a star and could have commanded a hefty contract. However, his unvaccinated status created ambiguity, something it appears that most clubs did not want to deal with. Irving has also had rocky exits from both Cleveland and Boston, so it’s possible that other teams didn’t want to risk upsetting team harmony.
Both Irving and Durant will be back on the field this season after what felt like an endless media circus. Ben Simmons, who came here in a trade for James Harden last year but didn’t play a single game, will join them. Because the Eastern Conference is deeper than it has been in a long time, the Nets face a difficult road ahead of them. But if Irving and Durant can lead the team to a championship, everything that happened last year will be a distant memory.