In his first comments since the Nets said Irving wouldn’t be playing or practicing until he’s in compliance with New York City health codes, the standout guard said that’s the price he’s willing to pay to not get vaccinated agains a virus that’s killed more than 722,000 Americans.
Irving is in the midst of a four-year, $136.49 million contact that would pay him $34.9 million this season. The Nets tip off their 2021-22 campaign Tuesday in Milwaukee against the defending-champion Bucks.
“It’s not about the money, baby. It’s not always about the money,” he said in an Instagram Live posting.
“It’s about choosing what’s best for you. You think I really want to lose money? You think I really want to give up on my dream to go after a championship? You think I really just want to give up my job?”
Irving’s employers play their home games at the Barclays Center in the New York borough of Brooklyn and city health codes mandate at least one Covid-19 vaccine shot to enter indoor gyms.
So the Nets had been looking at an uncomfortable 50-percent use of Irving before announcing Tuesday they’d simply go without him.
“Kyrie has made a personal choice, and we respect his individual right to choose,” Nets General Manager Sean Marks said in a statement.
“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.”
Vaccinations have proven to be a valuable tool in slowing the spread of Covid-19 and lessening the impact on those who are infected.
Nearly 188 million people in America, 12 and older, have been fully vaccinated, which is 56.6 percent of the total population, according to the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.