James Harden should have waited.
According to reports, on March 24, New York City Mayor Eric Adams will lift the vaccine mandate that has applied to private businesses which will allow the unvaccinated to return to work.
Kyrie Irving is once again a full-time member of the Brooklyn Nets that can practice and play home games with his team.
Despite not playing in a single home game all season, and being an example of how insane it was to turn down a free vaccine that was created after millions died and saved the lives of an infinite amount of millions more people, Irving stood his ground.
Let’s be honest for a second. Anybody that’s reading this who didn’t take the vaccine — besides the ones that couldn’t due to pre-existing conditions — is reckless. This goes beyond “being a good person” or “making a smart decision for your fellow man.” The decision to turn down Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson is an indictment that proves you think your immune system can defeat a virus that’s taken millions of lives across the globe, and is evidence that you’re not smart enough to realize that you’ve already taken countless vaccines throughout your life to attend school, go to college, or travel internationally in some cases.
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This was never about “the science” or people “doing their own research,” it was about people like Irving who may have lived and/or worked in a place like New York City, once the epicenter of how lethal and cruel the coronavirus can be, and having the audacity to be arrogant enough to believe that the government, scientists, and medical professionals were taking away their right to choose — even when the implications of pressuring them to do something they didn’t agree with could have saved their lives and the lives of those who still can’t take the vaccine. Sometimes adults need to be adulted.
“Man, I’m just taking it one day at a time,” Irving said back in January when he made his season debut on the road against the Pacers. “Like I said earlier in the season, it’s not an ideal situation, and I’m always praying things get figured out, and we’re able to come to some collective agreement, whether it be with the league or just things that are going on that could help ease what we’re all dealing with. With COVID and the vaccine, I think everybody’s feeling it.
“So, I don’t want to make it about me and simply about someone lessening the rules for me. I know what the consequences were. I still know what they are. But right now, I’m just gonna take it one day at a time, and just enjoy this time that I get to play with my guys. However it looks later in the season, we’ll address it then.”
So yes, Irving didn’t flinch. And under different circumstances that would be an admirable trait — watching someone stand up for what they believe in no matter the consequences. But in this case, it wasn’t a badge of honor. It was a certificate of selfishness.
No one “won” in this situation, despite how it looks.
Through The Bubble, the NBA — along with the WNBA — showed us that with strict rules and regulations sports can be played in a pandemic. The league that was once an example of how to do things, has been bested by one of its biggest stars in a test of will.
Adams used Irving’s situation, and anything else he could, to make himself appear more appealing to the public. When in actuality, all he did was prove that he was a man in over his head who would eventually buckle to the requests and demands of a basketball player and his teammates.
And Irving, who scored 43 points on Wednesday night in Memphis — which just happened to be his 30th birthday, and the same day that the story about the mandate ending broke — has now become a symbol of successfully circumventing rules that were made to protect him and others.
The pandemic won’t just be something future generations will read about in history books. It’s a moment that will change the way society operates forever. People died and proper funerals/burials couldn’t take place. For a large number of children, virtual learning and masks are all they know. Couples were robbed of the weddings they desired. Some of the most important moments in people’s lives were forever changed or halted, and in an effort to “get back to normal,” millions — like Irving — bucked against science and the life-saving results it produced.
Despite all that’s happened since 2020, when the world that we once knew changed forever, and as things are starting to feel “normal” again, we’ve arrived at a moment in which Kyrie Irving has sadly become proof that unwillingness can “win.” At some point, another virus or outbreak will happen down the line — it’s inevitable. But, when it does happen, there will be a group of people who will stand against science and common sense once again and point to a basketball player who once rejected a shot and still wound up getting to take them…on a basketball court.