This wasn’t supposed to happen. Quite frankly, it’s mind-boggling that we’re even here. And by here, I mean this moment in which the beginning of the world’s most popular sports league’s 75th season is being sabotaged by anti-vaxxers — after some of those very same men proved that safely playing basketball during a global pandemic was possible.
But that’s the thing about the ones who are opposed to “getting the shot.” They believe their self interests trumps science and the betterment of mankind, while still wanting things to “get back to normal” as soon as possible. Their narcissism shines so bright that it blinds them from the fact that they’re the ones holding us up.
When Kyrie Irving — the pied piper of NBA anti-vaxxers — took part in Monday’s Media Day availability via Zoom, we all knew why, even though he told us it was a “private matter.” James Harden’s backcourt mate and Kevin Durant’s best friend couldn’t be at the facility, and won’t be able to play in home games this season if he doesn’t get vaccinated. And as the clips of what Irving had to say began making the rounds on social media, it was evident that one of the vice presidents of the NBA’s player’s union isn’t just a potential detriment to his team, but the entire league.
“This is the last thing I wanted to create, more distractions,” said Irving.
Part of that distraction came in the form of a recent explosive report from Rolling Stone that placed Irving at the center of a small group of anti-vaxxers in the league that are pushing back against the protocols and mandates that the league and states have put in place. Despite the 99 percent of players that have been vaccinated in the WNBA, or watching as the efforts of the soldiering anti-vaxxers in the NFL eventually fell in line, or were removed altogether, at least fifty to sixty players in the NBA have yet to receive a single vaccine dose, according to the report.
“There are so many other players outside of him who are opting out, I would like to think they would make a way,” Kyrie’s aunt, Tyki Irving, told the Rolling Stone. “It could be like every third game. So it still gives you a full season of being interactive and being on the court, but with the limitations that they’re, of course, oppressing upon you. There can be some sort of formula where the NBA and the players can come to some sort of agreement.”
As the day went on, the anti-vaxxers’ comments continued to be idiotic, but also informative — as the language they used was baked in bravado and sautéed in self-assurance.
“I would ask the question to those who are getting vaccinated, ‘Why are you still getting COVID?,” asked Bradley Beal – a man that’s already had the virus and missed out on playing in the Olympics because of it.
“Because it’s none of your business,” Andrew Wiggins told reporters.
Oftentimes we hear players talk about the brotherhood, or fraternity, that is the NBA — an elite group of players that have made it to the highest level of their sport, putting them in a position where no one truly understands what they go through except each other. This is why the actions of the anti-vaxxers are so contrarian, given what some of their “brothers” have had to endure due to COVID-19. Jayson Tatum needs an inhaler. Devin Booker lost his ability to taste and smell things. Karl-Anthony Towns lost his mother, six other family members, and 50 pounds. And Cedric Ceballos who called his time in the ICU with COVID “20 days on death row.”
But, yet, Irving still expects us to believe that a vaccine that was created to save lives due to a global pandemic is somehow a “private matter.”
In a time in which it feels like every topic of conversation forces you to pick sides, the context that comes with being in a gray area is becoming obsolete. However, COVID vaccinations are a subject that’s strictly black or white. You’re either selfless enough to get the shot, or too selfish to realize that this is bigger than “your own beliefs and feelings.” And everything about Irving’s life and career over the last few years points us to a canvas that is black where it should be white, white where it should be black, and gray in areas where colors don’t belong. For instance, look at what he told the New York Daily News earlier this year:
“There’s a deeper level of emotions that I have for helping and serving people around the world. And I’ve done it since I was a kid. I’ll continue on this way after basketball,” he explained about his countless charitable efforts in a piece that was ironically titled, “Kyrie Irving is putting humanity first.”
This is the part where the popular proverb “with great power comes great responsibility,” comes into play with Irving, and why he’s getting most of the attention. From his charitable acts that include feeding the hungry, bankrolling WNBA players that opted-out of The Bubble, to buying a house for George Floyd’s family, he has made himself a leader through his words and actions — which means that people will follow his lead no matter where he takes them, even off the ends of a flat Earth.
“If you are vaccinated, in other places you still have to wear the mask regardless. It’s like, ‘OK, then what is the mask necessarily for?’” asked Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac when he spoke to Rolling Stone. Funny enough, Issac had no issue with taking the word of doctors when they performed surgery on him after he tore his ACL in The Bubble. “And if Kyrie says that from his position of his executive power in the NBPA, then kudos to him.”
Kyrie is Kyrie’s greatest foe. He has an affinity for becoming the catalyst of hoopla and endless Twitter conversations due to his willful and stupid decisions. We’ve become an audience to a man that’s failing and succeeding on a public stage and every hit and miss — on or off the court — is a fascinating watch. And because of that, one thing has become clear: Kyrie Irving has no idea what the hell he’s doing.