Brooklyn Nets’ Kyrie Irving – Gave up 4-year, $100M-plus extension to be unvaccinated

NEW YORK — Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving says he turned down a four-year extension ahead of the 2021-22 season because he chose not to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

“I gave up four years, 100 and some millions decided not to get vaccinated and that was the decision,” Irving said during the Nets media day on Monday. “[Get this] Contract, get vaccinated or not vaccinated and there’s a level of uncertainty about your future, whether you’re going to play in that league, whether you’re going to be on that team, so I had to deal with those real-world circumstances, and I had to deal with my job for that decision to lose.”

Irving, who is unvaccinated against COVID-19 and had to miss home games in Brooklyn through a vaccination order from New York City until the end of March, opted for a $36.5 million player option ahead of his contract’s final year of the season. The 30-year-old said he felt the decision to get vaccinated was an “ultimatum” from the organization in relation to his contract.

Irving said he was confident contract terms would be finalized ahead of last season.

“We should have figured that all out before training camp last year,” Irving said. “And it just didn’t happen because I’m vaccinated, unvaccinated. So I got her point and just had to live with it. It was honestly a hard pill to swallow.”

For his part, Nets GM Sean Marks pushed back on the idea that Irving had been given an “ultimatum” on his contract.

“There’s no ultimatum here,” Marks said. “Again, the point here is that you want people who are reliable, people who are here and who are accountable. All of us: staff, players, coaches, you name it. There is no ultimatum for anyone to get a vaccine. This is a completely personal decision. I stand by Kyrie. I think if he wants, he made that choice. That is his prerogative.”

Marks acknowledged that it was ultimately New York City’s vaccination mandate, coupled with Irving’s anti-vaccination decision, that stalled talks about the future.

“So two summers ago, suburban, statewide mandates came in,” Marks said. “As soon as the vaccination orders came in, we knew what the impact would be [Irving] Playing home games and so on, then contract negotiations stalled. So it didn’t come to that [a point], ‘Here’s the deal, now take it back.’ That never happened.”

Marks said that although contract talks about Irving’s future collapsed again this summer, he’s confident Irving is fully committed to being a network that’s moving forward.

“At the end of the day, we’re glad Kyrie is back,” Marks said. “I listen to the press conference he had this morning and I take it that he’s committed. He understands that in order for him to be a free agent and get what he rightly wants he needs to show commitment and we look forward to supporting him in any way we can throughout the season to ensure he is healthy and ready to go .

Irving said that while he understood where the postseason organization came from, he was frustrated that his decision not to get vaccinated “became a stigma in my career.”

“I got all the points from the Nets,” Irving said. “And I respected it and I honored it, and I didn’t appreciate how my vaccination suddenly became a stigma in my career that I don’t want to play or be willing to give anything to raise a voice for the voiceless.” to be, and what I’m going to stand here and say, that wasn’t the only intention I had was to be the voice of the voiceless, it was to stand for something that goes beyond being bigger than myself.

“And I would probably understand it well into the future…there was a level of uncertainty about what it would be like when I came back. And I had questions, they were answered truthfully. And that’s all I needed. And now it’s just the support around me and the support from my teammates.”

As Irving’s future continues to unfold within the organization, star forward Kevin Durant spoke publicly for the first time about his own eventful summer during which he requested a trade, asked for the Marks and coach Steve Nash to be fired, and ultimately chose to stay with the nets.

“Last year there was a lot of uncertainty around our team,” said Durant. “I committed to this organization for four years last summer with the idea that we would play with this group that we sort of made second round on this little run [in the 2020 playoffs]. I felt like another year off, we were healthy – we were building something for the future.

“As the season went on you saw what happened to our season, guys in and out of the lineup, injuries, just a lot of uncertainty that made me have doubts about the next four years of my career. I mean, “I’m getting older and I want to be in a stable place and try to build a championship culture. So I had some doubts about that. I voiced them [owner] yeah [Tsai]and we just kept going from there.”

Durant said he wasn’t “disappointed” or surprised that he was still in Brooklyn.

“No,” Durant said. “I know I’m so good that you just won’t betray me. So that’s one thing I really appreciated about Sean and Joe [they said]. ‘You are too great for us to give you away.’ So easy, so easy. Well, I get that. I know who I am.”

Durant also wanted to clarify what he perceives as his own place within the organization, saying he “can only control my job, and my job is to be a player.”

“I’m not the liaison between Kyrie and the organization,” Durant said. “I always told them that. I’ve always told Sean and Kyrie that you need to build your relationship the way you do it. Because everyone is separate, everyone is different, you approach each player differently.”

Durant said the Nets could have fought harder through adversity last season when he was out with an injury, noting that that’s what championship-caliber teams do.

“When I came out injured, we lost [11] back-to-back,” he said. “And I feel like we shouldn’t lose some of those games that we’ve lost, regardless of who’s on the floor. So I was more concerned about how we, as a basketball team, are doing every day tackle. And I felt like we could have fought our way through a lot of things that I think were holding us back. Championship teams do that. You’ve seen Steph Curry and the Warriors, he got injured going into the playoffs .Your team was still fighting and winning games.Luke [Doncic]he was injured and their team was still fighting and winning games.

“I felt we had enough talent for it. And that was the most important thing for me, that when adversity hits, we can keep going through it? I’ve been on championship teams, I’ve been on teams that did I was close to winning a championship and they did. So I wanted to be part of a group that could do that.

“Winning and losing, I could take it all. I’ve been in the league for a long time. So it’s not just about a result anymore. That’s how we get to this point. And I didn’t feel like we weren’t wanting that it affects the game so I waited until the offseason to tell people how I feel.

https://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/34672230/gave-4-year-100m-plus-extension-unvaccinated Brooklyn Nets’ Kyrie Irving – Gave up 4-year, $100M-plus extension to be unvaccinated

Emma Bowman

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