Kyrie Irving can often be confusing, but very recently he spoke with the most clarity he’s displayed in years, saying unequivocally he would not be taking the COVID-19 vaccine.
It puts the Brooklyn Nets in a curious position, particularly with Kevin Durant out for four to six weeks with an MCL injury. There was thought to be a little opening, especially when James Harden joked he would inject Irving himself last week, but Irving stated in no uncertain terms where he stands on the matter.
Naismith Hall of Famer Dave Bing believes it’s a selfish decision from Irving.
“I’m very disappointed in his position,” Bing told Yahoo Sports. “I respect his position but very disappointed. Because basketball is a team game, team sport. You let your teammates down.”
Bing was selected as one of the league’s 75 greatest players and was also one of the NBA’s 50 greatest players in 1996. He never won a title during his celebrated career and watching the Nets come together under the guise of winning, he believes Irving isn’t holding up his end of the bargain.
Irving is unable to play home games due to the New York City mandate of employees being vaccinated, and there’s no indication that mandate is changing anytime soon. The Nets are a half-game behind the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
If Irving’s stance continues into the playoffs — and there’s nothing to suggest anything would change — it would put the Nets at a significant disadvantage against whomever they face.
Irving is willing to put himself and the franchise in that spot.
“It’s not going to be swayed just because of one thing in this NBA life,” Irving said Monday after the Nets’ close loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. “That somehow it’s brought to my attention as being more important than what’s going on in the real world. It’s just not happening for me. Again, I respect everyone else’s decision, I’m not going to ever try to convince anyone of anything or any of that, I’m just standing rooted in what I believe in. And though we’re dealing with this right now with Kev, I just know that I’m protected by the organization, I’m protected by my teammates, I’m protected by all the doctors I’ve talked to.”
Bing was asked how he would handle the situation if he were Irving’s teammate — particularly if he were a star player on par with Irving.
“I’d let him know, ‘I respect the position you’ve taken, but you put us in a horrible situation,’” Bing told Yahoo Sports. “‘We planned on your being here, being part of this team to win a championship. Now, you’ve made a very selfish decision for yourself.’
“I’d have some other things that I can’t say in public, but he would get it all,” Bing added, with a laugh.
Bing had a successful post-playing career, also serving as mayor of Detroit from 2009-13 following myriad scandals in the city. He’s long been noted as someone of principle, and repeatedly said he respects Irving’s decision.
“Those three guys, Harden, Durant and he, reportedly came together to win a championship. Then he does what he’s doing,” Bing said. “And I think it sends a terrible message for young people in particular. If you’re a team player, you’ll do what have to do to support your teammates. And I think he’s let his teammates down.”