Kyrie Irving made the right decision for himself, regardless of what public opinion said he should do.
Irving could have caved into the mob. Could have said to hell with his personal beliefs in favor of being loved. But after months of facing criticism and being a part-time player due to New York City’s vaccine mandate, Irving won.
He still remains unvaccinated today and finds himself leading Brooklyn into their First Round matchup with the Celtics, with Game 1 set for Easter Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC. The Nets, who originally were opposed to allowing Irving to only play in road games, stood by Irving and eventually welcomed him back to the court on Jan. 5. Support that he said was appreciated.
“It’s a great feeling when you know during uncomfortable times you can really lean in on different individuals,” Irving said Friday, via the New York Post. “Some stood by me in public, some stood by me in private and I’m OK with both. Some disagree with me in public, some disagree with me in private. It doesn’t bother me as much as it did in the beginning, because everything was just so new.
“Everything was being thrown in my face in terms of what I should be doing… I was being pinned up against something the world felt like I was doing wrong. It was like ‘Well, the majority says you should do this and why are you going against this? You know you’re losing out on millions? You know you’re giving up on your teammates.’ I heard everything. I was called so many different names.”
Irving, 30, has only been a full-time player since March 28, after New York City mayor Eric Adams lifted the vaccine mandate for athletes and entertainers within the private-sector. Only after criticism from Irving’s teammate, Kevin Durant, and the possibility of unvaccinated Mets and Yankees players not being able to play in home games did Adams make the change.
Since becoming a full-time player, the Nets have been on a tear. Brooklyn is 6-2 since, including its 115-108 victory over the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Play-In Game Tuesday. Irving led the Nets with 34 points and 12 assists in the win.
Irving’s return hasn’t stopped the criticism from coming his way, but as he reiterated, the decision was about standing firm in what he believes in.
“It’s hard to address all those people because they’re usually blocking their profile image, or they don’t come out in public and say it to your face,” Irving said. “I don’t know who they are. All I know is I get things on my Twitter feed and social media, and I get asked about it. But in response to that, I can’t really address everybody.
“I can really that say I stood firm on what I believed in, what I wanted to do with my body. That should be not just an American right, that should be a human right. And when you stand for something like that, in a society that we’re in where we have a lot more followers than we do leaders, you’re going to be forced into being seen as a black sheep that people can attack and can clickbait your name and say these things that don’t really describe who you are.
“So I can’t address everybody, but as we move forward in time, I know that I made the right decision for me.”
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