Nets' Kyrie Irving (11) shoots over Cleveland Cavaliers' Lauri Markkanen,...

Nets' Kyrie Irving (11) shoots over Cleveland Cavaliers' Lauri Markkanen, left, in the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Jan. 17, 2022, in Cleveland. Credit: AP/Tony Dejak

CLEVELAND – For the first time since his return as a part-time player with the Nets, Kyrie Irving addressed his unvaccinated status after their 114-107 loss to the Cavaliers Monday afternoon at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse. Irving made it clear he has no intention of getting vaccinated no matter how much the Nets might need him as a full-time player, especially at a time when Kevin Durant will miss at least a month with a sprained knee.

After the loss in which Irving led the Nets with 27 points, he was asked if Durant’s injury status might influence him to get vaccinated. As things stand now, he can’t play in New York or Toronto because of the vaccine mandates in those cities.

"I’m not bringing science into basketball," Irving said. "Everyone’s feeling what’s going on in the real world. I’m walking around as an unvaccinated person sort of saying I’ve already been separated into another group of community. I’m just saying to everybody, I’m human. I have decisions to make, I have a family to take care of, there are things that are just as important to me as being great at the game of basketball or leaving a legacy.

"My message has always been I respect what everyone else is doing with their bodies. I respect what everyone else is doing in terms of their livelihood and I’m here to support. But what’s going on with me is I’m taking it one day at a time. Nothing’s guaranteed in this world right now.

"I’m just trying to be a person that’s being a beacon of hope and light and just trying to shed as much as I can on this situation without taking myself into more BS in what’s going on in this political world that we’re in right now."

Irving then repeated that he didn’t want to get into an argument about the scientific debate surrounding COVID-19 and public health mandates.

Dismissing the possibility of changing his stance, Irving said, "It would be easy for someone to say, ‘Why don’t you just get vaccinated?’ That’s just the reality of it. And I made my decision already, and I’m standing on it."

An ESPN reporter then asked Irving if he feels any pressure because the Nets need him as a full-time player. Irving made it clear that he views his vaccination status as a personal matter and doesn’t believe he should be influenced by basketball.

"Kev’s going to heal," Irving said. "Kev’s going to be OK, and we’re going to have to deal with that as his teammates. But in terms of where I am with my life outside of this, I stay rooted in my decision, and that’s just what it is.

"It’s not going to be swayed just because of one thing in this NBA life that somehow it’s brought to my attention as more important than what’s going on in the real world.

"I just am standing rooted in what I believe i…,I just know that I’m protected by the organization, protected by my teammates, I’m protected by all the doctors I’ve talked to, and I’m just staying rooted."

When it was noted that Irving is one of the most famous unvaccinated people in the world and that millions of basketball fans might wonder if he will get the shot to be eligible for all games, Irving said that confuses the issue.

"I’ve already been away enough time to think about this, to process this, to be able to make my decision, stand strong, understand that people are going to agree and some people are going to disagree…I’m not just a basketball player. Millions of fans, I appreciate all of it. But it’s not just about the game."

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