Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets fields questions from reporters during...

Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets fields questions from reporters during Media Day at the HSS Training Center on Monday, Sept. 26, 2022. Credit: James Escher

Kyrie Irving said he was close to opting out of his contract but that his options were limited after he chose to remain unvaccinated, adding that his vaccination status also cost him a contract extension at the beginning of the 2021-22 season.

After looking as if he were going to leave, Irving shocked many in the offseason by opting into the final year of his contract to the tune of $37 million — setting himself up to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season.

“I gave up four years, 100-something million deciding to be unvaccinated, and that was the decision [for the] contract — get vaccinated and be unvaccinated,” he said of last year’s extension talks. “I had to deal with that real-life circumstance of losing my job for this decision.”

As for opting out: “There were options, but not many, I’ll tell you that. Because again this stigma, whether or not I want to play, whether or not I’m going to be committed to the team — which I thought was really unfair at times.”

General manager Sean Marks said there was no ultimatum; the Nets simply wanted someone who could play. “It goes back to, you want people who are reliable, people who are here and accountable,” he said. “It’s not giving somebody an ultimatum to get a vaccine. That’s a completely personal choice. I stand by Kyrie. I think if he wants, he’s made that choice. That’s his prerogative completely.”

Irving added that the Celtics’ first-round sweep of the Nets last season was one of the few times in his career when he “felt embarrassed leaving the court.” He’s also had extensive talks with Kevin Durant about where things went wrong.

“I’d be lying if I told you it wasn’t fuel to the fire,” he said. “It was because of how things collapsed towards the end of last season and it’s a lot of details that I wasn’t a part of that I missed and we just couldn’t make up for time. Now that we have a new page to turn with everyone healthy . . . I don’t want to have any doubts or any regrets.”

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