Kyrie Irving Absence: Did Faith Cause Nets Star to Sit Out?

Kyrie Irving fires back after hugging ex-Celtics teammates

Getty Kyrie Irving #11 of the Brooklyn Nets.

Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving did not suit up when the team played the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday, April 13, 2021. The Nets have cited ‘personal reasons’ as the reason for Kyrie’s absence from the team.

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Irving’s Faith May Have Caused His Absence

According to an April 12 tweet from Ball Town, the Nets star recently converted to Islam and is participating in the Muslim holiday Ramadan.

During Ramadan, Muslims are required to not consume food or drink from the time the sun comes up in the morning to the time that it goes down at night.

Kyrie saw support from fans on social media, but sports commentator Stephen A. Smith was critical of his absence — the latest in a string of absences in the past several months.

“What the hell is going on? You only played 20 games last year in Brooklyn, you didn’t play in the bubble … You wanted folks to focus on other issues, and it turns out you got your own issues, whatever they may be,” Smith said on ESPN’s First Take on April 12. He said he hopes everything is fine with Kyrie and his family, “but I don’t recall Kyrie at any point saying, ‘Here’s your money back.'”

Later in the day, Smith backtracked, writing on Twitter that he “just became aware of Kyrie’s situation — which is his position. Today’s miss is one thing, but the other two times he was quoted as saying he ‘needed a break!'”

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Enes Kanter Sounds Off on the NBA Ramadan Experience

There are many Muslims in the NBA who participate in Ramadan but still play in their scheduled games, including Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon and Blazers big man Enes Kanter.

Recently Kanter said that fasting during Ramadan makes him more focused on the basketball court because it strengthens him mentally.

“One thing about Ramadan, I feel like it is all up in your head. It’s all about just mental strength,” Kanter said via Oregon Live. “So, when Ramadan time comes, you can be prepared and your body can be ready. So, I don’t believe it’s gonna be hard at all this year.”

Kanter said the lack of food during the day isn’t the most difficult part of Ramadan when it comes to basketball. When he eats his pre-fast meal during Ramadan, “I try to shove my face as much as I can,” he told Oregon Live. “I try to eat so much; you have no idea.”

Kanter said he eats lots of burritos during that meal, and that Olajuwon gave him the tip to eat lots of oatmeal and dates, according to Oregon Live.

The difficult part, he said, is when Kanter has to play early games when the sun is still up and he must refuse water and Gatorade as part of his Ramadan fast.

“Your teammates next to you are drinking cold Gatorade or cold water and you just stare at them like, ‘Oh, that must feel so good,’” Kanter told Oregon Live. “But other than that, I don’t think there’s like a challenge, because I’ve done this for so long and my body’s used to it.”

Kyrie’s Absences Are Starting to Add Up

Personal reasons have continued to be a theme for Kyrie in this 2020-21 season dating back to January when he missed two weeks because he “just needed a pause” and then missed more time after breaking COVID-19 protocols. The Nets listed ‘personal reasons’ for Kyrie’s extended absence, but some outlets reported that a source said Kyrie was not participating in NBA games because of the January 6 Capitol riot in Washington, D.C.

In March, Kyrie was once again away from the team for a three-game stretch. Sports reporter Pat Ragazzo wrote on Twitter on March 25 that Kyrie’s short absence was because he and his fianceé, Marlene Wilkerson, are expecting a baby.

The Nets will hope to have Kyrie back on Wednesday in their potential Eastern Conference Finals preview with Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers.

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