Mavericks’ Kyrie Irving Doubles Down on Controversial Criticism

Kyrie Irving of the Dallas Mavericks.

Getty Kyrie Irving of the Dallas Mavericks.

Dallas Mavericks star Kyrie Irving was at the center of one of the biggest controversies in sports in 2021. At the height of the coronavirus pandemic, New York City enforced a rule that required its athletes to be vaccinated in order to participate in home games. Irving refused to get vaccinated and, as a result, was sidelined by the Nets until his reinstatement in January 2022. Two months later, he could again by home games when the city lifted the vaccine mandate for professional athletes.

Eighteen months later, Irving appeared to double down on his stance, congratulating Novak Djokovic on his U.S. Open win while shading the vaccine in the process.

“Unvaccinated Novak Djokovic won the U.S. Open. He won and we will too,” Irving wrote on Instagram Stories, according to a post on X by NBA das Mina.

Djokovic, the Serbian tennis star with a record 24 Grand Slam singles titles, also has refused to get the vaccine. In 2022, he was forced to miss the Australian Open and the U.S. Open because of his unvaccinated status.

Irving, meanwhile, is hoping for a fresh start in Dallas after being traded by the Nets last February.

Kyrie’s Injury History Influenced Vaccine Decision

To this day, Irving still has not gone into detail about the specific reason he chose not to get vaccinated. But according to a report from Brandon “Scoop B” Robinson of Bally Sports, Irving’s skepticism of the vaccine is centered on his long injury history, which dates back to his days at Duke.

“Those closest to him also have shared that Irving knows anything he says will be magnified and scrutinized, and he doesn’t want to be viewed as an anti-vaxxer,” Robinson wrote in December 2021. “He’s not taking this stance to be a voice for the voiceless. He’s just not trusting of the available vaccines, according to sources. Irving also does not want to get vaccinated because of bad experiences with his health due to basketball injuries over the years.”

“Since his freshman year at Duke, Irving has missed 261 out of 950 games, including the last five of the 2015 NBA Finals when a fractured kneecap required surgery and forced him to miss 29 games the following season. His 2018 knee surgery in Boston was a corrective procedure because the screws from his 2015 surgery caused an infection in his knee. Moreover, a 2019 shoulder injury became difficult to diagnose and ultimately forced him to have surgery in 2020,” Robinson wrote.

Irving, 31, has said he is not anti-vaccine but is opposed to people “losing jobs to mandates,” according to an October 2021 story in Forbes. “Everybody is entitled to do what they feel is what’s best for themselves.”

Lakers Coach Sounds Off on Kyrie Irving

Three-time NBA champion Phil Handy was Kyrie’s assistant coach on the Cleveland Cavaliers when they completed a historic 3-1 deficit to win the NBA title in 2016. He said that Irving has always been private and likened his demeanor to that of Los Angeles Clippers star Kawhi Leonard.

“Ky is one of those dudes that is very private. He’s very private and his circle is very small and he’s not a guy that really extends himself a lot to people that he doesn’t know. Kind of like Kawhi,” Handy told Robinson.

“Until you actually get to know Kyrie, you’re going to get a lot of speculation. He’s going to say some stuff and certain things, but people don’t understand maybe what’s the context behind it or where he’s coming from.

So, I always say a lot of times athletes, in general, are just in the spotlight where you just hear sound bites or you might see this or hear this, but people don’t really know the kid. And so, until you get to know Kyrie, I tell people all the time that if you don’t know someone, you probably shouldn’t speak on him.”

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