Durant Says He Won't Lobby Nets' Irving to Get Vaccinated

Durant Says He Won't Lobby Nets' Irving to Get Vaccinated
Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant (7) and James Harden (13), during an NBA game against the Milwaukee Bucks in New York on Jan. 7, 2022. (Adam Hunger/AP Photo)
The Associated Press

NEW YORK—Kevin Durant reiterated Friday that he won't lobby teammate Kyrie Irving to get vaccinated against the coronavirus so he could be eligible to play in all the Brooklyn Nets' games.

In fact, he won't even ask his close friend why he refuses to get the shot.

“I told him how important he is and how much I want him to play every game, but like I said, I’m not about to force somebody to get a vaccine,” Durant said. “Like, that’s not my thing. So he can play basketball? I’m not about to do that.”

Athletes playing for New York City's professional sports are mandated to be vaccinated to play in the city's public venues. The Nets reversed their earlier decision last month and are allowing Irving to play in road games, and he made his debut with 22 points Wednesday in a victory at Indiana.

The Nets lost 121–109 to Milwaukee at home Friday, their fifth straight home loss. Those home woes won't influence Durant's thinking about Irving's privacy.

“We had conversations about wanting him to be a part of the team and conversations about him being here full-time, but that’s on his time,” Durant said. “Whatever decision he's going to make, he’s going to make. It’s on us to come in and be professionals no matter what and do our job. That’s all of us from the owner down to the equipment manager. So whenever he’s ready, he’ll be ready.”

Coach Steve Nash said recently he hadn't talked to Irving about his decision not to get vaccinated since the preseason. James Harden also said Friday he's staying out of it.

Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo said he feels he can talk to his teammates about anything related to basketball, but not a situation like Irving's.

“When it comes to a personal decision like that, it’s, I’ve got to let them make their decision. They’re grown men,” Antetokounmpo said. “You know, and every situation is different. I cannot pressure somebody to do something that he doesn’t feel comfortable doing. I can tell you why I did it, why I felt comfortable doing it. To protect my family, to protect my mom and stuff, stay safe, and you just hope he understands that.

"But if he doesn’t want to do it, I can’t keep pressuring him. I’ve got to focus on myself and come every day and do my job, because that’s what I get paid to do.”

That's how Durant plans to handle it.

“It’s a weird situation. Like, who knows, you know what I’m saying?” Durant said. “I don’t understand most of this [stuff]. COVID, all of this stuff has been crazy the last few years. So when Kyrie’s ready to make decisions for himself, he will, and I trust that.”

By Brian Mahoney