Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving posted a black-and-white picture of the late boxing legend Muhammad Ali to his Instagram Stories on Sunday Dec. 19. In the picture Ali is being escorted to a weigh in but has tape over his mouth. Ali known for his lethal fists, sweet movement, bombastic personality and braggadocio, was making a point.
not kyrie comparing his boneheaded stubbornness to muhammad ali’s righteous activism… pic.twitter.com/ObIFpCNAyA
— mike taddow (@MikeTaddow) December 19, 2021
Whether he’s talking with his mouth or with his fists, the outcome is the same. Dominance and excellence. The Greatest.
Ali was also outspoken against the Vietnam War and was seen by many Americans as unpatriotic. He used the tape maneuver as a form of silent protest as well, since certain Americans didn’t like what he had to say.
Ali was a courageous activist and sacrificed years of his prime as the champ for his refusal to be drafted into an immoral war.
Presumably, Kyrie knows all of this — although assuming anything with Kyrie is a fool’s errand — and sees himself as some sort of activist and freedom fighter.
Whether that’s true or not, who really cares?
Kyrie is a supremely talented basketball player who has done good things for various people that are less fortunate. Often away from the spotlight. That’s wonderful.
But don’t waste any time getting caught up in any comparisons or if Kyrie thinks of himself as a Muhammad Ali type of figure. Someone standing on principles and being persecuted for his righteous cause.
He ain’t that.
Kyrie is a non-vaccinated NBA player in the midst of a still surging pandemic who espouses pseudo-science and dangerous misinformation. Nothing more.
If Kyrie would’ve done a little more homework he would’ve discovered that Ali was pro vaccinations, pro science, and pro public health.
Kyrie is strident in his ignorance about the vaccine and the virus. He has shown no signs of changing his mind. That’s problematic, but not enough for the Nets to stand firm on their decision.
The Nets have decided to bring Kyrie back as a part-time player as the omicron variant of COVID-19 has surged. Ten Nets players are in the league’s health and safety protocols.
Team superstar and MVP front-runner Kevin Durant has carried a heavy burden over the first third of the season. He’s logged heavy minutes in guiding the team to the top record in the Eastern Conference. But that’s not sustainable.
The Nets want to be playing for a championship come June and will need the best version of Durant then, not now.
This is what matters for the Nets and Irving.
In his part-time role, NYC vaccine mandates prohibit Kyrie from playing games in NYC, can he be his All-NBA basketball self? Adding much-needed shooting, shot creation, and north-south penetration on a team sorely lacking all three?
Can Kyrie be relied upon to show up to all the games he’s eligible to play in and be that best version of his basketball self? The Nets have made it clear that winning is what matters, and they believe Kyrie can help them with that.
A part-time player was something general manager Sean Marks was not on board with at the beginning of the season when Kyrie made his vaccination stance clear. But the calculus changed, according to Marks.
“COVID has done a number on the team and on society in general, so that’s certainly changed,” Marks said. “Managing our overall player load, that’s something we’ve gotta be aware of throughout the course of this season. We’ve seen large minutes that our guys have had to endure and play, and we’ve gotta look at what’s best for the team over the course of the season.”
Don’t waste your time trying to understand the mind of Kyrie or read into any of his cryptic and not-so-cryptic social media posts. That doesn’t matter.
What matters is the Nets have decided that he is someone they can rely on in a part-time role to help them achieve their ultimate goal of a championship.
Time and Kyrie will provide the answers.
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