Kyrie Irving has owned being an NBA enigma. However, aside from the random tweet or obscure video, it has been hard to get a read on the Brooklyn Nets guard until recently.
Irving stopped through “The Etcs” podcast on Kevin Durant’s Boardroom media network last week for a sit-down that felt safe enough to reveal his vantage point on all the controversies that have swirled his brand all season and postseason long.
“I felt like I’ve been as open as I can be,” Irving began. “It’s hard to be transparent in a space where you know everybody’s holding on to every single word that you’re going to say. So I try to find a healthy balance with being authentically me, speaking honestly but also just being conscientious of other people’s feelings and the other people that I represent, family members of mine.”
Life Under The Scope
Living in the media bubble of strong opinions and emotions mixed with fan and teammate expectations, Irving had to wrestle with the weight of his decisions during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’ve said so many things in my life, whether it be in public or in private conversations, that could be controversial, right, or they can make someone think a certain way about me. I really don’t pay attention to that as much now but I’ve just been able to learn and grow in the space to be able to learn that I can articulate the way I feel about certain issues but some things I’ve got to keep close to my chest because not everybody is going to understand.
“Not everybody understood my stance this year on remaining unvaccinated. I was asked in all different types of ways about how I felt and whether or not I was going to waiver. Did I feel like I was letting the world down or letting Nets fans down, letting my teammates down?
“And, yeah, part of that let-down feeling seeped in because it completely caught me off guard. I didn’t expect to come into the season with all this being put on my plate. It was like an ultimatum was given to me; its either you work and get vaccinated — just like this ultimatum was given to other people — or you sit at home and now we get to talk sh-t about your decision and you personally and make all these judgments and stuff like that. So I had to deal with both ends of the spectrum so I stayed right in the middle, and I knew I was doing the right thing for me.”
Kyrie Irving was left off the NBA's 75th anniversary team. Should he have been on there? 👀 pic.twitter.com/WqzUjonx6J
— Complex Sports (@ComplexSports) May 4, 2022
“I Was Approaching The Team Almost Every Day”
Irving played only 29 games during the regular season, putting a damper on his teammates, namely Kevin Durant, who had to become the team workhorse. However, Irving wanted the world to know he was actively trying to play, although he would not compromise his anti-vaccine stance.
“I was approaching the team almost every day, every week like, ‘Hey, is there any progress or any status and trying to get in touch with the Mayor’s Office, trying to get in touch with our political figures, our political leaders, to figure out how do we work around this?’
“I talked to scientists; I talked to health professionals, I went down the checklist of hey, is there any way that I could work around this and really what I ran into was this affected so many people, not just in New York City but across the whole entire world. I was getting general answers back because they were not trying to make it, ‘Hey, we’re just trying to get you to play, give you special treatment,’ so I had to respect that, and I had to honor that and go back and talk with my support system and figure out what was the best way to approach this.”
Kyrie venting about the intricacies of life in front of Stuart Little in a Giorgio Armani suit is must-see stuff https://t.co/TEizF71AtB
— Big Steps (@BlGSTEPS) May 11, 2022
The Conspiracy Theorists
Still, the negative commentary mounted, especially when the Boston Celtics swept the Nets in the first round of the playoffs.
“I just feel like it got confusing for a lot of us. It got spun in so many different ways. But really what I was standing on was, ‘hey, there’s a whole community of us, right, that have been labeled as the unvaccinated; as the conspiracy theorists, we’ve been labeled as whatever these names that have been brought to our lives, right, and who we are as people. But I was just saying I am human. You’re human.
“You have the right to make your own decision, I respect that, and I pray that you respect me the same way, but when you are playing in the entertainment game, or you’re playing in kind of a bigger game than yourself, it has rules.”
Are the Nets committed to Kyrie Irving long-term?
"He has some decisions to make on his own. We're looking for guys that want to be something bigger than themselves, play team basketball, and be available. That goes for Kyrie and everybody here." pic.twitter.com/yRoLbayv8Z
— Nets Videos (@SNYNets) May 11, 2022
“I Was Not Expecting A Mandate”
Why couldn’t the team make it out of the first round? Simple: Irving never felt 100 percent.
“I never felt like I was back. There was nothing to lose. There was only the journey to enjoy at that point because I was wondering at home what my future was going to look like; whether I was going to be traded, whether I was going to be released; whether I was going to get the opportunity to be on another team; how I was going to spin this for myself in a positive way, but I never felt like myself throughout the season.
“Because I’m usually sustaining a level of growth throughout the year instead of trying to catch up with everybody that’s been playing for four or five months. I was not expecting a mandate to be brought down that was not going to let me play at all. I had the opportunity to play away games still, but there was no plan in place.
“There was no vision of how it was going to work for our team, and I think that really impacted not just me but a lot of people, so just had to sit in that hot seat for a minute and deal with it; life of a martyr, bro.”