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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Sport
Bryan Kalbrosky

Kyrie Irving says he gave up ‘100-something million’ dollars to be unvaccinated, blurring long-term future with Nets

Nets guard Kyrie Irving used one word to describe Brooklyn’s recent offseason: Awkard.

The last few months were a roller coaster for the organization. While there were rumors both might leave, however, Irving and superstate teammate Kevin Durant will suit up for the team once again. Durant rescinded his messy trade request and Irving opted-in at nearly $37 million for another year with the franchise.

Irving admitted that he had options to leave Brooklyn if he opted out and tested the market in free agency, but due to a “stigma” that surrounded him, there were not many.

Irving, however, also revealed that he wouldn’t have had to test the free agent market at all if he had just followed the vaccine mandate.

He explained that if he had simply gotten vaccinated against COVID-19 before last season began, the Nets assured him that a max contract extension was waiting for him.

According to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, the Brooklyn guard was eligible for an extension worth $187 million over four years. The front office did not offer the contract, and they remain non-committal about his future with the team.

Some have described the organization as “outright unwilling” to offer him a long-term extension.

The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that the two sides had discussions about a two-year max extension, with incentives based on games played, as well as a four-year extension with triggers in years three and four that were based on games played in the first two years.

They did not come to an agreement, however, and Irving can become a free agent at the end of this season. (The Lakers are still looming as a potential destination for Irving.)

Irving, meanwhile, stated that he “didn’t appreciate” how his vaccination status became so stigmatized or that he only intended to be a voice for the voiceless.

He added that he also wanted to stand on something bigger than himself.

No matter the reason, or whether or not it makes sense to the public, there isn’t much doubt that Irving left quite a bit of money on the table by making his decision to not get vaccinated.

Now that the NBA has reportedly lifted its vaccine mandate for next season, Irving will have a chance to prove that his best ability for the team can be his availability. The point guard has not played more than 70 games in a season since 2016-17.

However, Brooklyn’s Ben Simmons says that he and Durant and Irving have been playing together all week — and they look incredible.

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