Kyrie Irving, the Brooklyn Nets’ star who won’t be allowed to play this season because of his refusal to get the Covid-19 vaccine, could net as much as $19 million without setting foot on the court.
Irving, 29, defended his decision to not get vaccinated on Wednesday – one day after Nets general manager Sean Marks said the guard would not play or practice until he met New York City vaccine eligibility requirements.
“Nobody should be forced to do anything with their bodies,” Irving said in an Instagram Live video, adding that his decision was not politically motivated.
Irving would miss as many as 43 games next season under the city’s current mandate, with the Nets scheduled to play 41 games at home and two road games against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
The Nets, however, will be required to pay Irving for about 40 away games should he remain on the team since it was their decision to keep him off the court.
The seven-time All-Star is in his third year of a four-year, $136 million contract signed with the Nets in 2019. He was expected to earn more than $34 million this season, according to Spotrac.com.
The NBA and NBA Players Association reportedly agreed on a pay reduction of 1/91.6 of a player’s salary for each game missed by an unvaccinated player due to the local vaccine mandates, ESPN reported.
Irving stands to lose abut $380,000 per game and potentially more than $15 million, ESPN reported.
That would still leave Irving about $19 million – and secure his standing among the 100 highest-paid players in the league – without playing a single minute.
Additionally, Irving would be leaving a potential $185 million contract extension on the table by refusing the vaccine, Shams Charania of The Athletic said Friday on CNN’s “New Day.”
Still, Irving vehemently defended his stance on Instagram.
“You think I really want to lose money?” he said.
“You think I really want to give up on my dream to go after a championship? You think I really just want to give up my job? You think I really want to sit at home?”
Irving – who came to the Nets in 2019 in a bid to transform the franchise with superstars Kevin Duran and, later, James Harden – insisted he has no intention to retire.
“Don’t believe that I’m going to give up this game for a vaccine mandate or staying unvaccinated,” he said.
Marks said this week that Irving “will not play or practice with the team until he is eligible to be a full participant.”
“Kyrie has made a personal choice, and we respect his individual right to choose,” Marks added. “Currently the choice restricts his ability to be a full-time member of the team, and we will not permit any member of our team to participate with part-time availability.”
The NBA had warned the Nets as well as the New York Knicks and Golden State Warriors that new Covid-19 policies set by local governments will prohibit any unvaccinated player from playing in home games in New York City and San Francisco.
Players who do not comply with local vaccination mandates will not be paid for the games they miss, Mike Bass, the NBA’s executive president of communications, said last month.
More than 90% of NBA players are vaccinated, according to the league.
The Nets open their 2021-22 season on the road against the defending NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday.