Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving said he “understood” the team’s decision to bench him over his choice to remain unvaccinated, but wasn’t “prepared” for the consequences.
Irving was back on the court with his teammates for the first time in months on Wednesday, after the Nets told him to sit out the season in October when he refused to get vaccinated. At the time, Brooklyn general manager Sean Marks announced that Irving wouldn’t be part of the team “until he is eligible to be a full participant.”
Due to a New York City vaccine mandate, Irving was not allowed to set foot in the Barclays Center, and despite his ability to play in other markets without vaccination requirements, the team stubbornly refused to allow their superstar to play ball.
However, due to a series of injuries and multiple players contracting COVID-19, Irving has been allowed to come back as a part-time player for road games, and will play his first against the Indiana Pacers on Jan. 5.
“It felt like it’s been a long time,” Irving said. “It’s only been three months or so, but it’s felt like the days have been slowly crossed off the calendar while I’m sitting at home. When I thought about it last night, I could barely sleep.”
Irving noted that he accepted the organization’s choice to keep him on the sidelines during the season.
“I understood their decision, and I respected it and tried not to become too emotionally attached to what they were deciding to do,” Irving continued. “I had to sit down and really evaluate things and see it from their perspective, meaning the organization and my teammates.
“I just really empathized and understood their choice to say, ‘If you’re not going to be vaccinated, fully vaccinated, then you can’t be a full participant,’” he remarked.
Irving said he thought he knew what he was doing, but was woefully unprepared for the fallout of his actions.
“I knew the consequences. I wasn’t prepared for them by no stretch of the imagination,” he said. “Coming into the season, I had my thought process on being able to be a full-time teammate and just go out and have fun and provide a great brand of basketball out there. But unfortunately, it didn’t happen like that.”