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Kyrie Irving, COVID-19 conspiracy theories and the 2021-22 NBA season

There’s now a decent chance that Brooklyn Nets star guard Kyrie Irving will not be able to play home games this season due to his stance against COVID-19 vaccines.

By now, it’s already known that the city of New York requires proof of vaccination in order for an individual to attend large-scale indoor events. The NBA has made it clear that it will abide by the mandates, meaning certain players could be absent.

That includes an unvaccinated Irving.

In a wide-ranging piece from Matt Sullivan of the Rolling Stone, the scribe wrote about anti-vaxxers within the NBA player community — focusing a lot on Irving and those close to him. To say that the NBA champ’s stance against COVID-19 vaccines is astonishing would be an understatement.

Kyrie Irving COVID-19 vaccine conspiracy theory

kyrie irving covid-19 conspiracy theory
Jun 7, 2021; Brooklyn, New York, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) points to the crowd after making a three point shot in the fourth quarter against the Milwaukee Bucks during game two in the second round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs. at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

“Irving, who serves as a vice president on the executive committee of the players’ union, recently started following and liking Instagram posts from a conspiracy theorist who claims that ‘secret societies’ are implanting vaccines in a plot to connect Black people to a master computer for ‘a plan of Satan’,” Sullivan wrote.

Say what? As crazy as this might seem, it’s apparently something that is trending among NBA players heading into the start of the preseason in a week.

“This Moderna microchip misinformation campaign has spread across multiple NBA locker rooms and group chats, according to several of the dozen-plus current players, Hall-of-Famers, league executives, arena workers and virologists interviewed for this story over the past week,” Sullivan added.

This comes on the heels of Golden State Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins refusing to get vaccinated. Just like New York City, San Francisco has implemented mandates that will make it impossible for Wiggins to play home games unless he gets jabbed. Just recently, the NBA announced that Wiggins will not receive a religious exemption.

Related: 2021-22 NBA power rankings

As for Kyrie Irving, some close to him are now indicating that he could sit out two-thirds of Brooklyn’s games this season.

“There are so many other players outside of him who are opting out, I would like to think they would make a way,” says Kyrie’s aunt, Tyki Irving. “It could be like every third game. So it still gives you a full season of being interactive and being on the court, but with the limitations that they’re, of course, oppressing upon you. There can be some sort of formula where the NBA and the players can come to some sort of agreement.”

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NBA season could be on the brink

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Los Angeles Lakers
May 19, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; Golden State Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins (22) beats Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) to a loose ball and takes it down court for a basket in the first quarter of the game at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Rolling Stone report indicates that 50 to 60 players around the NBA have not received even one dose of the vaccine. While most are “considered reluctant skeptics,” there’s a growing anti-vaccine sentiment within the player community.

While other large cities have not enacted the same mandates as New York City and San Francisco, there’s a chance that could come as the Delta variant continues to spread across the United States. Just recently, Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka indicated that he expects all of their players to be vaccinated ahead of their regular-season opener next month. Reading between the lines, this is an indication that Los Angeles has not hit that 100% threshold.

We’re talking top-end title contenders and star players from coast to coast potentially being impacted here. Kyrie Irving and the Nets are seen as favorites to hoist the Larry O’Brien next summer. Obviously, his stance against getting vaccinated could impact this in a big way.