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NBA vaccination rate reaches 95% ahead of preseason

The Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers will open up the 2021-22 NBA preseason Sunday in Southern California.

While it’s not known whether Nets guard Kyrie Irving will be on hand to face his former teammate in LeBron James (COVID-19 protocols), the NBA is reporting some good news on the pandemic front.

NBA executive director Michele Roberts revealed this week that over 90 percent of the league’s players are fully vaccinated, while ESPN reported Thursday that 95 percent of players have now received at least one shot.

Still, the topic of vaccinations has become hot-button. The NBA mandated that all team employees except for players must be vaccinated, and there is tension within the league about that difference.

Mandatory vaccinations for players has been a non-starter with the National Basketball Players Association, although the league has instituted strict protocols for unvaccinated players.

“Everyone who is vaccinated should be pissed at those who aren’t,” a veteran assistant coach told ESPN. “Not requiring NBA players to be vaccinated is (expletive).”

Protocols for unvaxxed players could include eating and traveling apart from vaccinated teammates as well as being located in a different part of the locker room.

Kyrie Irving, Andrew Wiggins and Bradley Beal are among the players who have made public their opposition to getting the vaccine. Beal later clarified, saying he would still consider receiving it.

Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James said it’s not his place to be an advocate to other players, but did reveal he is fully vaxxed after doing his research.

“We’re talking about individual bodies. We’re not talking about something political or racism or police brutality,” James said. “I don’t think I personally should get involved in what other people do for their bodies and livelihoods. I know what I did for me and my family. … But as far as speaking for everybody and their individualities and things they want to do, that’s not my job.”

2021-22 NBA season and COVID-19 vaccines

nba covid-19 vaccines bradley beal
Sep 27, 2021; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal (3) poses for a portrait during Washington Wizards Media Day at the Washington Entertainment and Sports Arena. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

As mentioned above, Irving, Wiggins and Beal are among the big-name NBA players that continue to push back against getting vaccinated.

As for Irving and Wiggins, there’s now a good chance that they’ll miss home games this season due to COVID-19 mandates in New York City and San Francisco. Local authorities in both cities mandate that an individual must be vaccinated in order to attend large-scale indoor events. Players won’t be exempt from the mandates.

There’s been a lot of ado about non-vaccinated players within the NBA community heading into the regular season next month. However, the fact that 95% of players are vaccinated has to be seen as a good sign. That’s a much higher clip than the general public.

(Field Level Media contributed to this report)