Katherine McCabe / Gavel Media

Why are Some NBA Players Still Unvaccinated?

The COVID-19 vaccine and its effectiveness have been a contentious issue everywhere, and the NBA has proven to be no different. As the regular season gets underway, some influential players are refusing this crucial vaccination.

The National Basketball Players Association has refused to mandate the vaccine despite widespread efforts by health officials. 95% of the players are vaccinated according to various league sources, and some teams have taken matters into their own hands to penalize those who remain unvaccinated. 

The Brooklyn Nets and New York City mayor Bill De Blasio have required proof of at least one vaccination for any athletes who wish to practice and play. Nets superstar Kyrie Irving has declined to get the vaccine. This could ruin the Nets’ auspicious upcoming season, as Irving must sit out all 41 home games and any practices that take place in New York. 

Irving requests that the media respect his privacy and claims that he’ll “be there every day, no matter what, and just be present for my teammates as one of the leaders on the team.” With just days before the October 19th regular-season start, many fans have reason to be skeptical as to whether this claim will remain true.

Andrew Wiggins, Golden State’s promising forward, has previously attempted to claim a religious exemption for the Covid vaccine. The NBA, however, denied this request a month ago. Now, Wiggins says that he has just received his first dose of the vaccine.

Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards, another high-profile player, has also refused the vaccine, claiming its ineffectiveness. 

“That’s funny that [the vaccine] only reduces your chances of going to the hospital. It doesn’t eliminate anyone from getting Covid,” Beal said. Scientific tests of the vaccine have refuted this point and prove that the vaccine reduces infection rates. The CDC cites clinical tests: “In the Moderna trial, among people who had received the first dose, the number of asymptomatic people who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 at their second-dose appointment was approximately 67% lower among vaccines than among placebo recipients.”

Some other players who refuse the vaccine include Jonathan Isaac of the Orlando Magic and Michael Porter Jr. of the Denver Nuggets. They claim to have a “natural immunity” after being diagnosed with Covid-19 previously, they see the vaccine as unnecessary.

“[Getting the vaccine] does open me up to the albeit rare chance but the possibility of me having an adverse reaction to the vaccine itself,” Isaac claimed. The New York Times, however, has reported that not a single NBA player has missed time due to the vaccine’s side effects.

The NBA community has continually attempted to vaccinate these weary players. LeBron James has stressed the importance of protecting his family and friends, which means getting the vaccine was a crucial step for him.

The 2020 and 2019 MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo, said that the vaccine was “the best decision for me to be safe with my kids.” 

Timberwolves Center Karl-Anthony Towns led a pro-vaccine campaign along with other high-profile players in the league. Towns, whose mother and six relatives died of COVID, has a strong connection to the pandemic and hopes that all steps are taken to avoid more tragedies. He implores the community to get vaccinated and stop the spread.

Even NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar spoke out against players who are not getting vaccinated. Abdul-Jabbar put it bluntly, telling CNN’s Don Lemon that the unvaccinated players “should be disciplined… I don't think they are behaving like good teammates or good citizens… You’re working against the effort to make everybody safe.” He believes that it is these players’ responsibility to promote the vaccine and use their platform for good. “There is no room for players who are willing to risk the health and lives of their teammates.”

With the regular season already underway, teams could be missing crucial players just because of their refusal to get the life-saving vaccine. This could result in playoff chances blown before the first game begins, or even landmark trades that could rupture the stability of the league. Only time will tell whether these players stay true to their word or decide to do the right thing not only for themselves but for their entire community.

Spends too much time on crossword puzzles. Can make a mean chocolate chip pancake. Proponent of eating the casing on brie.