Despite receiving FDA approval last month, many athletes, including NBA stars Kyrie Irving and Bradley Beal, remain skeptical of the COVID vaccine. Beal, the league’s second-leading scorer last season behind Stephen Curry, missed the Tokyo Olympics due to COVID this past summer but still feels no obligation to get vaccinated. Meanwhile Curry’s Golden State teammate, Andrew Wiggins, was denied a religious exemption and will not be permitted to play or practice with the team due to a citywide ordinance requiring proof of vaccination for anyone working or participating in “high risk indoor activities.” The same goes for Irving, who was absent from the start of Nets training camp Monday due to a similar mandate issued in New York City.
While Wiggins and Irving have yet to come around, others, including Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers, are trusting science while encouraging players to get the vaccine. “I’m not mad at people for saying, ‘I need to do my research,’ or taking the steps that make them comfortable. But I have a lot of people in my family that I’m tight with and spend a lot of time around and I’m just not going to put their health or their lives in danger,” said Lillard, who ranks as the second-leading scorer in franchise history behind only Hall-of-Famer Clyde Drexler. “As a kid, I had to get shots my whole life. Before I went to college, I had to get shots and I couldn’t tell you one thing about any of them.”
Few players in the NBA have been as vocal in support of the vaccine as Lillard, who said the decision to get vaccinated was an easy one. “It’s a way for me to protect myself and the people that I love,” said the six-time All-Star, who, despite recent trade rumblings, is set to begin his 10th season in Portland. “It’s pretty simple.”
We’ve lived through the deadliest global pandemic of our lifetime the past two years with COVID claiming 4.5 million deaths worldwide. Casualties in the United States are quickly approaching 700,000 with many hospitals in hot-spot states not equipped to handle the influx of new patients experiencing severe symptoms. Karl-Anthony Towns of the Minnesota Timberwolves lost his mother to the virus early last year while Celtics forward Jayson Tatum never looked quite the same after battling the illness in January, needing an inhaler to help him breathe.