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Former NBA player John Salley defends Kyrie Irving over vaccination status

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Former NBA player John Salley defended Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving over his decision to not get vaccinated against the coronavirus, causing him to miss a big variety of games this season.

Salley praised Irving for his commitment to evaluating what goes into his body this week. 

“I feel Kyrie Irving is the premier athlete — skilled,” Salley said during an interview with TMZ. “I feel he’s conscious. I feel he thinks it through. I feel it’s totally essential that individuals listen too, he isn’t into the lies, the glitz. He’s into caring for his body.”

Salley explained that Irving does his own research but is ridiculed because his beliefs fall outside the mainstream view.

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John Salley attends PETA’s thirty fifth anniversary party at Hollywood Palladium on September 30, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. 
(Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic via Getty )

“I’m the largest Kyrie fan,” Salley said. “All the things he does, I take my hat off to him.”

The NBA didn’t have a vaccine mandate for its players this season but due to an area mandate for Latest York City-based businesses that was in place for a lot of the season, Irving was prohibited from playing home games.  

Irving was still allowed to play in road games and unvaccinated players competing for visiting teams were still permitted to play in Latest York City arenas.

The Nets had initially decided against letting Irving play in any respect since they didn’t want him to only be a part-time player. But a COVID outbreak in December that led to several players missing games forced the team’s hand and Irving began playing in road games starting Jan. 5.

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Brooklyn Nets' Kyrie Irving reacts after hitting a basket against the Cleveland Cavaliers during the first half of the opening basketball game of the NBA play-in tournament Tuesday, April 12, 2022, in New York.

Brooklyn Nets’ Kyrie Irving reacts after hitting a basket against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the course of the first half of the opening basketball game of the NBA play-in tournament Tuesday, April 12, 2022, in Latest York.
(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

“You’ve a man who didn’t get the virus, and everybody who talked about smack about him got it really bad,” Salley said. “He had a really strong immune system.”

Latest York City mayor Eric Adams eased COVID mandates in early March to permit unvaccinated people to go inside bars, gyms and enormous venues resembling sporting arenas, a rule that allowed Irving to attend games on the Nets home arena as a fan but that also barred him from suiting up for his team.

Later that month, Adams again updated COVID restrictions to let unvaccinated athletes and entertainers perform in town, allowing Irving to play in every Nets game for the rest of the season.

The Nets have suggested that they might not need to re-sign Irving to a long-term contract, though it stays unclear what precisely the organization’s intentions are. Irving has a $36.5 million player option this summer, allowing him to opt into the deal for next season or decline it and test his value on the free agent market.

Kyrie Irving #11 of the Brooklyn Nets looks on during Round 1 Game 4 of the 2022 NBA Playoffs on April 25, 2022 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. 

Kyrie Irving #11 of the Brooklyn Nets looks on during Round 1 Game 4 of the 2022 NBA Playoffs on April 25, 2022 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, Latest York. 
(Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

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And in response to reports, Irving’s shoe cope with Nike may not be prolonged beyond next season.

The Nets finished the season with the seventh-best record within the Eastern Conference but were swept in the primary round of the playoffs by the Boston Celtics.

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“I watch how he plays,” Salley said. “His dribbling, handling; he’ll be a Hall of Famer.”

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