Kareem Abdul-Jabbar hasn’t sunk one of his sky hooks in 32 years during an NBA game. Even so, the James Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame center scored big time this week.
He also was exactly right.
To paraphrase: If you’re crazy enough to jeopardize your lifestyle, your bank account and your teammates by refusing to take a death-saving needle in one of your arms, you have no business dribbling in a league whose players spent last season making an average of $9.5 million. That was two times more than their baseball counterparts and three times higher than the average NFL player.
Which brings us back to Abdul-Jabbar, the 74-year-old king of the cerebral as an activist and author on social issues.
Since NBA anti-vaxxers have more to lose than their peers, Abdul-Jabbar suggested those controlling the livelihood of these knuckleheads should take that money thing into consideration while delivering the hardest of hard fouls.
“The NBA should insist that all players and staff are vaccinated or remove them from the team,” Abdul-Jabbar told Rolling Stone, before he later said something similar during a CNN interview. “There is no room for players who are willing to risk the health and lives of their teammates, the staff and the fans simply because they are unable to grasp the seriousness of the situation or do the necessary research.
“What I find especially disingenuous about the vaccine deniers is their arrogance at disbelieving immunology and other medical experts. Yet, if their child was sick or they themselves needed emergency medical treatment, how quickly would they do exactly what those same experts told them to do?”
So much for common sense.
The NBA Players Association won’t go for mandates requiring its members to get COVID-19 vaccination shots like those around them such as coaches, team officials, medical folks and referees.
How do you counter all of that, starting with the shrugging among those who run the players association? They said it’s wiser to ignore high-profile players among the anti-vaxxers as training camps opened this week and praise the fact that 95% of their members have received at least one vaccination shot.
Not only that, but they mentioned LeBron James, the face and the voice of the NBA, announcing with boldness he got both of his doses. The Los Angeles Lakers icon ended last season as the league’s top-earning player for the seventh consecutive year, and according to Forbes.com, he pushed his career earnings to $1 billion from a combination of endorsements, memorabilia and media.
“Everyone has their own choice to do what they feel is right for themselves and their family and things of that nature,” James said during the Lakers’ media day in El Segundo, California. “I know that I was very (skeptical) about it all. But after doing my research and things of that nature, I felt like it was best suited for not only me but my family and my friends. That’s why I decided to do it.”
As for Irving, well, um.
He’s a huge issue for the NBA.
It’s not a good look for the league to have one of its highest profile players threatening to search for Bigfoot on Nets off days.
Irving helped James take the Cleveland Cavaliers to the 2016 NBA title, and he is the unofficial head of the NBA anti-vaxxers. OK, OK, he refused to say this week whether he’s vaccinated, but he suggested he wasn’t by conducting his portion of the Nets’ media day through Zoom.
When Irving was asked about his vaccination status, he told a reporter, “I appreciate your question, bro. Honestly, I like to keep that stuff private, man.”
In contrast, Irving hadn’t a problem sharing during a February 2017 podcast with other NBA players that he thought Christopher Columbus and a whole bunch of scientists were wrong about the shape of the planet, and he doubled down in a subsequent ESPN interview.
Irving later apologized in October 2018 during a Forbes Under 30 summit in Boston, when he played for the Celtics, but he apologized for saying what he said out loud regarding a flat earth, but not for believing what he said.
Anyway, Irving has bigger issues at the moment.
If you’re Irving or anybody else, y0u can still play in New York this season if you believe in little green men, or if you think you can tumble into outer space or something if you drive too far east or west.
Not being fully vacccinated?
That’s another thing.
Given New York ordinances, an unvaccinated Irving couldn’t play in Nets home games this season. He would lose half of his $35 million salary, because he couldn’t dribble in half of the Nets’ 82 games. San Francisco has similar ordinances. As a result, anti-vaxxer Andrew Wiggins of the Golden State Warriors will lose half of his salary of nearly $32 million.
In addition to the potential loss of revenue, the following restrictions will exist for NBA anti-vaxxers this season:
- You can’t dine in the same room with vaccinated teammates, coaches or others in your organization.
- Your locker must remain on the other side of the solar system (or as far away as possible) from vaccinated teammates.
- You have to wear a mask at all times, while staying at least 6 feet away from anybody during team meetings or other franchise events.
- You are required to remain inside your residence around your home market and inside the team hotel on the road for anything beyond buying groceries or dropping the kids off at school.
- You’re barred from visiting any “higher-risk settings” such as restaurants, clubs, taverns and sporting events.
In other words, if you’re an NBA player, and if you’re unvaccinated, just close your eyes, scream for mommy and get the shot.