On May 21, 2021, in the heart of COVID, the New Yorker Magazine released an issue with a caricature of the Brooklyn Nets on its cover. Mark Ulriksen’s artwork depicted Brooklyn’s big three of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden chased by two players from the city’s far more beloved team, the New York Knicks. In a city where the Knickerbockers have reigned supreme since their inception, the illustration symbolized a changing of the guard, if not altogether fictional.
Upon word of the magazine’s release, eager to grab a copy I scoured multiple book stores in my area only to find a) there aren’t that many local book stores anymore and b) no magazine.
An NBA homer of the highest order, I obsessed about the magazine cover for some time. I had a t-shirt printed. I had a mouse pad made, but still no magazine.
Five months after its release, I found that very same magazine I had long since forgotten about sitting, of all places, on my mother’s coffee table. Thrilled to finally find it, I sat down and thumbed through its pages only to discover… there was no actual story on the Nets. The cover was an illustration, no more. In other words, all show, no meat, much like the Brooklyn Nets.
Not too much has changed in those five months.
With all the talent in the world on their roster, the Nets were supposed to win an NBA championship. They did not. A nagging injury kept James Harden hamstrung. Kyrie Irving nursed an ankle injury. A recovering yet still otherworldly Kevin Durant was left to carry the Nets on his own. As you may recall, they were a toe-on-the-line away from beating the eventual champion Milwaukee Bucks. It took seven games but ultimately the Nets fell short of their goal.
As is far too often the case with a thrown together collection of superstar talent, and more importantly egos, the Nets enter the 2021-22 season with more question marks than ever, the biggest of which is Kyrie Irving.
The odd bird that is Irving has outright refused to get the COVID vaccine. This becomes problematic as New York, the state in which he plays, has required the vaccine for most indoor activities. This obviously includes playing basketball in front of 19,000 people.
Rumors initially surfaced that Irving would only play away games, an unprecedented notion for an athlete making $35 million a year. Nets ownership was quick to put its foot down, decrying that while they respected Irving’s right to choose, they reserved the right to say they won’t pay him. As it stands right now, Irving is not with the team.
I’ve long been a fan of Kyrie Irving, despite his idiosyncrasies. I loved his Uncle Drew persona. When not dressed as the venerable figure he undoubtedly saw somewhere growing up on the playground, he is far and away one of the most exciting players to watch. While always a tough cover, this time he is becoming harder and harder to defend off the court.
I think I can speak for everyone here when I say, Kyrie, just get the shot already so we can move on. The longer this remains an issue, the longer we must continue to talk about it. I was also reluctant to get the shot, not for fear of any conspiracy theory. I just liked to convince myself I was cautious of what I put into my body. After realizing that the half a bottle of whiskey daily was no worse than any Moderna vaccine, I decided to have my shoulder pierced, twice as is required. I didn’t turn into a werewolf and feel all the better for it (although the second shot was a doozy). Kyrie, however, stands pat to his convictions.
In his recent controversial, comedy routine, Dave Chappelle challenges those who question his character to walk the same line he did. Remember, Chappelle once left around forty million dollars on the table, ironically what Kyrie makes a year, when he felt his ground-breaking sketch comedy show had crossed an uncomfortable line. It is now up to Kyrie Irving to stand by his own morals, which is by far the minority considering over 90% of the league has received the vaccine. How much is Irving willing to sacrifice to stand up for what he believes in? If he remains strictly ant-vaccine, is he willing to give up that much money and more importantly, the prime of his career?
Dave Chappelle can always film another stand-up. At the peak of his physical talent, Kyrie only has a downhill run staring him in the face. He won’t be able to play basketball at this high level forever. If he’s considering a back-up career, with the bridges he’s burned, I’m not so sure how well an Uncle Drew redux will fare in the box office.
And so, the Brooklyn Nets begin their season in a quandary. It wouldn’t be the NBA if there was no drama. Will Kyrie play? If so, will all three remain healthy? We know they can out-talent over half the league blind folded but will they gel enough to beat the best teams when it matters most? Will they vibe better than that other collection of old all-stars in Los Angeles?
All that depends upon a needle, a decision and one man’s conviction. Here’s hoping some common sense also enters into the equation.