(NewsNation) — Kyrie Irving says he gave up a $100 million deal to remain unvaccinated against COVID-19.
Speaking during the Brooklyn Nets media day Monday, the star guard said he turned down a four-year extension prior to the 2021-2022 season, ESPN reported.
“I gave up four years, 100-and-something million deciding to be unvaccinated and that was the decision,” Irving said. “[Get this] contract, get vaccinated or be unvaccinated and there’s a level of uncertainty of your future, whether you’re going to be in this league, whether you’re going to be on this team, so I had to deal with that real-life circumstance of losing my job for this decision.”
Irving was forced to miss home games because of a New York City vaccine mandate. He opted into the final year of his contract with the Nets prior to this season and is set to make $36.5 million this year.
Irving said his refusal to get vaccinated created questions about his commitment to playing, which may have contributed to him still being in Brooklyn. Some teams may have been hesitant to deal for the guard, despite his talent, because they weren’t sure how often they would see it.
“There were options,” Irving said, “but not many, I’ll tell you that, because again, this stigma of whether or not I want to play, whether or not I’m going to be committed to the team, which I thought was really unfair at times. But also, the timing was ideal to be able to put that on me because I wasn’t available.”
Nets General Manager Sean Marks told reporters that despite the contract talks breaking down, he’s confident Irving is committed to the team.
“At the end of the day, we’re happy that Kyrie is back here,” Marks said.
Not getting a long-term deal, Irving said, was a “tough pill to swallow,” but he said he understood the Nets’ side. He’ll play alongside Kevin Durant, who requested a trade after the Nets were swept by the Boston Celtics in the first round of the playoffs.
The Nets had discussions, but trading an All-Star player who is about to start a four-year extension and getting comparable value back was never going to be easy. The team ultimately rejected Durant’s request.
“I mean, I know I’m that good that you’re just not going to give me away,” Durant said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.