Choosing not to get vaccinated for Covid-19 was a $100 million decision, says Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving.
Last season, Irving, 30, couldn’t play in Nets home games until March because of New York’s ban on unvaccinated people indoors.
His availability for away games also depended on the vaccine requirements of various states.
The seven-time All Star says his decision not to get vaccinated cost him a four-year contract extension.
“I lost four years, 100-something millions, I decided to be unvaccinated and that was the decision,” he said.
“[Get this] contract, vaccinate or don’t vaccinate, and there’s a level of uncertainty about your future, whether you’re going to be in this league, whether you’re going to be on this team, so I had to face this real situation of losing my job over that decision.” .
The new NBA season starts on October 18 and Irving will play for the Nets with a $36.5m (£33.7m) player option but could become a free agent next summer.
He expected to sign a new contract in 2021.
“We were supposed to figure all of this out before training camp last year,” Irving said. “And it just didn’t happen because of the regime that I was unvaccinated.
“So I understood their meaning and had to live with it. It was a tough pill to swallow, honestly.
“I felt that I had to give an ultimatum about whether I had a contract or not, whether I can or not in the team. [based on] whether I had been vaccinated or not. I was definitely in that position where I had to make that decision.”
However, Irving’s view was disputed by general manager Sean Marks, who instead said that contract talks “stalled” when the pandemic began.
“There is no ultimatum here,” Marks said. “Again, you want people who are reliable, people who are here and responsible. All of us: staff, players, coaches.
“We don’t give someone an ultimatum to make a vaccine. This is a completely personal choice.
“Two summers ago, when we were talking about contract negotiations, the pre-city mandates started. Once the vaccine mandates came in, you knew how that was going to affect home games. That’s when the contract talks stopped.
“It didn’t get to ‘here’s the deal, now take it back’. That never happened.”
Meanwhile, Irving’s Nets teammate Kevin Durant says he’s “committed” to the team despite handing in a trade request over the summer because of doubts he had about their direction and coach Steve Nash’s leadership.
He later rescinded the request after meetings with Nets owner Joe Tsai, Nash and Marks.
“I’m getting old. I want to be in a place that’s stable and try to build a championship culture,” he said.
“We came to a mutual agreement that we should keep moving forward.”
He added: “I still love to play. I knew this would not be affected.
“I’m committed to moving forward with this team, so if they do [fans] I have doubts, I can’t check it.”