Sports | January 13, 2021 10:59 am

Kyrie Irving’s Campaign for 2021’s Least Likable Athlete Is Already Underway

Irving remains out of the lineup for the Brooklyn Nets as videos of him maskless at a birthday party circulate on social media

Kyrie Irving's Campaign for 2021's "Most-Disliked Athlete" Has Early Launch Date
Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets dribbles against the Atlanta Hawks.
Getty Images

While he’ll never take home the trophy for 2021’s worst public figure writ large, Kyrie Irving has wasted no time trying to claim that honor — one he seems to prize — in the pro-athletes-only category.

Last week, the Brooklyn Nets guard — the same guy who once said “Fuck Thanksgiving” and called the media members that cover him “pawns” before the start of the NBA season last month — missed last Thursday’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers with what the team called “personal reasons.” While there were some reports those reasons stemmed from the 28-year-old guard being upset about the deadly riots encouraged by Trump at the Capitol the day before, rumors from a source close to the All-Star guard suggested he “just didn’t want to play.”

Regardless of the reason for Irving’s absence from the team, which is still ongoing, he declined to inform his head coach Steve Nash he wouldn’t be playing against Philly, leaving the ex-MVP point guard twisting in the wind when questioned by the media.

“I haven’t spoke to him yet,” Nash said after finding out Brooklyn would not have Irving just 30 minutes before his pregame press conference.”I can’t really comment because I haven’t spoke to him, and it’s personal reasons. So it has to come from Kyrie. I just found out. So I just sent him a message in the last half hour and haven’t heard back yet. Obviously thinking about him and hope all is well and, yeah, it’s a private matter.”

Irving’s private matter, whatever it happens to be, continues: he missed his fourth straight game on Tuesday night and is not expected to return to the team’s lineup this week, sources told ESPN. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t busy on Tuesday night, though …

And even if he was willing to, Irving likely will not be allowed to take the court in the near future thanks to videos that began circulating on Monday night that appear to show him sans mask at a crowded birthday party for his sister Asia surrounded by other maskless partygoers.

In addition to requiring players to wear masks at nearly all times while in public, the NBA’s COVID-19 guidelines forbid players from going to clubs and bars as well as attending social gatherings of more than 15 people. If the video is legit, Irving is in trouble and will lose 1/72nd of his salary for every game he misses due to a COVID-19 violation.

And guess what? He should.

If Irving needs a few games because of what happened at the Capitol last week, that’s certainly within his rights. One could argue a more effective tactic to decry Wednesday’s events may have been to condemn the violence and the parties that allowed it — as Doc Rivers, LeBron James and many other NBA players and coaches did — instead of simply vanishing without a trace, but that’s neither here nor there.

But at the very least, Irving should have had the decency and respect to let his coach know he wouldn’t be making the game. And if that absence — or any others — had anything to do with him feeling the need to violate the NBA’s safety protocols by going maskless at a party, the situation makes the one-time champ appear selfish and disrespectful of everyone else in the league who is following the rules, including his own teammates.

Irving, who has played in the playoffs just once in the last three seasons even though his team made the postseason all three years, is a dynamic player, and when he’s on the floor, he’s one of the biggest talents in the NBA. But barring further info about his reason(s) for missing games coming to light, Irving’s actions over the last week are inexcusable.

Add all that up and then factor in Irving is being paid $35 million to play basketball games he is not, in fact, playing, and it appears that Irving’s much-anticipated marriage with Kevin Durant and Steve Nash in Brooklyn could already be well on the way to the kind of rocky divorce that’s already chased him out of Cleveland and Boston.

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