Despite the new season being right around the corner, conversations around the league have gravitated are not talking about what is to come.
Instead, conversations are about the COVID-19 vaccine civil war -- the battle taking place within the league and several prominent members.
According to reports from earlier in the month, there has been some resistance against the COVID-19 vaccine by some notable players. Namely, it is Kyrie Irving and Andrew Wiggins who are spearheading the movement, and it has drawn both praise and criticism from both sides of the aisle.
NBA legend Shaquille O'Neal was among the most recent to chip in on the subject, offering the following advice to current anti-vaxx players:
“In this line of work, sometimes you have to be selfless. The day I decided it wasn’t all about me and it’s about us is the day I started winning and really started dominating. I understand the issues and all that. But I took the vaccine because I’m not trying to get my mother sick, or my sister or my brother or people around me. I know people say, ‘The vaccine came too fast and is it healthy.’ To each his own. But sometimes you have to think about the overall picture and you have to think about more than yourself.
I wouldn’t want to be part of a team that couldn’t get together and couldn’t win a championship because you did this. So sometimes you have to look in the mirror and say, ‘It ain’t about me; it’s about other people.’ As men, you have to respect a guys’ decision. But if I was on the team and I was a guy that had a say on the team, I would say, ‘You have to get him out of here; he’s a distraction.’ They have a really good shot to win. With him there, they have an even better shot. But I don’t want to come to practice every day having to answer questions about him. I’ve been through that before, and it’s nerve-wracking. We want to come to play and win and focus on what we have to do. We don’t want to focus on him not doing this or not doing that. Or the NBA can say, ‘If you don’t want to follow the laws and the guidelines, we’ll forfeit all of your money.’ I think a lot of times when you have the guaranteed contract, guys think they can do whatever they want to do. I’m not bashing him. It’s his decision. But they’re trying to win there and need to get this done. If everyone else on the team could do it, he should think about that."
There are many reasons why someone might not want to get the vaccine, ranging from health concerns to religious beliefs. For Wiggins, his objection seems to fall in the latter.
In the end, people still have a right to make their own decision in this particular situation. And, of course, there are consequences for that decision. If Wiggins decides not to get vaccinated, he could miss a lot of games this season, and lose out on millions of dollars as a result.
Most importantly, he (and any other player who decides against the vaccine) will have to think about how his choice impacts his family and his team.
Regardless, whatever happens, it will be interesting to see how the league handles this vaccine pushback, and if the remaining anti-vaxx players will ever be convinced to change their ways.