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Kyrie Irving the Person Not the Same As Kyrie Irving the Teammate: TRAINA THOUGHTS

1. I believe that Kyrie Irving is a good person. I believe that Kyrie Irving is a bad teammate. Or, more specifically, he’s just a bad employee. Both things can be true.

If you Google “Kyrie Irving charity,” you will see a slew of stories about Irving’s ongoing generosity.

Last March he donated $323,000 to Feeding America. He also teamed up with a food rescue organization to donate 250,000 meals to New Yorkers at the beginning of the pandemic.

Irving also reportedly donated $1.5 million to WNBA players who opted out of the bubble last season. He has paid off the college tuition for nine students at Lincoln University. He bought a house for the family of George Floyd.

Because of all this, I hate the narrative that Irving is a bad guy or selfish. Kyrie Irving the person is not those things.

However, when it comes to Kyrie Irving the basketball player, that’s a different story and we need to make that distinction.

Forget, for a moment, Kyrie’s issue with the vaccine mandate and his bizarre statements over the past couple of days. Kyrie Irving, the basketball player, lost me many, many years ago when he wanted out of Cleveland because he didn’t want to play with LeBron James.

If you are an athlete in any sport and you don’t want to play with the best player in the league—and maybe of all time—that’s a major red flag.

Kyrie Irving saying he couldn’t play with LeBron James any longer was all I needed to know about Kyrie Irving the basketball player.

Now Irving is ready to desert his Nets teammates because he says he’s protesting vaccine mandates.

He went on Instagram Live to explain his stance in a rambling dialogue that was filled with inconsistencies.

The inconsistency actually started Tuesday when clearly someone from Irving’s camp, but identified as “an anonymous source,” told The Athletic’s Shams Charania that Irving wanted to be “a voice for the voiceless.” The voice of the voiceless had been completely silent until he went on Instagram Live at about 10:30 p.m. last night.

Irving also said, “Nobody is gonna hijack my voice. Nobody is gonna take the power away from me that I have for speaking on these things. Don’t believe that I’m retiring. Don’t believe that I’m gonna give up this game for a vaccine mandate or staying unvaccinated. Don’t believe any of that s---, man. Be aware of what’s being said before I even get a chance to be on the podium and speak for myself.”

Again, Irving is the one who has chosen to be silent about this issue for weeks. Irving is the one who declined to talk about being sidelined because he refuses to get vaccinated during a recent media session by using the ridiculous, “It’s a personal choice” line.

Thanks to social media platforms, no athlete can ever complain in this day and age about being silenced. They can get any message they want out into the public at any time.

Irving also said about vaccine mandates: “This wasn’t an issue before the season started. This wasn’t something that I foresaw coming.”

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New York City’s vaccine mandate was announced in mid-August and went into effect on Sept. 13. If you didn’t see this coming, it’s because you weren’t paying attention. And it’s literally been an issue before the season because THE SEASON HASN’T EVEN STARTED YET.

Irving also complained about being targeted due to his unvaccinated status.

As of two weeks ago, 95% of the NBA was vaccinated. Irving is part of a small pool and is the biggest name in that pool. And he plays in a city where there’s a mandate. That’s why he’s getting all the attention. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure that out.

Personally, I wish Irving would say, “I’m against vaccine mandates and because of that I’m going to retire.” Instead the situation lingers and stays in the news because everything is up in the air. If there weren’t teammates who had to rely on Irving, this wouldn’t be an issue. But, like it or not, there are 14 other people, not including coaches and front-office people, who need to know whether they can count on Irving.

Basketball is not Kyrie Irving’s top priority in life and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. There’s also nothing wrong with saying that Kyrie Irving is not someone you’d want on your team under any circumstances.

2. A brand-new SI Media Podcast dropped this morning and it features two guests.

First up is Sports Business Journal reporter John Ourand. Ourand talks about the fallout from the Jon Gruden email controversy and ESPN's Adam Schefter's journalistic ethics getting called into question as part of the fallout. We also discussed ESPN's new deal with the NFL to air a Monday night wild-card game and how Peyton and Eli Manning's alternate broadcast fits in. Ourand also updates us on where things stand regarding the future of the NFL Sunday Ticket contract and whether DirecTV's run is over.

Following Ourand, Alan Sepinwall, the chief TV critic for Rolling Stone, joins the podcast to talk about The Many Saints of Newark, Squid Game, Jon Stewart's new Apple TV+ show, Seinfeld's syndication deals and much more.

The podcast closes with the weekly "Traina Thoughts" segment. This week, Jimmy and Sal Licata from WFAN and SNY talk about Jimmy trying to book Larry David for the SI Media Podcast, Sal's NFL Sunday getting ruined and much more.

You can listen to the podcast below or download it on Apple, Spotify and Stitcher.

You can also watch the SI Media Podcast on YouTube.

3. Nobody—nobody—had a better take on the Jon Gruden email scandal than Chargers coach Brandon Staley. It's so refreshing to see someone in this day and age who actually gets it.

4. Shaq has used Stephen A. Smith's birthday today as an excuse to roast the ESPN host about his hairline.

5. It took only one night for the NHL's return to ESPN to pay off for the league.

6. Charles Barkley joined the NHL on TNT crew for its debut episode last night, and the former NBA star was a downright mess trying to figure out how to put on goalie equipment and it was great.

7. RANDOM VIDEO OF THE DAY: The official trailer for the new season of Curb Your Enthusiasm, beginning Oct. 24, is out.

Be sure to catch up on past editions of Traina Thoughts and check out the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast hosted by Jimmy Traina on AppleSpotify or Stitcher. You can also follow Jimmy on Twitter and Instagram.