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Kyrie Irving is heading into his final year of his contract with the Nets, after negotiations with the team broke down, and he was not traded during the offseason. Rather than land a long-term deal, Irving will play the upcoming season on a player option worth more than $36.5 million

While there has been speculation that the guard could sign an extension with Brooklyn, Irving addressed his current contract situation during Monday’s media day.

Apparently, the 30-year-old lost out on what he believes would have been a monster deal because of his decision not to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

“I gave up four years, 100-and-something million deciding to be unvaccinated and that was the decision,” Irving said, per ESPN. “[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 missed the first couple of months of the 2021–22 season due to his vaccination status. New York City required professional athletes to be vaccinated for COVID-19 to play in their home venues. 

The guard was able to return to the team for away games in January. He was allowed to play in Nets home games by March.

Irving said Monday he feels like a “stigma” has been created regarding him and his vaccination status.

“I understood all the Nets’ points,” Irving said. “And I respected it and I honored it, and I didn’t appreciate how me being vaccinated, all of a sudden, came to be a stigma within my career that I don’t want to play, or I’m willing to give up everything to be a voice for the voiceless. And which I will stand on here and say that that wasn’t the only intent that I had, was to be the voice of the voiceless, it was to stand on something that was going to be bigger than myself.”

Irving admitted he felt like he was given an “ultimatum” in terms of his future on the team.

“We were supposed to have all that figured out before training camp last year,” Irving said. “And it just didn’t happen because of the status of me being vaccinated, unvaccinated. So, I understood their point and I just had to live with it. It was a tough pill to swallow, honestly.”

However, when general manager Sean Marks was asked about Irving’s comments, he explained the contract conversations were delayed because of his vaccination status and the continuing statewide and citywide vaccine mandates. He pushed back on the idea that an “ultimatum” was given to the star guard.

“There’s no ultimatum being given here,” Marks said. “Again, it goes back to you want people who are reliable, people who are here and accountable. All of us: staff, players, coaches, you name it. It’s not giving somebody an ultimatum to get a vaccine. That’s a completely personal choice. I stand by Kyrie. I think if he wants, he’s made that choice. That’s his prerogative completely.

“So two summers ago, that was pre-citywide, statewide mandates that went in. So once the vaccine mandates came in, and we knew how that would affect [Irving] playing home games and so forth, that’s when contract talks stalled. So it didn’t get to, ‘Here’s the deal; now take it back.’ That never happened.”

It sounds like the Nets are remaining open about discussing a future with Irving on the squad.

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