Monday (Sept.27), NBA Media Day kicked off, and it was a spectacle. Instead of focusing on next season and who will win the chip, most questions asked by reporters were focused on whether players were vaccinated against COVID-19? If not, why do they choose not to get the shot?
Throughout most of the day, social media was full of reactions to NBA players like Kyrie Irving, Andrew Wiggins, and Bradley Beal, who got in front of reporters and continued to be loud and wrong when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine. Those three players are part of a small group. Only 10% of NBA players remain unvaccinated, while 90% are vaccinated.
Understandably, people like Irving and Beal grab the headlines when they say ridiculous things. Still, instead, we should have been focusing more on the NBA superstars who have gotten the shot and are not using the silly “personal reasons” or vaccine misinformation as an excuse to avoid the jab. There were plenty of players who understood the importance of getting vaccinated and protecting themselves and others around them.
Portland Trail Blazer’s all-star Damian Lillard got the message, calling his decision to get vaccinated “pretty simple.” “They presented the opportunity, and I said, ‘Can I bring my family, too?'” Lillard said. “And they said, ‘yeah,’ and that was it.”
“I’m not mad at people for saying, ‘I need to do my research,’ or they got to take the steps that make them comfortable,” Lillard said. “But I have a lot of people in my family that I’m tight with, and I spend a lot of time around, and I’m just not going to put their health or their lives in danger because I want to do research. As a kid, I had to get shots my whole life. Before I went to college, I had to get shots. And, I couldn’t tell you one thing about any of them.”
Lillard also revealed that the deadly and highly contagious virus impacted his family.
“I’ve had people in my family actually die, and people actually lose their lives to it, and there’s a way for me to protect myself and the people that I love, I’m going to do it,” Lillard revealed. “It’s pretty simple.”
Lillard’s Trail Blazers are also one of the few teams whose entire roster is vaccinated. Lillard’s teammate, CJ McCollum, president of the NBA Players Association, made sure to tweet out that 90% of the league is vaccinated.
Another player who gets it is the Memphis Grizzlies phenom, Ja Morant. When asked about his vaccination status, he said, “I’m vaccinated. I have a baby girl. I travel a lot. Can’t bring COVID back to her.”
One player the media (including ourselves) should keep at the forefront is Karl-Anthony Towns. Towns’ battle with the virus is no secret. He has lost a mother and several other family members to COVID-19 and was one of the first players in the league to show support for the COVID-19 vaccine and stepped up immediately.
Before media day, Towns made it clear he is on the right side of history when it comes to being vaccinated when he tweeted, “Every day I see a new excuse why people ain’t getting the vaccine. Ya starting to get creative with these ‘reasons’ though and it’s actually really funny.”
Speaking with Sports Illustrated, Towns detailed his experience with the virus, revealing he lost roughly 50 pounds after testing positive for COVID-19 just nine months after his mother, Jacqueline Towns, died from the virus.
“I’ve had a lot of situations this year where things were just too much for me,” he told the sport’s publication. After being cleared back in February, he explained that the season gave him no time to process the grief he was experiencing. “I felt like everything was an open-ended sentence, you know? There was no closure,” he said. “There was no period at the end.”
These are the voices in the NBA that sports media should be amplifying from now on when it comes to athletes and the COVID-19 vaccine.
Photo: Will Newton / Getty