The 2021-22 NBA regular season starts next week. And one of the NBA’s biggest storylines, namely what happens to the five or so percent who are not fully vaccinated, will be resolved very soon. Either they will get the vaccine, or not. And that will affect how crowds and narratives around them are as well.
Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving met his moment of reckoning today, when the team announced that he will not be allowed to play or practice until he is vaccinated. Even without him, the Nets are in good position to compete for an NBA championship. After all, they already have two other franchise cornerstone players in Kevin Durant and James Harden.
For the Washington Wizards on the other hand, Bradley Beal (and possibly Kyle Kuzma) are not vaccinated, at least as of Media Day. With the Nets deciding to sideline Irving until he is vaccinated or otherwise no longer on the team, the Wizards unfortunately become the face of the NBA’s unvaccinated. That will put the Wizards in an uncomfortable position until Beal is vaccinated, or otherwise no longer on the team.
It does not take a scientist to tell you that the Wizards’ success will be heavily dependent on how Beal performs, and perhaps that’s why the team hasn’t made a move like Brooklyn did. But it only takes a D.C. coronavirus mandate at indoor venues to prevent him from playing altogether at least half the season. And it’s unclear if there are state laws that get passed elsewhere that prevent him from playing.
Even if the D.C. government doesn’t pass new laws or orders mandating coronavirus vaccines, the Wizards will face another dilemma when Beal is on the court. Depending on how NBA fans are this season, we can expect vaccine-related taunts when Washington’s on the road, especially if Beal is able to play. We could also see more NBA fans or other figures sympathetic with “anti-vaxxers” come to Capital One Arena to support Beal this season due to his stance.
I’m not sure what to think about how the subject of coronavirus vaccines will affect the Wizards or the perception of them. Hopefully, there will be a clear resolution soon about how much Beal can play. The last thing I wanted to be writing about in the last several weeks was on whether people will get a shot (or two) that will lower their chances of a more serious infection.
But here we are.