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One of the consensus top-five greatest basketball players of all time had some strong words for the anti-vax athletes in the NBA ahead of the start of the professional hoops league’s upcoming season.

Responding to the report of holdouts among NBA players who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar spoke in no uncertain terms about their “arrogance” and what he described as hypocrisy when it comes to following guidance from health professionals.

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Without singling out players by name — and there are several notable stars he could have called out specifically — Abdul Jabbar said in a new interview that it would behoove the NBA to make its vaccine mandate much more strict.

“The NBA should insist that all players and staff are vaccinated or remove them from the team,” Abdul-Jabbar told Rolling Stone. “There is no room for players who are willing to risk the health and lives of their teammates, the staff and the fans simply because they are unable to grasp the seriousness of the situation or do the necessary research.”

Abdul-Jabbar was likely referring to people like Kyrie Irving, a perennial all-star for the New York Nets who has a penchant for pushing unproven theories, like the earth being flat. Irving’s aunt in the same Rolling Stone article said the NBA star’s reason for not getting vaccinated is “moral-based,” but she didn’t explain exactly what that meant.

But it was clear that Irving, at least as of this weekend, does not intend to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

He’s not alone, as other NBA stars like Andrew Wiggins and Dwight Howard have said they’ll do the same, even if it means they’ll be fined for missing games.

The absence of the players’ specific reasons for not getting vaccinated prompted Abdul-Jabbar to suggest they’re hypocrites.

“What I find especially disingenuous about the vaccine deniers is their arrogance at disbelieving immunology and other medical experts,” he said before asking: “Yet, if their child was sick or they themselves needed emergency medical treatment, how quickly would they do exactly what those same experts told them to do?”

Going into the season — training camp begins early next month — the NBA has said 90% of its players are vaccinated.

That other 10% can be affected differently based on the locations of their teams. For instance, in New York and San Francisco, where Irving’s Nets and Wiggins’ Golden State Warriors are based, respectively, local vaccine mandates require them to be vaccinated. That means that if they refuse to be vaccinated, they will not be allowed to play in home games, which is roughly half of the 82 regular-season games.

Teams based in states without vaccine mandates must submit to frequent testing but would still be allowed to play.

After COVID-19 shut down the NBA season early last year, it has been among professional sports’ leaders in confronting the virus and preventing widescale outbreaks.


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