After winning a close game against the New York Knicks, Kevin Durant called out New York City Mayor Eric Adams for the vaccine mandate that prevents Kyrie Irving from playing games in NYC. His comments about Adams doing it to get attention rubbed Michael Wilbon the wrong way, and he went off on KD.
“Hopefully Eric, you got to figure this out.”
Kyrie was at the game, sitting courtside without a mask, which was within rules. Yet, Irving can't play unless he gets vaccinated - in line with NYC's private business mandate. KD addressed the bizarre set of circumstances.
“It’s ridiculous. I don’t understand it at all. I don’t get it. It just feel like, at this point now, somebody’s trying to make a statement or point to flex their authority. Everybody out here is looking for attention. That’s what I feel like the mayor wants right now; some attention. He’ll figure it out soon. He better,” Durant said after the game.
The Nets have 14 regular-season games to go, and if the mandate stays in effect, Kyrie can only play in 4 of those. With Ben Simmons still some time away from playing, the Nets need all the help they can get to fight for playoff positioning.
“You wanna call out somebody, call out your teammate!”
NBA players worked hard to point out they are more than athletes, and they won't just "shut up and dribble." Throughout history, great athletes used their platform to fight for causes bigger and more important than a game or a sport. But, with such power comes responsibility, and Michael Wilbon seems to think Kevin Durant isn't taking that responsibility seriously enough.
Kevin Durant is too aware and too plugged in to say something that impertinent. What's the point of that, "Want some attention"? You wanna call out somebody, call out your teammate! Tell him to get a shot. Cause he got plenty of them, cause he couldn't go to grade school in Metropolitan New York without vaccines.
Michael Wilbon, ESPN
Wilbon didn't dispute KD's comment on the confusing discrepancy in the rules. A fan doesn't have to be vaccinated, but a player does? That truly seems illogical and counterintuitive. But there's a bigger picture here that Durant is conveniently forgetting, and Wilbon reminded him of it.
The vaccine is not about attention - people died. Hundreds of thousands of them from this virus. And you think the Mayor of New York needs to attend to a basketball team's needs before he needs to attend to the needs of a metropolitan area?? There's some knuckleheads who would say stuff like this, I'd probably let it go. Kevin Durant is too smart.
Michael Wilbon, ESPN
As role models and opinion makers, players need to understand once they embrace being more than athletes, their words have a political weight to them. Those are subject to a different level of analysis and scrutiny compared to NBA free agency or on-court performance.
Wouldn't it be nice...
Your mileage may vary on which person has the more convincing point of view. I'd say both made valid points, and both's perspective has truth to it. The most frustrating thing about this situation for me is that we never actually have an open debate about it.
Players make statements in controlled environments, usually on other players' podcasts and channels, where they know they won't get challenged. Then someone like Michael Wilbon calls them out, but again, it's a one-way street.
I know we live in a time with superstars are used to getting their way all the time, and what I'm about to say is a fantasy. But wouldn't it be nice for Kevin Durant and Michael Wilbon to have a 30 min conversation on live tv?
My bet is we'd find out there's more they agree on than don't, and we'd all be in a better, more productive space.