Thursday, the entire country was tired. Wednesday, this nation faced an unprecedented attack on its Capitol. It struck the weird cross-section of the “shocked” and “not-surprised” Venn Diagram. After a tumultuous day, the cocktail of stress, anxiety, and anticipation kept many Americans up until the wee hours of the morning. The few -if any- hours of uneasy sleep left many Americans searching for an escape. Some escape by watching basketball, specifically watching All-Star players do cool things with a basketball in cool uniforms. So when the Nets rolled out their throwback red, white, and blue uniforms many thought they could tune out the world and tune in to see Kyrie Irving. And they were wrong.
The Brooklyn Nets had a rough week, and it looked like it was only getting rougher. About 30 minutes before his pregame press conference, Nets head coach Steve Nash was informed that Irving was missing the game for “personal reasons.” In the presser, Nash was short and sweet.
“I haven’t spoke to him yet,” Nash said. “I can’t really comment because I haven’t spoke to him, and it’s personal reasons. So it has to come from Kyrie. But I don’t believe that to be the case.”
While fans couldn’t see Kyrie Irving play, Brooklyn had reason to rejoice. The Nets knocked out the Philadelphia 76ers 122-109. It was just Philly’s second loss of the season, fueled by huge performances by Caris LeVert and Joe Harris… two players who saw increased minutes in Irving’s absence. After the game, reports were Irving was not flying to Memphis for their game Friday night.
Kyrie Irving will not fly with the Nets to Memphis tonight, a team spokesperson says.— Malika Andrews (@malika_andrews) January 8, 2021
Folks stormed #NBATwitter in an effort to critique Irving’s absence. While the official diagnosis was “personal,” the leaked news indicated Irving simply didn’t want to play.
Kyrie Irving’s reasoning for not playing in tonight’s game per a close source: “I just didn’t want to play.”— 👑📍Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson, M.A. (@ScoopB) January 8, 2021
Irving’s reported reason struck a chord with fans and haters alike. How could you just not want to play? Everyone loves basketball. Things like “it’s a game” and “they pay you millions.” Fans and haters were entitled to watching Kyrie distract them from the world with a basketball. They turned on their television, and TNT’s contract with the NBA is one of several large television contracts that helps pay a guy like Kyrie Irving those millions. That’s enough, right?
If fans and haters weren’t upset Thursday night, that he didn’t make the trip to Memphis was the spark. And if they had the fire inside? It was the fuel. Irving is missing a second consecutive day of work, even though he’s healthy, and people have strong opinions. It’s far from the first time Irving has evoked a reaction from #NBATwitter, and likely won’t be the last.
What’s going on with Kyrie Irving?
Reactors seem to fail to grasp what is happening to Irving, which is off-putting because it is also happening to them. Wednesday was emotionally and physically draining, and Kyrie Irving asked for a day or two off from work. That’s, in laymen’s terms, all that happened. Many of the tweeters, fans, and haters angry with Kyrie Irving were looking to escape the same world that wore him out.
Remember- this is the same Kyrie Irving that advocated for skipping out on the NBA Bubble amidst social unrest this summer. This is the same Kyrie Irving that stood with the Dakota Access Pipeline protestors in 2016. The same Kyrie that paid off the tuition of students at HBCUs earlier this year. (And yes, this is the same Kyrie Irving that encouraged you to not believe everything you read… even about the Earth being round.) Kyrie Irving is, seemingly, never not in the news. His Instagram Live sessions make headlines and his sneakers fly off shelves. But don’t confuse being in the news for never following it. Irving, whether you agree with him or not, is always thinking if nothing else.
The news on Wednesday went from the sitting President’s rally mid-morning to the end of the electoral vote count in the early hours of the next morning. January 6th, 2021, will be one of several dates in the last 12 months written down in history textbooks. Everyone who paid attention, start to finish, was tired at work on Thursday. Everyone who paid attention was dragging through the day until they could clock out and go home. They got home and wanted to decompress by watching good basketball. Further, everyone who could miss work and rest? They did. That’s where these stories overlap.
Tweeters, fans, and haters alike seem to forget that the NBA is work. Kyrie Irving is employed by the National Basketball Association and the Brooklyn Nets. He, like many of us, was not in the proper headspace to work on Thursday. He anticipated he wouldn’t be on Friday either. If you followed the news for nearly 24 hours on Wednesday, how could you? Wednesday’s events, images, and emotions wrecked everyone. Including the Nets’ point guard. We all respond to that stress differently. Some of us, like fans, need to escape and dive face-first into sports. Some of us, like Irving, need to get away from our workplace.
Yes, Kyrie Irving got a “Did Not Play – Personal” on Thursday night and will again on Friday. Yes, that really upset people. Does the reaction change for a business person who logs in and checks “Personal Day?” What about “Day Off Work – Personal” hits differently than “Did Not Play – Personal?”