While the NBA still strongly suggests that all players, coaches and staff members receive the COVID-19 vaccine, the league will not introduce a vaccine mandate for next season, according to Yahoo Sports. Unvaccinated players may be subject to periodic testing, however, pending discussions with the National Basketball Players Association.
This is in line with the NBA‘s health and safety policies from last season, when vaccine requirements were left up to local cities and states. Players did not have to get the vaccine, but they did have to follow local guidelines and unvaccinated players were subject to more stringent testing and restrictions.
Most players chose to get vaccinated, and the league boasted a 95 percent vaccination rate heading into last season. Even Golden State Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins, who was initially against the vaccine, chose to receive it in order to play home games in the Bay Area.
There were still some notable holdouts, however. Philadelphia 76ers wing Matisse Thybulle was unable to play in Games 3, 4 and 6 of the team’s first-round playoff series against the Toronto Raptors because he was unvaccinated and thus unable to enter Canada.
And of course, there was Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving. His refusal to get the vaccine resulted in the Nets sending him home for the first half of the season, and he did not play at all until Jan. 5 when the team changed course. Even then, he was only eligible to play road games, and appeared sporadically until March 27 when he finally made his home debut after New York lifted certain local mandates.
Irving technically “won” the standoff over the vaccine, but his vaccine saga has played a major role in derailing the Nets’ temporary super team. Irving helped drive James Harden out of town, underperformed while the Nets were swept out of the playoffs in the first round and is now stuck playing out the final year of his contract because the team was wary of giving him a long-term extension. He may even end up getting traded depending on what happens with Kevin Durant’s trade request.
Most states, including California and New York, have now lifted vaccine requirements for attending large events, and the vast majority of the league is vaccinated so there shouldn’t be any major issues along the lines of Irving’s next season. However, COVID-19 vaccination is still required to enter Canada, so any unvaccinated players will not be able to play road games against the Raptors unless the country changes its rules.