Kyrie Irving decided not to play tonight against the Philadelphia 76ers for personal reasons. In NBA news on Thursday, it was revealed by Heavy.com’s Scoop B. Robinson that the Brooklyn Nets point guard didn’t feel like playing.
Nets coach Steve Nash addressed reporters about the issue an hour and 45 minutes before the game started, saying that he "just found out" about Irving’s inability to play.
"I sent him a message in the last half-hour and haven't heard back yet," Nash said. "But obviously thinking about him and hope that all is well. It's a private matter."
The Nets were already shorthanded even if Kyrie Irving had played. Brooklyn was also missing the services of former MVP Kevin Durant who is out because of exposure to a person who tested positive for COVID-19. Guard Tyler Johnson was also unavailable to play due to the league’s health and safety protocols.
Despite being shorthanded, the Nets still prevailed over the 76ers 122-109 to move to 5-4 on the season.
Aside from these two players, Nic Claxton, Reggie Perry, and Spencer Dinwiddie (out for the season) were also unavailable to play.
NBA News: Kyrie Irving’s reason for not playing may have a deeper meaning
While Kyrie Irving’s statement may seem like he is acting in a manner unbecoming of a professional, it appears that the issue may have more to do with mental wellness.
As Robinson noted in the tweet, Kyrie Irving had taken some time off previously from the Brooklyn Nets after Kobe Bryant’s shocking and untimely death. The LA Lakers legend, his daughter, and several others died from a helicopter crash in January of 2020.
Bryant’s death shocked the whole world, and for players who had a close relationship with him, it was devastating.
Kyrie Irving looked up to Bryant as a big brother and emulated the Mamba Mentality. He was among those who felt the pain of Bryant’s loss more deeply than most and he decided to take a personal day to recover from the grief.
NBA News: The NBA champions mental health
The Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kevin Love and the San Antonio Spurs’ DeMar DeRozan are among the most vocal proponents of mental health among their peers.
In response, the National Basketball Player's Association launched a mental health and wellness program in 2018 to help its players gain access to mental health counselors. During the pandemic, the league even updated its mental health policies to provide appropriate resources to both its players and its staff.
With Kyrie Irving requesting a day off for personal reasons that are likely related to mental health concerns, his time off from the court will hopefully be met with more understanding around the league.Published 08 Jan 2021, 08:55 IST