Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving made his return to the Barclays Center for the first time since being traded. With Irving’s 36-point outburst in the Mavericks’ 119-107 win over Brooklyn, it bears wondering why one of the guard’s best performances ever in the Barclays Center is coming while in a road uniform.
One fan’s ask to Kyrie yielded an unexpected answer: New York Mayor Eric Adams.
“Thank Mayor Adams for that, bro,” Irving responded to the fan after the latter asked for a second time.
Irving repeatedly feuded with the New York City mayor over vaccine mandates in New York. Irving was barred from playing or practicing in New York during the 2021-22 season because of the city’s vaccination mandates. Brooklyn eventually announced that Irving would return to the team as a part-time player for road games (excluding Toronto and New York).
While Adams eventually lifted the vaccine requirement for indoor activities, Irving stayed barred from play because of a separate workplace vaccine mandate that remained in place. When asked to make an exception for the point guard, Adams said it would “send the wrong message” to others employed in the city.
Irving went on to appear in just 29 games during the 2021-22 season and 143 across four seasons in Brooklyn. The extended absences from Irving – because of vaccine restrictions, injuries, and suspension for posting about an antisemitic film – led to the complete failure of the Nets’ Big Three. Irving, Kevin Durant, and James Harden played on the same Nets team for a season and a half, but only appeared in 16 games together. The trio went 13-3 in those games.
Irving was met with a mix of boos and cheers during his return to the Barclays Center, recognized alongside Seth Curry and Markeiff Morris. The three-time All-NBA point guard posted about the mixed reception on X after the game.
“Thank you for everything GOD,” Irving wrote. “I gotta stay poised through the chaos and hate. The next generation is watching.”
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