NBA media days started on Monday and the topic du jour across the league was the vaccination status of some notable players. With mandates in certain markets (San Francisco and New York, so far) and the league incentivizing everyone to get the vaccine to combat COVID-19, some players have seemingly chosen not to get the shot. Notably, Bradley Beal and Andrew Wiggins confirmed that they have not received a vaccine while Kyrie Irving declined to answer after reporting from Rolling Stone magazine claiming he too was unvaccinated.
The Lakers had some controversy around this topic last season with then point guard Dennis Schroder telling a German newspaper that both he and LeBron James were not vaccinated. Since then, James seems to have received it (though he has cited personal reasons for opting not to publicly say so). In fact, according to president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka, who spoke to the media last week ahead of training camp, the Lakers are expecting to be fully vaccinated by opening night.
Pelinka says that the Lakers will be fully vaccinated by opening night.
— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) September 23, 2021
Whether that means there are still holdouts among the players or if it’s just some staff that have not been fully vaccinated is not clear. Besides James, the Lakers have other players that have had controversial comments about vaccines. Kent Bazemore outright said he would not get the coronavirus vaccine in March, calling it a “lifestyle thing.” Back when the Lakers were in the bubble, Dwight Howard claimed he did not “believe in vaccinations” during an Instagram Live:
Here is the clip from Dwight Howard’s Instagram Live saying he does not believe in vaccinations . pic.twitter.com/MJqV2UwieI
— Jacob Rude (@JacobRude) July 19, 2020
Whether Pelinka’s comment means these players have already been vaccinated despite their previous reluctance to do so or are going to be vaccinated before the Lakers open the new season against Wiggins and the Golden State Warriors is unclear. With the rest of the league headed this way — the NBA claims that 90% of players have been vaccinated — one would expect that a team with championship aspirations would not sign players whose vaccination status could put them or their teammates at a higher risk of contracting the virus and, therefore, missing games.
On Tuesday, Lakers players will meet with the media and likely hear questions about their vaccination status. Realistically, many may give the standard “personal question” answer and decline to give any information. But it would be nice to hear most, if not all, of the players publicly announce that they have received a vaccine that is saving lives, unlike some of their NBA counterparts on Monday.