Unvaccinated NBA players who miss games will also be missing paychecks, league says

David K. Li
Kyrie Irving #11 of the Brooklyn Nets drives to the basket against the Milwaukee Bucks during Round 2, Game 3 of the 2021 NBA Playoffs on June 10, 2021 at the Fiserv Forum Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Nathaniel S. Butler | National Basketball Association | Getty Images

Unvaccinated NBA players who sideline themselves by failing to meet local health codes will not be paid for those absences, the league said Wednesday.

"Any player who elects not to comply with local vaccination mandates will not be paid for games that he misses," NBA executive vice president and chief spokesman Mike Bass said.

The unequivocal statement from the league will surely heighten pressure on a handful of stars who have resisted the potentially lifesaving inoculations.

Bass' announcement came one day after the NBA's biggest star, Los Angeles Lakers great LeBron James, broke his silence and revealed that he had been vaccinated.

"After doing my research and things of that nature, I felt like it was best suited for not only me, but for my family and for my friends," he told reporters at the team's training facility in El Segundo.

A representative for the players union could not be immediately reached for comment on Wednesday.

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The league estimates that about 90 percent of players have already been vaccinated. The Lakers and New York Knicks have already said their rosters will be fully inoculated by the time regular season action tips off on Oct. 19.

But a handful of stars, such as Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving, Golden State Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins and Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal, have publicly resisted vaccinations.

While the NBA does not mandate vaccines for its players, they're still subject to local standards.

If Irving and Wiggins don't get vaccinated, they wouldn't be allowed to play homes games due to city health codes in New York and San Francisco, respectively.

Wiggins was denied a religious exemption from any vaccine mandate last week. He bristled when reporters asked about his vaccination stance on Monday.

"It's none of your of your business," Wiggins said. "... I don't ask you guys what your beliefs (are), ask you guys what you believe is right or wrong. We're different people."

It wasn't clear how much a team could withhold from a player missing action due to vaccine refusal.

Each NBA team plays a total of 82 games during the regular season. One missed game represents 1.21 percent of that campaign. So if Wiggins, with a base annual salary of $31.57 million were to lose 1.21 percent of pay, that could be about $385,000 per contest.