Wiggins: Choice was vaccination or no basketball

    Nick Friedell is the Chicago Bulls beat reporter for ESPN Chicago. Friedell is a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and joined ESPNChicago.com for its launch in April 2009.

Golden State Warriors swingman Andrew Wiggins on Monday explained his decision to get the COVID-19 vaccine, noting that he felt “forced” to do so in order to continue his NBA career.

“The only options were to get vaccinated or not play in the NBA,” Wiggins said after the Warriors’ preseason opener against the Portland Trail Blazers, his first public comments since getting the shot. “It was a tough decision. Hopefully it works out in the long run and in 10 years I’m still healthy.”

Wiggins’ decision comes after the league recently declined his application for a religious exemption. The topic of Wiggins’ vaccination status came into question prior to training camp given the restrictions from the San Francisco Department of Public Health requiring anyone age 12 or over to be vaccinated to attend indoor events. As part of that mandate, beginning Oct. 13, Warriors players must show proof of vaccination before entering Chase Center, unless there is an approved medical or religious exemption.

Wiggins, 26, went into detail about why he was so hesitant to get the shot, noting that he doesn’t hold any ill will toward the Warriors’ organization for how the situation played out.

“They didn’t make the rule,” Wiggins said. “But I guess to do certain stuff, to work, I guess you don’t own your body. That’s what it comes down to. If you want to work in society today then I guess they made the rules of what goes in your body and what you do. Hopefully there’s a lot of people out there that are stronger than me and keep fighting, stand for what they believe, and hopefully it works out for them.”

Wiggins said he received the one-dose Johnson & Johnson shot, which will allow him to not miss any practice time and be fully vaccinated prior to the Warriors’ Oct. 21 home opener against the LA Clippers.

Wiggins noted that he contracted COVID-19 previously and “it wasn’t too bad.” He also said he had an allergic reaction to something a couple years ago, describing it as a “scary moment” that resulted in him now carrying an EpiPen.

“I know a lot of people get reactions or injuries from getting the vaccination, so I don’t know what it’s going to do to me in 10 years,” he said.

“I feel like I could go on for days about why I didn’t want to get it. Most importantly, I don’t know what’s going to happen, or what it’s going to do to my body in 10, 20 years. … But I guess it’s something that had to get done.”

Wiggins said he is dealing with some body aches and chills after getting vaccinated, but he was still able to play 16 minutes and score 13 points in Monday’s 121-107 win over the Blazers.

Wiggins also said he is the only member of his family who is vaccinated.

“It’s not really something we believe in as a family,” he said. “They know that I had to. It came down to get the vaccination or don’t play basketball. I’m 26. I have two kids. I want more kids. I’m trying to do something that will generate as much money as I can for my kids and my future kids, [create] generational wealth. So I took the gamble, took the risk, and hopefully I’m good.”

Wiggins said he was appreciative of some of the public support he received from teammates. Warriors forward Draymond Green recently said that he didn’t think it was his place to push Wiggins toward getting the vaccine.

“It was good,” Wiggins said. “It was nothing but love. Especially from Draymond; [Andre] Iguodala said a lot of good stuff. So there was a lot of support on the team, but whatever decision I decided to make, they were going to stand by it.”

Wiggins admitted that “time was not on my side” and explained why he felt compelled to get the shot when he did.

“It feels good to play, but getting vaccinated, that’s going to be something that stays in my mind for a long time,” Wiggins said. “It’s not something I wanted to do, but I was forced to.”

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