Andrew Wiggins (left), drives to the hoop against Kyrie Irving. Photo: Google


The best ability is availability.

That quote is attributed to Brian Dawkins, the former American football safety who played 16 seasons in the National Football League (NFL), primarily for the Philadelphia Eagles. Dawkins is considered by many football experts to be one of the greatest safeties of all time.

Andrew Wiggins, the starting small forward for the Golden State Warriors of the National Basketball Association (NBA), won’t be considered one of the greatest forwards in basketball history — not yet, at least, at this stage in his career — but he has mostly been available for his team this season, playing a total of 73 regular-season games out of 82. Which is why, as of this writing, the Warriors are one win away from reaching the NBA finals since 2019, when an injury-ravaged version of that team lost in six games to the eventual champions, the Toronto Raptors.

Wiggins has averaged a solid 17 points, four rebounds, two assists and a steal in those 73 games, and has slightly upped his scoring average in the last five games. But more importantly, it’s his defense that has made the difference in these playoffs, making life a living hell for whichever player he’s matched up with — dating back to the series against the Denver Nuggets in the first round, and then the series against the higher-seeded Memphis Grizzlies, up until their current match-up in the Western Conference finals, the Dallas Mavericks, led by Slovenian wunderkind Luka Doncic. Needless to say, Doncic — who is used to scoring at will against opponents — isn’t exactly enjoying his time right now being guarded by Wiggins.

“I’m locked in, I’m motivated,” Wiggins said in a post-game interview after the Warriors’ blowout win against the Mavericks in game one of their series, when a reporter asked about his stifling defense against Doncic. “I feel like I’m still young. I don’t really get too tired. I feel like (my defense) is helping us play better; it just makes me motivated to do it more. I’m not tired or anything. It’s just adrenaline. I feel good.”

Two-time NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP) and three-time champion Stephen Curry, Wiggins’ teammate, had nothing but praise for the Canadian forward and his defensive effort in that game.

“He took the challenge (of defending Doncic), and Luka’s tough, man. But Wiggs was relentless. That’s all we really want. Even if Luka has his numbers, you just want him at the end of the day to feel like he had to work for everything he got and not get everything easy. He’s (Wiggins) shown what he’s capable of on the defensive end of the floor.”

It’s interesting to note, however, that as recently as nine months ago, Wiggins would have jeopardized the Warriors’ quest of once again setting foot in the NBA finals because of a personal choice.

Back in August of 2021, the city of San Francisco, where the Warriors are based, required that patrons and employees of restaurants, bars, clubs, gyms and large indoor events obtain proof of vaccinations in order for them to go inside or continue working in those facilities. That meant Warriors’ staff and players, including Wiggins, had to get the covid-19 jab, something that — back then — Wiggins didn’t want to do, prompting ESPN sports analyst Stephen A. Smith to suggest to Warriors’ top brass that they should trade Wiggins.

Smith said, “I think it’s important to point out: Andrew Wiggins, right now, because of the vaccination mandate in the city of San Francisco, would not be able to play in 41 home games for the Golden State Warriors. Then what do you need him for? What good is he to you?”

Fortunately for the Warriors, Wiggins changed his stance.

Unfortunately for the Brooklyn Nets, their superstar guard, Kyrie Irving, never changed his.

The Nets, entering this season, were one of the title favorites — not even the Warriors. But because of a New York City vaccine mandate — similar to the one imposed by San Francisco — Irving, who refused to get the covid-19 jab, was only able to play 29 games (as opposed to Wiggins’ 73). Sure, New York City eventually altered its vaccine mandate — again, like San Francisco — and Irving was eventually able to suit up, but by then it was too late. The Nets weren’t able to successfully find a rhythm with Irving playing so few games in the regular season, that even if they had another transcendent talent in Kevin Durant, it wasn’t enough: Brooklyn was swept by the Boston Celtics in the first round, the only team to have never recorded a single win in this year’s playoffs. Durant, for his part, has not spoken to the team yet since the Nets were unceremoniously dismissed by the Celtics in four games.

It’s no surprise, then, that the Nets are reportedly unwilling to give Irving a contract extension. Nobody can blame the Nets organization, though, for taking a more cautious approach with Irving going forward. With covid-19 cases spiking again across the United States, it’s possible that New York City reinstates its vaccine mandate, which could potentially sideline the Brooklyn guard again — if he continues his anti-vaccine stance.

Adding to Irving’s woes is a report that Nike is unlikely to extend the All Star guard’s shoe deal beyond the 2022-23 season, in part due to uncertainty surrounding his future as an NBA player, according to ESPN.

To be clear, I’m not judging or criticizing anyone for their own personal decisions. I’m just saying that, in society, those personal decisions or choices have corresponding consequences — especially in team sports.

I, for one, have not been exempted from a vaccine-related decision I made a few months ago. On a whim, on a return trip to Mexico City from California, I decided to get a covid-19 jab at the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) from a pop-up vaccination site that was offering the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Back then, the United States did not require tourists yet to be fully vaccinated with a World Health Organization (WHO)-approved vaccine to enter. But thanks to that personal decision, I can fly to Los Angeles next month to attend an important family affair with my uncle and cousins and, hopefully, catch a Major League Baseball (MLB) game at Dodger Stadium. I would have wanted my wife to accompany me, but she was vaccinated here in Mexico City with a non-WHO-approved vaccine and so, unfortunately, she cannot travel with me.

My wife, as frustrated as she is, isn’t blaming the United States for its vaccine mandate for tourists. After all, a country can decide as it sees fit how to protect its citizens. If anything, she’s more upset that the Mexican government didn’t order more WHO-approved vaccines in the first place, making available instead a Russian brand that the WHO has indefinitely put off assessing because of the war in the Ukraine.

But to go back: Again, speaking of availability and the disparate fates of Andrew Wiggins and Kyrie Irving because of their own personal choices.

“The best ability is availability,” said NFL great Brian Dawkins.

I love that quote.

Another quote I love, no matter how cliché it is in this day and age?

There is no “I” in “team.”

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