The ankle injury Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving suffered in the 2021 NBA playoffs was much more significant than anybody knew at the time.
In an interview with Stadium's Shams Charania, the seven-time All-Star said (around the five-minute mark) it was "by far the worst ankle injury I've ever had" and that he initially thought the ankle was broken. He added he "did my best to hide it."
Shams Charania @ShamsCharania
Nets' Kyrie Irving sits down with <a href="https://twitter.com/Stadium?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Stadium</a>: "I got a chance to catch my son, this was the second time we did natural home birth. I was the doula. My wife is a warrior." Also: Relationship with dad and beliefs, mental health, opt-in, revealing severity of '21 ankle injury, more. <a href="https://t.co/lGxQWdEtDu">pic.twitter.com/lGxQWdEtDu</a>
Irving missed the start of the 2021-22 NBA season after he declined to get the COVID-19 vaccine. He was unable to suit up for home games because of the vaccination mandate in New York City, and the Nets initially declined to let him be a part-time player for road contests.
Based on his interview with Charania, the 30-year-old's availability for opening night last season might have been in doubt regardless of his vaccination status.
The franchise eventually relented on its stance, and Irving debuted in a 129-121 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Jan. 5.
Neither New York nor the NBA will have a vaccine mandate moving forward, so it's no longer an issue for the dynamic guard or his team. However, his injury record will lead fans to remain cautiously optimistic about how much he'll be on the floor in 2022-23.
Irving hasn't hit the 70-game threshold since 2016-17. He was limited to 20 appearances in his first year with the Nets and then missed 18 games in the abbreviated 2020-21 campaign. Granted, seven of those absences came when he left the team for 11 days, but it still played into the wider concerns over his availability.
It largely goes without saying how important Irving will be toward Brooklyn's championship hopes for the season ahead, and him picking up another injury won't help that pursuit.