Kyrie Irving has sparked controversy for his refusal to get the COVID vaccine ahead of the start of the NBA season

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Minnesota Timberwolves player Karl-Anthony Towns knows the pain COVID-19 can inflict on a family.

Towns, 25, lost his mother and other family members to COVID and even survived his own bout with the virus. He has since been a strong proponent of vaccination.

When asked about his thoughts on Brooklyn Nets player Kyrie Irving, who will not be allowed to play for the team until he is fully vaccinated, Towns did not push back against Irving's choice not to receive a COVID shot as of yet.

"I'm obviously a strong believer in the vaccine," Towns told NJ.com. "I've been through so much and it would be kind of contradictory to not be on the pro-vaccine side."

Towns added, "But what I will say is that I believe in choice and I like to give people their choice and I have no problem with people having their choice."

Karl-Anthony Towns - Kyrie Irving
Credit: Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty; Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty

Towns went on to say that he believes choosing whether or not to receive a vaccine is a "human" and "American" right, though he seemed to take issue with how Irving has handled the controversy around his vaccination status.

"They make their own decisions on their own bodies and their own families. I have no ill will towards that," Towns told the outlet. "The only thing I would say is just don't give me a bull---- excuse why [you don't get the vaccine]... You don't want to do it, that's your choice."

Kyrie Irving
Kyrie Irving
| Credit: Brian Sevald/NBAE via Getty

On Wednesday night, Irving went on Instagram Live to address his decision, saying, "This wasn't something that I foresaw coming where I prepared for it and had a chance to strategize on what was going to be best for me and my family."

"I chose to be unvaccinated. And that was my choice," he added. "And I would ask y'all just to respect that choice."

In August, New York City implemented new guidelines that would bar anyone over the age of 12 from entering "covered premises" in the city, which includes the Nets' arena in Brooklyn, without showing proof of having received the coronavirus vaccine.

Then, last month, Mike Bass, the NBA's executive vice president of communications, issued a statement about how players without the COVID-19 vaccine will not be paid for the games they are forced to miss due to their vaccination status. ESPN reported that if Irving misses every game this season, he could lose over $17 million.

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"It's not about the money, baby," Irving said on Instagram of the prospect of losing money. "It's about choosing what's best for you. You think I really want to lose money? You think I really want to give up on my dream to go after a championship?" 

Though some fans speculated whether Irving would retire from the NBA, he dismissed those rumors, saying he wouldn't "give up this game for a vaccine mandate or staying unvaccinated."

Towns and the Timberwolves play against the Nets, who will be without Irving, on Thursday at Barclays.

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