After 12 seasons in the NBA, Jason Collins recently penned a story that appears in the May 6 issue of Sports Illustrated where he announced he is gay. Collins is the first active male athlete in all four of this country’s major professional sports to come out.
Collins, who has career averages of 3.6 points and 3.8 rebounds per game, acknowledges in the article that the lockout of 2011 forced him to evaluate his life. He was a creature of routine, of habit, always using the NBA offseason as a way to get ready for another NBA season. But the lockout changed that, and in talks with family and friends, he became more convinced than ever that this was something he needed to do in order to be at peace with himself.
The recent Boston Marathon bombings again pushed him to come out. Collins realized tomorrow is never a given, and that anything can be taken away from you at any time.
In the article, Collins writes:
When I was younger I dated women. I even got engaged. I thought I had to live a certain way. I thought I needed to marry a woman and raise kids with her. I kept telling myself the sky was red, but I always knew it was blue.
No one wants to live in fear. I’ve always been scared of saying the wrong thing. I don’t sleep well. I never have. But each time I tell another person, I feel stronger and sleep a little more soundly. It takes an enormous amount of energy to guard such a big secret. I’ve endured years of misery and gone to enormous lengths to live a lie. I was certain that my world would fall apart if anyone knew. And yet when I acknowledged my sexuality I felt whole for the first time. I still had the same sense of humor, I still had the same mannerisms and my friends still had my back.
Collins went on to debunk the stereotypes typically associated with gay athletes, noting to Shaq that he wasn’t flopping because he was gay. He also said one of the main reasons he didn’t come out earlier was because of his loyalty to his teams, writing, “When I signed a free-agent contract with Boston last July, I decided to commit myself to the Celtics and not let my personal life become a distraction. When I was traded to the Wizards, the political significance of coming out sunk in. I was ready to open up to the press, but I had to wait until the season was over.”
Former NBA center John Amaechi came out in 2007, which was four years after his playing days wrapped up. But at 34 years old and after playing in just 38 games this past season, the 7-0 Collins still plans to make a team this upcoming season.
The most you can do is stand up for what you believe in. I’m much happier since coming out to my friends and family. Being genuine and honest makes me happy.
I’m glad I can stop hiding and refocus on my 13th NBA season. I’ve been running through the Santa Monica Mountains in a 30-pound vest with Shadow, the German shepherd I got from Mike Miller. In the pros, the older you get, the better shape you must be in. Next season a few more eyeballs are likely to be on me. That only motivates me to work harder.
Some people insist they’ve never met a gay person. But Three Degrees of Jason Collins dictates that no NBA player can claim that anymore. Pro basketball is a family. And pretty much every family I know has a brother, sister or cousin who’s gay. In the brotherhood of the NBA, I just happen to be the one who’s out.
What do you think?
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