Meet the First Openly Gay Player in Major League Sports
"I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay." So begins the historic coming-out essay from NBA center Jason Collins, which appears in the May 6 issue of Sports Illustrated.
Collins, who finished last season with the Washington Wizards, began his basketball career in high school (actor Jason Segel was reportedly his backup) and later starred at Stanford, and he played for the New Jersey Nets (taking the team to the finals), Memphis Grizzlies, Minnesota Timberwolves, Atlanta Hawks, and Boston Celtics before being traded to the Wizards earlier this year. He is now a free agent.
Collins says he didn't set out to be the first out gay athlete playing in a major team sport, "but since I am, I'm happy to start the conversation. I wish I wasn't the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, 'I'm different.' If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I'm raising my hand."
The starting center writes, "My journey of self-discovery and self-acknowledgement began in my hometown of Los Angeles and has taken me through two state high school championships, the NCAA Final Four and the Elite Eight, and nine playoffs in 12 NBA seasons. I've played for six pro teams and have appeared in two NBA Finals. Ever heard of a parlor game called Three Degrees of Jason Collins? If you're in the league, and I haven't been your teammate, I surely have been one of your teammates' teammates. Or one of your teammates' teammates' teammates. Now I'm a free agent, literally and figuratively. I've reached that enviable state in life in which I can do pretty much what I want. And what I want is to continue to play basketball. I still love the game, and I still have something to offer. My coaches and teammates recognize that. At the same time, I want to be genuine and authentic and truthful."
In the essay, Collins talks about dating women, his decision to come out, how his family reacted, ignoring his "censor button," and being inspired to live truthfully by the recent Boston Marathon bombing. "I'm glad I can stop hiding and refocus on my 13th NBA season," he writes. "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."
He also proudly proclaims he'll be marching in June's LGBT Pride parade.