Jason Collins has been in the NBA since 2001 when both he, and his twin brother Jarron finished turning heads at Stanford University. Twin seven footers. Jarron retired after the 2010-2011 season, but, Jason has continued to play. He is currently a free agent, late of the Washington Wizards. Jason was an All-American at Stanford, and a first round draft choice of the New Jersey Nets.
Absolutely nothing Jason Collins did stood out in his NBA career. Very little damage done on the floor along the way, scoring 3.6 points per game and hauling in only 3.8 rebounds per contest. However, nobody can ever accuse him of not working hard and being a great teammate for any of the six teams for which he played.
At the same time, Jason Collins did absolutely NO damage off the floor. He was never in trouble. Always soft spoken using well chosen words. He sought none of the limelight, choosing instead to strive to be his best and make his teammates better.
But, on this day, Jason has forever etched his name in history. He is the first active professional male athlete in the United States to openly and publicly declare himself gay. His opening up in Sports Illustrated magazine in a first person narrative has drawn praise from all quarters.
President Bill Clinton's daughter Chelsea was a classmate and friend of Collins at Stanford. The President, according to the Washington Post, called Collins a "Good man who wants no more than what so many of us seek: to be able to be who we are; to do our work; to build families and to contribute to our communities."
Representative Joe Kennedy III (D-Mass) was Collins' roommate at Stanford. He said "For as long as I've known Jason Collins, he has been defined by three things: his passion for the sport he loves, his unwavering integrity, and the biggest heart you will ever find."
Said NBA Commissioner David Stern: "Jason has been a widely respected player and teammate throughout his career and we are proud he has assumed the leadership mantle on this very important issue."
I had opportunities to speak with Jason several times in my duties as the Nets studio host his first three years in the league, and found him to be a real pleasure to work with every time. He was thoughtful and respectful although, as we now know, he was fighting a battle he had been waging all his life.
Whether or not one agrees with the Gay lifestyle is immaterial. My faith teaches me that our calling is to love all our neighbors, not to love all our neighbors EXCEPT certain ones.
Collins move is, to me, one of extrication. Freeing himself from an inward prison I know nothing about. But, I applaud his courage in empowering others to do the same in sports. I, for one, wish him well.
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