Sunday, May 5, 2013

Out Spotlight

Today's Out Spotlight is an American professional basketball center.  He is the first active male professional athlete in a major North American team sport to publicly come out as gay. Today's Out Spotlight is Jason Collins.

 Jason Paul Collins, born December 2, 1978, eight minutes ahead of his twin brother Jarron, to Paul and Portia Collins.  The boys grew up in California, where they attended Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles. He and his brother, Jarron were classmates of Jake  graduating a year ahead of Jake.

He and his brother were teammates of actor and comedian Jason Segel.  He and Jarron won two California Interscholastic Federation state titles during their four-year careers with a combined record of 123–10, with Jason breaking the California career rebounding record with 1,500.

Collins played with brother  for the Stanford Cardinal in the Pacific-10 Conference (Pac-10). In 2001, Collins was named to All-Pac-10 first team, and the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) voted him to their third-team All-American team. While Stanford he roomed with US Senator Joseph Kennedy, and was friends with Chelsea Clinton.

Collins finished his college career ranked first in Stanford history for field goal percentage (.608) and fifth in blocked shots (89)  Both he and his brother were drafted into the NBA. He was selected in the first round with the 18th overall pick in the 2001 NBA Draft.

As a rookie along with Richard Jefferson, Collins played a significant role in the New Jersey Nets' first ever NBA Finals berth in 2002 against the Los Angeles Lakers. During this Finals appearance, he acknowledged that he is not really 7 feet tall as he has been listed since his junior year of college. He is actually about 4 inches shorter.

In the 2002–03 NBA season Collins took over the starting center role for the Nets and helped the franchise back to the NBA Finals. Prior to the 2004–05 season, he signed a $25 million contract extension with New Jersey for five more years.

On February 4, 2008, he was traded along with cash considerations to the Memphis Grizzlies for Stromile Swift. On June 26, 2008, Collins was dealt to the Minnesota Timberwolves in an eight-player deal involving Kevin Love and O. J. Mayo. After his contract expired at the end of the 2008–09 NBA season, the Timberwolves' management decided not to re-sign him. Collins signed with the Atlanta Hawks on September 2, 2009. Collins re-signed with the Hawks in the 2010 offseason.

In 2010–11, the fifth-seeded Hawks defeated the fourth-seeded Orlando Magic as Collins slowed the Magic's dominant center, Dwight Howard. After Game 4 in the series, then-Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy called Collins' play "the best defense on [Howard] all year".

On July 31, 2012, Collins signed an undisclosed deal with the Boston Celtics. On February 21, 2013, Collins and Leandro Barbosa were traded to the Washington Wizards in exchange for Jordan Crawford.

Collins is due to become a free agent in July 2013 and has stated that he intends to pursue another contract.

Through the the 2012–13 season, Collins had very low career averages in the NBA of 3.6 points, 3.8 rebounds, 0.5 blocks, and 41 percent shooting from the field. He has never averaged more than seven points or seven rebounds in a season. However, the basketball analytics community valued his defense through measurements not typically found in a boxscore, namely his ability to increase the differential between his team's scoring and their opponents'. Collins is a physical player defending the post, boxes out well, and excels at setting screens. He also has a reputation for being a team leader.

On April 29, 2013, Collins became the first active male professional athlete in a major North American team sport to publicly come out as gay. 

In the cover story of the May 6, 2013 issue of Sports Illustrated, written by Collins himself and posted on the magazine's website on April 29, 2013, he came out as gay, becoming the first active male athlete from one of the four major North American professional team sports to publicly do so.

He wrote that he wished to maintain his privacy in regard to specific details of his personal life, and that he is not in a relationship. He also said that he chose to wear jersey number 98 in honor of Matthew Shepard, the victim of a gay hate crime in 1998. Collins called the number "a statement to myself, my family and my friends."

Following his announcement, Collins has received high praise and support for deciding to publicly reveal that he is gay. Fellow NBA star Kobe Bryant praised his decision, as did others from around the league, including NBA commissioner David Stern. President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, former president Bill Clinton, and Collins' corporate sponsor Nike were also among those offering their praise and support for Collins.

The Guardian called it significant for LGBT acceptance "as professional sports had long been seen as the final frontier." Given the interest in major league team sports in the United States, the Christian Science Monitor wrote that Collins' announcement was "likely to put wind in the sails of this trend" of acceptance of gay rights in U.S. public opinion. Former tennis player Martina Navratilova, who came out as a lesbian in 1981, called Collins a "game-changer" for team sports, which she referred to as one of the last areas where homophobia remained.

Collins' former fiancee Carolyn Moos, a former women’s professional basketball player, expressed conflicted feelings and said she only learned Collins was gay shortly before the Sports Illustrated cover story. They were in an 8 year relationship, but Collins called off the wedding in 2009.

On the day it was released, the Sports Illustrated story drew a record 3.713 million visitors to the magazine’s website, SI.com.

Collins along with his family to spoke with Oprah about coming out which aired today. His parents said they they were both shocked at their son's revelation. But they supported him almost from the moment he told them.

"Part of the process, after he told us, was to go home and kind of let it resonate, for the two of us to talk about it," his mom Portia told Oprah.

"And on the way home we called him. And on the way home we said, 'We love you.' "

In addition to his parents, his twin brother Jarron, sister-in-law, and the first family member he came out to, his aunt Teri Jackson, joined him speaking with Oprah.

"I know that I, right now, am the happiest I've ever been in my life."..."A huge weight has been lifted. I've already been out to my family and my friends, but just to, you know, sort of rip the Band-Aid off and come out on my own terms … I hope that every player makes a decision that leads to their own happiness."

7 comments:

Jersey Tom said...

Awesome that Jason came out. Really got positive response and press. Hopefully many more to come.

Jersey Tom said...

But remember no current HW screen actors are gay except for Ian McClellan and Zach Quinto. Most definitely not. Very very macho group of men :-)

Jersey Tom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
prairiegirl said...

Jason's story really is wonderful. I'm so happy that he said he's the happiest he's ever been and what a huge weight off his shoulders. I cannot imagine. I'm not a Kobe Bryant fan but I like that he called Jason in praise for coming out. That is a huge endorsement and must have meant a lot to him.

I also like that Martina called him a game changer. Wow - highest compliment right there.

Just a great story all around.

Special K said...

I'm not sure how many people realized that Jake and Jason went to the same high school.

Jersey Tom said...

Chris Kluwe the punter from the Minnesota Vikings was cut today from the team. Chris has been a huge advocate for Gay marriage. Everyone is surprised because he was a very good player. Some say the NFL is laying down the law.

I am starting to think that Jason will not be resigned by another NBA team. Jason does not score a lot of points or get a lot of rebounds but is a very good defensive player. He is apparently ready to sign a book deal so he may see that the writing is on the wall.

Seaweed said...

Thanks for another great Out Spotlight Special! When I read it earlier I spotted the reference to Jake's school and their connection in that regard.

A wonderful story, and a great example for so many aspiring athletes, whether or not they have a secret to share with the world.