NBA center Jason Collins comes out as a gay man

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Jason Collins. Courtesy of USA Today.

Jason Collins. Courtesy of USA Today.

Before Monday, most basketball fans knew Jason Collins as a journeyman NBA center who never reached his first-round pick potential. From Monday on, he’ll be known as the first active openly gay athlete in the four major American team sports.

“I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay,” Collins wrote in an article on SI.com’s home page that will appear in the May 6 issue of Sports Illustrated.

Collins, whom the Houston Rockets drafted with the No. 18 pick in the 2001 NBA draft, has played for the Nets, Grizzlies, Timberwolves, Hawks, Celtics and Wizards in his 12-year professional career. He boasts career averages of 3.6 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. He played college basketball at Stanford from 1997-2001 alongside his twin brother Jarron, and he holds the record for the highest field goal percentage in program history.

Collins said he started to consider coming out during the 2011 NBA lockout, when his professional habits were put on hold.

“I’m a creature of routine,” Collins wrote. “But the lockout wreaked havoc on my habits and forced me to confront who I really am and what I really want. With the season delayed, I trained and worked out. But I lacked the distraction that basketball had always provided.”

He decided to come out when his roommate at Stanford, U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.), a straight man, walked in Boston’s Gay Pride parade last year. That coupled with the recent bombings at the Boston Marathon convinced Collins he shouldn’t wait for the most convenient time to come out.

“Things can change in an instant, so why not live truthfully?” he wrote.

Collins mostly received congratulations and well wishes from fellow athletes. Lakers star guard Kobe Bryant tweeted his reaction Monday.

“Don’t suffocate who u r because of the ignorance of others #courage #support #mambaarmystandup #BYOU,” Bryant said.

Former Marquette and current Heat guard Dwyane Wade tweeted his support for Collins as well.

“Jason Collins showed a lot of courage today and I respect him for taking a stand and choosing to live in his truth. #nbafamily,” Wade tweeted Monday.

Former president Bill Clinton, whose daughter Chelsea attended Stanford with Collins, voiced his support in a statement.

“Jason’s announcement today is an important moment for professional sports and in the history of the LGBT community,” Clinton said. “It is also the straightforward statement of a good man who wants no more than what so many of us seek: to be able to be who we are.”

NBA Commissioner David Stern issued a statement commending Collins for his courage.

“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,” Stern said in the release.

Not all of the reactions to Collins’ announcement were positive. Most notably, ESPN NBA analyst Chris Broussard voiced his opposition to Collins’ lifestyle Monday on Outside the Lines.

“I think its a sin, as I think all sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman is,” Broussard said. “If you’re openly living that type of lifestyle, then the Bible says you know them by their fruits. It says that, you know, that’s a sin. … So I would not characterize that person as a Christian because I don’t think the Bible would characterize them as a Christian.”

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace also criticized Collins.

“All these beautiful women in the world and guys want to mess with other guys…smh (shaking my head),” Wallace tweeted.

Regardless of reaction, Collins’ decision may pave the way for other active gay athletes to come out in the near future.

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