Basketball - Collins secures legacy but playing future uncertain

Jason Collins is now one of the most talked about athletes but faces an uncertain future in the NBA after becoming the first active player from any major US professional league to publicly reveal he is gay.


After 12-years with six NBA teams, Collins wants to continue his playing career but it is unclear if the free agent centre will get an opportunity following his surprise coming out in a Sports Illustrated essay.

The locker rooms of North America's four biggest pro sports leagues have long been considered 'no-go zones' for gay athletes who, as a result, have hidden their sexuality from teammates.

Some of the NBA's biggest names, including former most valuable player Kobe Bryant offered support, making it clear he would welcome Collins as a teammate, but no team has yet stepped forward with a contract offer.

"Proud of @jasoncollins34. Don't suffocate who u r because of the ignorance of others," five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers tweeted.

But the locker room culture in North America has been slow to change. Even Bryant, who was among the first of many athletes and other influential voices to praise Collins, was fined $100,000 in 2011 for using an anti-gay slur against a referee.

While attitudes and tolerance toward homosexuality are taking a positive shift across the United States there are still signs change is not coming as quickly on the playing fields.

The National Football League has had to do damage control after controversial positions were taken by several players, including Miami Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace.

"All these beautiful women in the world and guys wanna mess with other guys SMH," Wallace said. "I'm not bashing anybody don't have anything against anyone I just don't understand it."

Wallace later deleted his comments and apologised for his early postings.

"Never said anything was right or wrong I just said I don't understand!! Deeply sorry for anyone that I offended."

A journeyman who has played for six teams and appeared in two NBA finals, Collins basketball resume will now be summed up in one word - "gay."

Over 713 career games Collins averaged 3.6 points and 3.8 rebounds but in the end his words will carry more weight than any of his statistics.

At 7-feet and 255 pounds, Collins brings a lot of muscle and fight to the line-up but now he will also be bringing a possible distraction to any team that signs him.

Described as a hard worker, fearless competitor and great team-mate on the floor and in the locker room, Collins can offer many things to a future employer.

But the 34-year-old is also on the downside of his career and any potential team will have to balance what Collins can contribute against the distraction he will bring.

Given the significance of Monday's events, the NBA is also likely to feel some heat to get Collins signed and into a training camp next season or face questions about the league's attitudes towards gay athletes.

If Collins does return to the NBA next season he will have to be prepared to deal with the hateful taunts and homophobic slurs that most surely await him.

"I'm glad I'm coming out in 2013 rather than 2003," said Collins in the Sports Illustrated article. "The climate has shifted; public opinion has shifted. And yet we still have so much farther to go."

View comments (0)
  • Inside Football With: Paul McVeigh - Why City are hot and Chelsea are not

    Inside Football With: Paul McVeigh - Why City are hot and Chelsea are not

    Former footballer and now mental performance coach Paul McVeigh digs into why Manchester City is firing on all cylinders and why Chelsea aren't - and it's not to do with talent. More »

    Inside Football - Tue, Sep 1, 2015 09:28 BST
  • Andy Cole: Time for United and de Gea to move on

    Andy Cole: Time for United and de Gea to move on

    Andy Cole gives his verdict on the David de Gea transfer saga, and where both club and player need to go now. More »

    Andy Cole - 20 hours ago
  • Premier League - Noble has red card rescinded

    Premier League - Noble has red card rescinded

    Mark Noble will be available for West Ham's first fixture after the international break against Newcastle after the red card he received against Liverpool was rescinded. More »

    Eurosport - 27 minutes ago
  • Ones to Watch: Nolito

    Ones to Watch: Nolito

    Our latest La Liga player to watch is from unfancied Celta Vigo, but who is better than Lionel Messi. (At least in terms of average key passes per game) More »

    Andrew Gaffney - Tue, Sep 1, 2015 10:49 BST
  • West Brom's Berahino given time off to consider future

    West Brom's Berahino given time off to consider future

    West Bromwich Albion's England under-21 striker Saido Berahino will be given time off until next Monday to consider his position after suggesting he would not play for the club again, sources close to the player said on Wednesday. Berahino was furious after negotiations on a proposed move to Tottenham Hotspur broke down on the final day of the transfer window, with Albion chairman Jeremy Peace blaming Spurs for undervaluing and unsettling the player with four different bids. "I can officially say I will never play (for) Jeremy Peace," Berahino tweeted on Tuesday. More »

    Reuters - 3 hours ago