Out In The NBA: Reax

Jon Wertheim tells the story behind Jason Collins’ decision to come out:

Collins didn’t do this to make a political statement, much less to satisfy a sponsor. To his great relief, he didn’t do it under duress; that is, he wasn’t outed or “caught” by the smartphone paparazzi … Collins had simply grown tired. Tired of being alone; tired of coming home to an empty house; tired of relying on Shadow, his German shepherd, for company; tired of watching friends and family members find spouses and become parents; tired of telling lies and half-truths — “cover stories like a CIA spy,” he says with his distinctive cackle — to conceal that he’s gay. He was also tired of … being tired. For most of his life, he’s had trouble sleeping, which he attributes to struggles with his sexuality.

Collins’ twin brother Jarron, who played ten seasons in the NBA, further explains Jason’s motivation for the announcement:

What does Jason want out of this? He wants to live his life. He wants a relationship, he wants a family, he wants to settle down. He wants to move forward with his personal life while maintaining his life as a professional basketball player. That’s all, really.

Marc Tracy compares Collins to Jackie Robinson:

I can’t help feeling that Collins is equally as brave as Robinson was. It is true that Robinson accepted more risks, including to his physical security. The stakes were higher for Robinson. But so were the rewards. Robinson was offered the chance to be a superhero, and he took it, and he is now, indeed, a superhero. More than that, he is one of the most important American figures of the 20th century—not only in sports, but in everything. By contrast, what incentive did Collins have? It was already unclear whether he was going to get another payday, and his coming out could plausibly make his signing by an NBA team less likely. (Horrible, but true.)

Shaun Powell looks ahead:

Had he kept his private life to himself, he’d be a last-minute addition to any team, not a free agent in big demand this summer. But now, will his announcement affect his chances, good or bad, of seeing a 15th season? General managers can’t speak on the record about Collins, but one scout said: “It’ll have no effect whatsoever. If someone needs him, someone will sign him.” It’s very possible that an organization will need Collins for his ability and also want him because of his announcement. He’s a solid presence in the locker room, a quiet leader with an intelligent voice and can still defend big centers. And he’s not expensive. … Any team looking for a veteran backup center who brings more than just basketball ability could do a lot worse than Jason Collins. Expect to see him this fall.

June Thomas wants to see Collins play:

As a free agent, he’s currently on the job market, and I hope a front-office bean counter somewhere in the league realizes the business opportunity Collins has just opened up.

I’ve never been to an NBA game, though I’ve twice lived within walking distance of an arena. If someone signs Collins next season, I’ll gladly head down to the Barclays Center and slap down an outrageous sum to cheer on a pioneer—a guy who can take a charge and knows gay history. I’ll even buy a T-shirt.

Nate Silver finds that 61 percent of pro-basketball players around Collins’ age with comparable stats have gone on to play another year:

My concern is that if no team signs Mr. Collins, it may incorrectly be deemed as a referendum on whether the league is willing to employ an openly gay player — when players in Mr. Collins’s position see their N.B.A. careers end fairly often for all sorts of reasons. Alternatively, if a team does sign him, it may be incorrectly dismissed as a publicity stunt — when 7-footers who can provide some rebounding and defense off the bench often play well into their thirties.

Josh Barro urges more pro-atheletes to come out:

[Collins] says he waited out of “loyalty to his team” and not wanting his homosexuality to become “a distraction.” In other words, he was concerned about impacts on his career. Those concerns were probably reasonable. But civil rights causes, including gay rights, don’t advance without personal sacrifices on the part of pioneers. Gay athletes will expose themselves to career risk by coming out. They ought to do it anyway because of the broader positive effects they can create.

Will Leitch happily notes the widespread support Collins’ announcement has received:

Like a lot of people, I combed through Twitter to look for any sort of negativity, and while there were a few cretins (Twitter being Twitter), I couldn’t find a single “respectable” person doing anything other than being unequivocally supportive. The NBA basically pushed its playoffs coverage down its Website to splash out the news, Kobe Bryant tweeted that he was “proud” of Collins and even Bill Clinton weighed in positively. NBA players, across the board, came out on Collins’ side, as if there is such a “side” to take in someone simply saying who he is. And that was about it. By 1 p.m., ESPN was back to Tim Tebow, and everyone on Twitter was back to self-promotion again. It was fantastic.

Cyd Zeigler applauds:

We knew this day would come. We didn’t know if it would be this week or next year. But now that it has, I get the feeling that, unlike David Kopay 40 years ago, this may open the door to many more in the near future when everyone sees it worked out just fine for Collins. He did it in the perfect way: In his own words. The column he wrote was strong, and it sends a clear message: I’m OK with who I am.

We’ve said for years that the best timing for this announcement would be early in the offseason. Just two weeks after his regular season ended, and six months before the season starts, it couldn’t be a better time to do this. The media will get the story out its system before tip-off of the next season.

And Brian Phillips urges everyone to just “be happy” for Collins:

[I]t’s good news; it’s an occasion for simple happiness, and God knows there aren’t enough of those. But we of the Internet have all become such sophisticated consumers of media that it takes only about five minutes for any cultural conversation to become confused. We have a tendency, or anyway I do, to skip past the important part of any given issue, which we usually grasp right away, and stake out positions on some knowing or contrarian periphery. … [W]hatever your angle vis-à-vis complex media metanarratives, Jason Collins is a person, and he just did something that was hard for him to do, and that thing will help other people. That’s what matters here. That’s what happened.