At age 34, NBA center Jason Collins is the first openly gay athlete in a major American sport. As a free agent this year, some might consider the timing of his announcement risky. They might be wrong.
An outpouring of support has greeted Collins concerning his public revelation. The response is much more than he would ever have imagined.
Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich, a former teammate of Collins in Atlanta, remembered Collins as “A good guy and that’s just who he is. It doesn’t really change what kind of person he is or anything.”
Although Bulls Coach Tom Thibodeau didn’t know Collins well, he reported being very impressed with him when they met last summer. “Two close friends of mine have coached him and they’ve raved about him as a person and as a leader. I was very impressed with him and my opinion of him hasn’t changed one bit and I’m very happy for him,” Thibodeau stated to media prior to the Chicago Bulls playoff game against the Brooklyn Nets.
Not surprisingly, Twitter universe is teeming with support. The Huffington Post reported that Collins’ Twitter following jumped from 4,000 followers prior to his announcement on Monday to nearly 100,000 to date.
Former Chicago Bulls guard Steve Kerr, a current NBA analyst tweeted, “Jason Collins’ courageous act will impact many lives and help to create more tolerance in sports. Proud to have him representing the NBA.”
Other first-responding NBA supporters included NBA Commissioner David Stern, Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant and two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Steve Nash. Add to that list, the support of Bill Clinton and a phone call from Barack Obama, and it’s understandable why Collins was unable to make it to the gym to train for next season. He promised to return soon.
Does Collins have a future in Chicago? That remains to be seen, though, it appears that the Dallas Mavericks might be the first to come knocking. Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban told TMZ several weeks ago that he would be “honored” to have the first NBA player who came out publicly on his team.
Collins enters free agency with a career average of 3.6 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. He is considered a team player who is best known for his defense. He will enter his 13th season as a role model for many.
Hollie M. Woods is a writer for Rant Sports covering the Chicago Bulls and the NBA. “Like” her on Facebook.