As Jason Collins, a 7-foot journeyman center for the Washington Wizards, played out the final few weeks of his 12th National Basketball Association season this spring, he was also finalizing plans for an announcement that would send shock waves across the world of sports. That announcement came late Monday morning, with the Internet publication of a first-person story in Sports Illustrated:
“I’m a 34-year-old NBA center,” the story began. “I’m black. And I’m gay.”
With that, Collins became the first active male athlete in a major U.S. professional sports league to come out of the closet — a designation that is certain to elevate this relatively anonymous player, known primarily for his ability to commit fouls and set picks, into a historic figure in both the sports and gay-rights realms.
“I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport,” Collins wrote. “But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation. I wish I wasn’t the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, ‘I’m different.’ If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I’m raising my hand.”