Skip to content

Jason Collins’ coming out as gay shouldn’t affect his free agency

Apr 29, 2013, 2:07 PM EDT

File photo of Washington Wizards' Jason Collins going to the basket against Chicago Bulls' Taj Gibson during the first half of their NBA basketball game in Chicago, Illinois Reuters

When I read Jason Collins’ story in Sport Illustrated coming out as gay, my first thought was: good. This is an exciting moment, a historic declaration by Collins, who is tearing down the homophobia that once permeated through American team sports.

Much later, my another thought kicked in: dread.

As Collins notes in his story, he’s a pending free agent who still wants to play in the NBA. What he doesn’t say: he’ll turn 35 next season, his offense is practically non-existent, and he rebounds poorly.

If no NBA team signs him this summer, the narrative will surely shift into basketball’s small-mindedness. Collins will become a martyr, and NBA teams will be vilified.

That would be unfair to everyone involved.

Collins will surely be compared to Jackie Robinson, who baseball didn’t run out of the game simply because he was black. But Robinson was 28 when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers and had Hall of Fame-caliber talent. Collins’ premier NBA accomplishment is leading the league in fouls in 2004-05, and he was a much better player then.

Collins is an extremely limited player – he’s has more fouls than points in six of his last seven seasons – and he’s declining, as nearly all players do, with age. He made his late-career mark for defending Dwight Howard, but Howard shot 6-for-8 and scored 19 points in 24 minutes against Collins this year. Collins’ most obvious physical comparison is his twin brother Jarron, who last played in 2011.

The Celtics and Wizards allowed fewer points per possession with Collins on the court, so there’s certainly potential he can still contribute. But signing any 34-year-old, especially a big man, comes with significant risk.

After watching closely as his Nets gave the Pistons fits in the playoffs a decade ago, I developed a healthy respect for Collins, who was definitely underrated while starting with Jason Kidd, Kerry Kittles, Richard Jefferson and Kenyon Martin.

But no player can outlast father time, and it’s at least possible Collins time has passed as an NBA player for no other reason than he’s no longer good enough. That’s totally OK.

Please don’t make Collins’ free agency – without evidence of malfeasance – part of the case that professional basketball isn’t accepting of gay players. (If there is reliable evidence, please make a huge deal out of it.)

Yesterday, Collins wasn’t lock to stick in the NBA, and the same is true today. It’s great to celebrate Collins’ announcement for what it is – a monumental moment in not just sports, but American, history. But, when the time comes to judge Collins’ playing ability, let’s do so for what it is: right on the border of NBA level.

If an NBA team signs him this offseason, great. If not, that’s fine too. That’s what happens to players like Collins. Let’s not taint his legitimate basketball ability by making his free agency about today’s announcement. As Collins writes, he wants to “show that gay players are no different from straight ones.”

Latest Posts
  1. NBA Live 15 releases first game trailer (VIDEO)

    Sep 2, 2014, 11:30 PM EDT

    NBA Live 15

    NBA Live 15 hits the stores Oct. 7.

  2. Miroslav Raduljica, after being waived by Clippers, not ready to return to Europe

    Sep 2, 2014, 10:30 PM EDT

    Miroslav Raduljica Miroslav Raduljica

    Raduljica deserves another NBA contract following adequate rookie year

  3. Petteri Koponen, seven years after getting drafted in first round, still planning jump to NBA

    Sep 2, 2014, 9:30 PM EDT

    BASKET-EURO-2013-FIN-SLO BASKET-EURO-2013-FIN-SLO

    Mavericks hold draft rights to Finnish point guard who’s under contract with Russian team

  4. Team USA responds to New Zealand’s haka with blank stares (video)

    Sep 2, 2014, 8:30 PM EDT

    Kenneth Faried, Tai Webster, Rob Loe Kenneth Faried, Tai Webster, Rob Loe

    Derrick Rose, James Harden and Kenneth Faried appeared stunned by traditional pregame dance

  5. Warriors sign James Michael McAdoo, Mitchell Watt

    Sep 2, 2014, 7:30 PM EDT

    North Carolina v Duke Getty Images

    Golden State also announces signing of Aaron Craft, who previously reached deal

  6. Report: Washington Wizards contact Ray Allen, too

    Sep 2, 2014, 6:36 PM EDT

    Miami Heat's Allen celebrates a three point shot against the Indiana Pacers during Game 7 of their NBA Eastern Conference final basketball playoff in Miami Reuters

    Can’t blame a team for trying, I guess.

  7. Manny Pacquiao works out at Warriors facility

    Sep 2, 2014, 4:59 PM EDT

    Pacquio

    I think the Warriors are pretty set at the guard spot, but he would had some toughness.

  8. Anthony Davis was throwing it down on New Zealand (VIDEO)

    Sep 2, 2014, 4:13 PM EDT

    Anthony Davis, Casey Frank AP

    When big men run the floor hard, good things happen.

  9. USA sails past New Zealand for easy 98-71 win behind Anthony Davis, Kenneth Faried

    Sep 2, 2014, 2:01 PM EDT

    Anthony Davis Anthony Davis

    Team USA was supposed to be a perimeter-based team, but through three games the bigs are stealing the show.

  10. Stephen Curry will not stand for ‘slander’ of his Under Armour shoes

    Sep 2, 2014, 12:39 PM EDT

    Los Angeles Clippers v Golden State Warriors Getty Images

    Curry fired back on Twitter to someone who made a joke at the expense of his shoes.

  11. Derrick Rose ‘fine’ with coming off the bench for Team USA

    Sep 2, 2014, 11:18 AM EDT

    Team USA Showcase Getty Images

    Rose was originally penciled in as the starter, but Kyrie Irving has been more deserving thus far.

  12. Pau Gasol shreds Brazil at FIBA World Cup (VIDEO)

    Sep 2, 2014, 10:37 AM EDT

    pau gasol spain olympics Getty Images

    This should make Bulls fans extremely happy.

  13. Anderson Varejao, entering contract year, says he wants to remain with Cavaliers

    Sep 2, 2014, 9:59 AM EDT

    Anderson Varejao AP

    Cleveland, now with championship aspirations, may not feel the same way.

  14. Timofey Mozgov not pushing to leave Nuggets in trade to Cavaliers

    Sep 2, 2014, 9:22 AM EDT

    Timofey Mozgov, Anderson Varejao Timofey Mozgov, Anderson Varejao

    Mozgov could play with LeBron James, for David Blatt (his Russian national team coach)

Featured video

Will LeBron get booed Christmas Day in Miami?
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. D. Rose (3258)
  2. R. Rondo (2423)
  3. K. Bryant (2275)
  4. T. Mozgov (2205)
  5. R. Allen (2181)
  1. J. Embiid (2095)
  2. A. Davis (2067)
  3. L. James (2031)
  4. L. Barbosa (1945)
  5. D. Exum (1806)