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. Cavaliers give sneak peek of new home court design (VIDEO)

    Oct 1, 2014, 12:06 AM EDT

    cavs court

    New floor should be in place for the start of the 2014-15 season.

  2. Nuggets mascot in trouble after making unauthorized appearance at GOP rally

    Sep 30, 2014, 10:51 PM EDT

    Los Angeles Lakers v Denver Nuggets Getty Images

    Professional sports franchises are businesses above all else, and typically would rather avoid politics.

  3. Tuesday And-1 Links: Rudy Gay, Kings not really talking next contract right now

    Sep 30, 2014, 9:00 PM EDT

    Rudy Gay, Pete D'Alessandro, Michael Malone Rudy Gay, Pete D'Alessandro, Michael Malone

    Ben McLemore knows how to photobomb. His coach isn’t sure he can do much else.

  4. John Calipari hired someone to send NBA advanced stats of Kentucky’s players

    Sep 30, 2014, 7:20 PM EDT

    John Calipari John Calipari

    I don’t know whether this helps Kentucky’s players. It opens Calipari’s options, though.

  5. Former NBA player, current TNT analyst Kenny Smith gets reality show with family

    Sep 30, 2014, 6:28 PM EDT

    Kenny Smith Getty Images

    Now we know what show promos TNT is going to beat us over the head with during the next playoffs.

  6. ProBasketballTalk 2014-15 Preview: Miami Heat

    Sep 30, 2014, 5:44 PM EDT

    Chris Bosh Chris Bosh

    Expectations are reduced, but Miami still has the chance to be pretty a pretty good team — even without LeBron James.

  7. Dion Waiters on claim Wizards have NBA’s best backcourt: ‘That’s nonsense’

    Sep 30, 2014, 4:20 PM EDT

    Washington Wizards v Cleveland Cavaliers Getty Images

    John Wall fires back: ‘They haven’t seen a playoff game yet. When they make one they can start talking.’

  8. Mike Miller points to him being amnestied as start of LeBron James leaving Miami

    Sep 30, 2014, 2:59 PM EDT

    San Antonio Spurs v Miami Heat - Game 7 Getty Images

    Mike Miller being amnestied may have been the first domino to fall in LeBron bolting.

  9. LeBron James dealing with back pain

    Sep 30, 2014, 12:59 PM EDT

    Cleveland Cavaliers Media Day Getty Images

    LeBron could miss Cavaliers’ practice tonight

  10. Brian Shaw wants Ty Lawson to watch Peyton Manning practice, lead team

    Sep 30, 2014, 11:40 AM EDT

    Chicago Bulls v Denver Nuggets Getty Images

    Manning leads by detailed preparation and then an ability to read a defense, a good example for any point guard.

  11. Ricky Rubio with half-court alley-oop to Andrew Wiggins (VIDEO)

    Sep 30, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT

    Timberwolves New Players Getty Images

    We could see a lot more of this during the season.

Featured video

What players stood out at World Cup?
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. L. James (3652)
  2. R. Rondo (3407)
  3. K. Bryant (3194)
  4. D. Wade (2333)
  5. R. Allen (2301)
  1. D. Williams (2226)
  2. K. Leonard (2000)
  3. D. Rose (1920)
  4. E. Bledsoe (1912)
  5. M. Smart (1861)