Apr 29, 2013, 2:07 PM EDT
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.”
Oct 31, 2014, 3:22 AM EDT
LeBron slides into the loser category for a night.
Oct 31, 2014, 3:10 AM EDT
The Clippers will take the win, but it wasn’t pretty.
Oct 31, 2014, 2:14 AM EDT
There is no official timetable for his return, but we are likely talking 6 weeks or more he is out.
Oct 31, 2014, 12:21 AM EDT
Players should never angrily engage with fans.
Oct 30, 2014, 11:40 PM EDT
Big time shot.
Oct 30, 2014, 11:16 PM EDT
Nobody saw this coming.
Oct 30, 2014, 9:45 PM EDT
The banner is back.
Oct 30, 2014, 8:43 PM EDT
Oct 30, 2014, 7:42 PM EDT
The Sixers CEO fired back, but taking on a Hall of Fame coach isn’t usually wise.
Oct 30, 2014, 6:55 PM EDT
It’s going to be a rough transition for the Knicks. New Yorkers have to be patient (not always their strong suit).
Oct 30, 2014, 6:15 PM EDT
It’s a sign Dan Gilbert is pulling out the checkbook to spend.
Oct 30, 2014, 5:25 PM EDT
The Spurs just got better.
Oct 30, 2014, 4:40 PM EDT
Look for a decision sometime after Christmas.
Oct 30, 2014, 3:55 PM EDT
The time the Nuggets center responded to a heckler
Oct 30, 2014, 3:11 PM EDT
Cleveland, as of a few days ago, reportedly hadn’t begun negotiations with Thompson
Oct 30, 2014, 2:35 PM EDT
Faried reveals Nuggets defensive game plan against Pistons
LeBron makes emotional return to Cleveland tonight, new Nike ad shows city standing together (VIDEO)
Oct 30, 2014, 1:55 PM EDT
The season is about process for the Cavaliers, but tonight is about celebration of home.
Oct 30, 2014, 1:15 PM EDT
It was a good night to be a Hornets fan.
Oct 30, 2014, 12:45 PM EDT
Bulls center has discussed Phil Jackson with his younger brother
Oct 30, 2014, 11:55 AM EDT
Gasol was dominant opening night, and Derrick Rose is thrilled to finally have some help.
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