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Jason Collins’ road from journeyman to household name

Apr 29, 2013, 3:17 PM EDT

FILE:  NBA Player Jason Collins Comes Out As Gay Getty Images

Jason Collins was the kind of player NBA people like on their team, but not a guy who was a household name.

Until now.

Collins — a 12-year NBA veteran — came out as gay on Monday. He’s the first active major American team sport athlete to come out as gay.

At this point his game was not going to make him a household name. Here is what you need to know about Collins at this point in his career — the Boston Celtics didn’t want to trade him to the Washington Wizards this season. The two teams were talking about a deal to send Jordan Crawford to Boston, but the deal was going to fall apart if Collins wasn’t a part of it (so reports Marc Stein at ESPN).

Why? Because Collins is a great veteran presence in the locker room, and he can give you a few minutes a game of solid post defense. The Celtics wanted the size, the Wizards wanted a guy of Collins’ character in the locker room with their young players as they try to change that franchise’s culture. Collins said this about the way he plays in the article he wrote for Sports Illustrated:

On the court I graciously accept one label sometimes bestowed on me: “the pro’s pro.” I got that handle because of my fearlessness and my commitment to my teammates. I take charges and I foul — that’s been my forte. In fact, during the 2004-05 season my 322 personals led the NBA. I enter the court knowing I have six hard fouls to give. I set picks with my 7-foot, 255-pound body to get guys like Jason Kidd, John Wall and Paul Pierce open. I sacrifice myself for other players. I look out for teammates as I would my kid brother.

“He’s a pro’s pro. He is the consummate professional and he is one of my favorite “team” players I have ever coached,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said in a released statement.

Collins took a long road to get to this point, just not a road widely scene outside of NBA circles because he is not a star player. What he has been is a true professional at his craft — a guy who was certainly given gifts (he’s 7’0” and pretty athletic) but worked hard to polish those skills, he played to his strengths and with that carved out a nice 12-year NBA career that very well may continue on to a 13th season.

Collins and his brother Jarron grew up in Los Angeles and together they were stars at Harvard-Westlake High School — how good would your high school team have been if it had two seven-foot future NBA players on it? Exactly. They drew a whole lot of attention.

They were also good, well rounded students and decided to attend Stanford. Jason played four years there, along side future NBA players such as Mark Madsen and Brevin Knight. On the court the Cardinal made it to the Elite Eight one year and the Final Four the next and his senior year Collins averaged 14.5 points and 7.8 rebounds a game.

He was drafted No. 18 in the first round by the Houston Rockets but was instantly traded to the New Jersey Nets as part of a deal for Eddie Griffin.

Collins spent his first six seasons in the NBA with the Nets, coming into a good team led by Jason Kidd that in his rookie season reached the NBA Finals (Collins played 13 minutes a game off the bench for that Nets team that lost to the Lakers in the Finals).

Collins was a starter by his second season and an underrated part of those Nets teams — he provided a physical, defensive presence inside that provided a balance to the stars on that squad (Kidd, Kenyon Martin and Richard Jefferson). In his second season the Nets made the finals again but this time fell to the Spurs.

In 2008 Collins was traded from the Nets to the Memphis Grizzlies and that started the journeyman portion of his career — he has now played for six NBA teams.

What he has brought at every stop is what coaches love — a strong work ethic, a guy who can provide defense inside in the paint, and he’s been popular with teammates in the locker room.

Collins had been seeing fewer and fewer minutes in recent years; at age 34 he has been losing the battle with father time. He has racked up more fouls than points six of his last seven seasons. His role is pretty defined.

But there is a place for that role in the NBA, still. A guy who can provide defense and be good in the locker room can be a fit with a veteran team looking to make a playoff run, or a young team looking to show their players how to be a professional in the league (how to prepare your body and prepare mentally for games).

While Collins career was on one track, his personal growth and comfort with who he is grew as well and led him to this moment.

We’ll see if Collins sticks around in the NBA, he probably will for another season. But if not, he still had a solid NBA career, just not one that made him a household name.

Until now.

  1. dirtydrew - Apr 29, 2013 at 3:22 PM

    Is he the better of the Collins twins.? I know one of them is better than the other.

    • Kurt Helin - Apr 29, 2013 at 8:23 PM

      Yes. Although, to be fair neither were special by NBA standards of play.

  2. eboneseagles - Apr 29, 2013 at 3:23 PM

    Celtics wanted his size? I doubt that since they’ve played one big man the whole playoffs. I guess he has a Juwan Howard effect though since I don’t think he got many minutes on Boston anyway.

  3. jhuck92 - Apr 29, 2013 at 3:52 PM

    From journeyman to household name in only a few hours? I think it should take a little longer than that…

  4. fearthehoody - Apr 29, 2013 at 4:44 PM

    Parade!? Signing bonus!? Huge nike contract!? Public will call this brave. I call it the media’s new toy/tool used to make them more money.

  5. addictedzone - Apr 29, 2013 at 4:59 PM

    John Amaechi made this easier for Collins. There will be no current or former NBA players channeling Tim Haraway this time.

  6. theresajones187 - Apr 29, 2013 at 5:01 PM

    The only thing this man should be looked at is if a good player, after 12 years I think he can.

  7. wgray981 - Apr 29, 2013 at 5:04 PM

    Seriously? This is an NBA blog not a commentary on personal lives. 6 articles about this story?
    You idiots didn’t even write 6 articles about the Finals last year.
    I’m done with PBT

    • leahcima1 - Apr 29, 2013 at 5:32 PM

      Good. Don’t let the door hit you in the rear on the way out.

    • Kurt Helin - Apr 29, 2013 at 8:26 PM

      What stories do you think drew the most traffic at PBT today? Well, Dwight Howard’s nightmare was in the top 5, after that…

      • billsfan13594 - Apr 30, 2013 at 1:46 PM

        So this is about traffic? Good to know.

      • Kurt Helin - May 6, 2013 at 11:43 PM

        I think the story is newsworthy. But all media now is a business and if you don’t understand that and what that means you can’t digest it properly. It’s not about left or right, it’s about turning a profit. Why is there far more right wing political talk radio than left? Because that format attracts conservatives and you can sell it to advertisers. Nothing more. My job here is to put together an NBA site that attracts readers, and this post is part of that.

  8. rjlink1 - Apr 29, 2013 at 5:51 PM

    I certainly applaud his coming out. But the timing is a little disappointing – I mean it’s not a given that he’ll actually be the first openly gay player to appear in an NBA game or be in an NBA locker room. I’m hoping someone gives him one last deal – there are a lot of teams that could use a 3rd-string big who can defend. I mean how many years has Kwame Brown played in the league?

  9. paulhargis53 - Apr 29, 2013 at 6:10 PM

    wheat: Its a groundbreaking story, a national story. What don’t you get about that?!

  10. azarkhan - Apr 29, 2013 at 6:24 PM

    Thanks for letting us know, Jason. Now please go away.

  11. seahawks55 - Apr 29, 2013 at 6:48 PM

    I hope this fosters a culture of “who cares.” Sexuality shouldn’t be a sports issue and I hope this is one of the last times we ever pay attention to an athlete coming out. I don’t mean that in a homophobic way, I mean that in a “what consenting adults do in their private time away from their place of work is of no concern to their company, league, fans, co-workers, etc.” way. Congrats, Jason, as the first one it took a lot of courage to do this. I sincerely hope that this pushes us towards a society where admitting one’s sexuality, for both public figures and the private citizen, requires no courage at all.

  12. 00maltliquor - Apr 29, 2013 at 7:08 PM

    12 years in the league and Jason Collins got more articles written about him in one day then he’s had previously in his whole career!

  13. noring4youstill - Apr 29, 2013 at 7:11 PM

    And now if nobody signs him it will based only in the fact he is gay.

  14. thegloriousone - Apr 29, 2013 at 7:50 PM

    A 34 year old free agent with weak stats who just became a media circus.

    Wouldn’t it have been easier to just say “I retire?”

  15. thomaskouns - Apr 29, 2013 at 8:29 PM

    Lot of ‘deep-thinkers’ posting on this topic.

    Despite whatever one may think of him as a player, he just helped break down some of the barriers that most people face in life for simply being who they are.

  16. portlandmainefan - Apr 29, 2013 at 8:31 PM

    its too bad this coming out has to be newsworthy. it shouldnt matter what the orientation is. his sexual orientatoon should matter to us as much as his hair color or whether he likes pasta….

  17. JMClarkent - Apr 29, 2013 at 8:56 PM

    Kurt,

    in order to make PFT better, you need to figure out a way to separate the stories – that way folks are forced to real them all in order to find one one story they care for. If you could make bold headers which described the story that was about to be clicked, along with individual related photos for the illiterate, things around here would be soooo much better. I guess a guy can dream.

    • JMClarkent - Apr 29, 2013 at 9:43 PM

      *not forced. Killing your own sarcastic post = priceless!

    • Kurt Helin - May 7, 2013 at 8:31 PM

      I have told the guys who handle site design that several people have asked for this very thing, to break the stories out by team. Site design changes happen over my head, but I have passed the concern along and think it’s a good idea.

      • JMClarkent - May 20, 2013 at 10:29 PM

        I was just taking a sarcastic shot at folks who complain about reading “Story X”. That joke definitely failed to land!

        I appreciate the response, though – huge fan!

  18. sportsbastard - Apr 29, 2013 at 9:22 PM

    He’s old and can’t play, which is why he won’t be resigned however the liberal media will make him out to be a martyr and say it’s because of this.

  19. soundsofsuccess7 - Apr 29, 2013 at 9:34 PM

    Laker bound I’d guess.

  20. progress2011 - Apr 29, 2013 at 11:56 PM

    The title of this article is precisely perfect.

    Since he is a Big Ole SCRUB….I guess he figured he’d get his name on the books somehow !

    You know, I don’t have a problem with what grown folk do in their own bedrooms….

    I just don’t feel strait folk or gay folk have to give an announcement similar to “THE DECISION” to get in the news.

    I question if SCRUBS like this dude do it to become more known…since his talent level never would have made him a household name!

    Publicity Stunt………..PROBABLY !!!

  21. buccobrigade - Apr 30, 2013 at 10:00 AM

    He better not get a deal next year just because of this. That’s a stupid reason. If he stinks he stinks, gay or not.

  22. hollymeus - Apr 30, 2013 at 10:15 AM

    i respect your decision

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