5 Other Facts About North America’s First Gay Sports Star, Jason Collins

Photo credit: Sports Illustrated

If you’ve been on Twitter today, you know that veteran NBA center Jason Collins just came out as gay. He is the first male athlete playing in a major North American sports league (NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB) to come out — and he did it in grand style, with a Sports Illustrated cover and feature article.

It truly is a historic moment in sports — and one that’s long overdue. Collins seems like the perfect person to embark on such a courageous journey. He’s thoughtful, confident and certainly very brave.

The article he wrote announcing his sexual orientation is excellent. It’s also online in its entirety and it’s something you really should go and read right now.

So, now we all know that Jason Collins is gay. But that doesn’t mean we know everything there is to know about him. Here are five other things you probably didn’t know.

1. He has a twin brother who also played in the NBA

Jason’s slightly younger twin brother, Jarron, played eight seasons for the Utah Jazz between 2001 and 2009. In 2009, he briefly returned to the league, appearing for the Phoenix Suns and later the L.A. Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers.

2. He had a famous backup in high school

Collins graduated from Hardvard-Westlake School, a prep school in Los Angeles. Unsurprisingly, he starred for the basketball team. His backup at the time? Actor Jason Segel (How I Met Your Mother).

3. He chose number 98 because of Matthew Shepard

Collins sported jersey number 98 for the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards as a way of paying tribute to University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard, who was tortured and murdered because of his sexual orientation in 1998.

4. He once lived with Joe Kennedy, current Massachusetts congressman

Collins attended Stanford University, where he roomed with Joseph P. Kennedy III, the current Representative for Massachusetts’ 4th congressional district and grandson of Robert F. Kennedy. Collins cited Kennedy’s participation in Pride festivities are part of his inspiration for choosing to come out of the closet now.

5. Jason Collins is still in the NBA

Admit it: you forgot that Jason Collins was an NBA player (if you’d even heard of him in the first place). In recent years, he’s been little more than a role player coming off the bench for some pretty bad teams. His NBA career might actually be over, as he’s scheduled to become a free agent this summer and 34-year-old centers with very limited upside don’t typically attract a lot of attention.

None of that matters now, however. Not his minutes played, nor his points per game. Collins’ name will forever be tied to something far more significant. Let’s hope there’s a team out there willing to look past all this other stuff and treat him just as they would treat any other basketball player. That’s what Collins wants and it’s the kind of world we should all strive for.

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One Response to 5 Other Facts About North America’s First Gay Sports Star, Jason Collins

  1. First, huge props to Collins for coming out. For a black man in a major sports league actively playing the sport, his announcement is pretty epic.

    But in all the media chatter about this, people are getting carried away with the statements of “first”. First openly gay athlete? No way. North America’s first gay sports star? Nope. There’s tennis star Martina Navratilova (who came out in in 1981!!), WNBA player Sheryl Swoopes, boxer Orlando Cruz and so many others. Each one of them took a risk in their sport to be open about themselves. I haven’t seen mention of them anywhere in all the coverage of Collins’ story.

    So again, not taking away from Collins — BIG congrats are due. It’d just be nice if the media also acknowledged some of the brave LGB athletes who came before him.