After his announcement regarding his sexuality, Jason Collins seemed destined to stand by and watch this season from the sidelines, forcing us to ask if the lack of interest in a proven 7-foot defensive specialist, in a league bereft of 7 footers who can walk and chew gum at the same time, was more based on politics than basketball. Now that he was signed by the Brooklyn Nets he now stops being “Jason Collins-Center,” but instantly becomes “Jason Collins, the first openly gay male professional athlete in one of the four major professional sports.” Let’s look at the 5 biggest ways this impacts the rest of the sporting world.
1. The guy can still play
I think it would be a disservice to Jason if we didn’t discuss the basketball implications first. In a league where everyone is playing small ball the true center is a dying breed, look no further than the elimination of the position from this year’s all-star game for proof. That being said, look at the top teams in the league and there seems to be a resurgence of offensively skilled bigs. From Dwight Howard out West to Roy Hibbert in the East, it will be increasingly important for potential playoff teams to be able to defend the post effectively, and Collins prides himself on his D.
2. It finally happened
Collins’ announcement came so long ago that it’s easy to forget that just last season he was suiting up on an active NBA roster. As I mentioned before, quality bigs can still help playoff teams so the answer to “is the NBA ready?” seemed stuck at “maybe” for far too long. Now that Collins has logged his first minutes of the season the ball can get rolling on this becoming a non-issue. There will inevitably be the travelling media circus and the unfortunately equally inevitable “that was taken out of context” quote from a current or former player. Nonetheless, progress is being made and the road is being paved.
3. Brooklyn can make the playoffs
The Nets have gone from a laughingstock luxury tax mess to a Joe Johnson-led pesky potential playoff matchup. Pierce and KG can will them to a win apiece per round through sheer pride, and with Johnson being hot and Deron Williams playing himself back into shape after a series of injuries this team has what it takes to make it to the second round in the East, and depending on health, can stretch Miami or Indiana to about 5-6 games. Adding a Veteran big to defend Chris Bosh and Hibbert can only help their chances to pull of some upsets
4. Role Model
This along with Michael Sam’s recent announcement give homosexual athletes of all ages out there the opportunity to see how people who have come before them were accepted. It might not be quite a Jackie Robinson suiting up for the Dodgers moment, but still there are undoubtedly players on rosters across the globe who have been coping with the uncertainty of being a gay man in a locker room full of (seemingly mostly) straight teammates. Now that Collins and Sam after him have spoken out we can put eloquent, impressive faces to this particular cause.
5. Only the beginning
Let’s be real here: Jason Collins isn’t the only gay male playing professional ball in America. I’m not suggesting that every team has a gay player in their organization because there may well not be, but the sheer odds are that there are multiple players out there who may be choosing to keep their homosexuality private (as is their right). Now that Collins has opened the door it may in fact be time for the floodgates to open. It could only be a matter of time before our first “superstar” player decides to make their preference clear, at which time this will probably all be revisited but on a different scale. Imagine for instance if Jason Collins had been Kevin Durant?
Kyle Robinson is by day a not-so mild mannered drone for one of the world’s largest tech companies, by night he’s a sports enthusiast/wrestling smark/videogame geek/travel nut/chicken connoisseur/ comic book nerd and self-proclaimed “hopefully non-threatening black man.” Follow him here for tweets that he hopes get more RTs, because that’s how he validates his existence.
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