By Trudy Ring
Originally published on Advocate.com April 29 2013 6:11 PM ET
Five Things You Should Know About Jason Collins
1. He has a twin brother, also a basketball player (though now retired).
Jarron Collins, who is eight minutes younger than Jason, was an NBA center from 2001 to 2011, mostly with the Utah Jazz. The brothers are extremely close, both emotionally and physically, living only a few miles apart in Los Angeles. Still, Jarron, who is straight, was surprised when Jason came out to him last summer. “So much for twin telepathy,” Jason quips in his Sports Illustrated coming-out article. Jarron, in a sidebar, expresses unqualified support for his twin, as he did during that conversation. “I’ve never been more proud of him,” Jarron writes.
2. He has a gay uncle, but that man wasn’t the first family member he came out to.
That honor was reserved for his aunt Teri, a San Francisco judge. Her reaction: “I’ve known you were gay for years.” That was a comfort and a relief to Collins, as were his subsequent conversations with his gay uncle, Mark, who lives in New York. “He and his partner have been in a stable relationship forever,” Collins writes in SI. “For a confused young boy, I can think of no better role model of love and compassion.”
3. That Jason is gay isn’t the biggest surprise his family has ever had.
With medical technology far less developed in 1978 than it is now, his mother didn’t realize she was carrying twins. “When I came out (for the first time) the doctors congratulated my mother on her healthy, seven-pound, one-ounce baby boy,” he writes in SI. “‘Wait!’ said a nurse. ‘Here comes another one!’”
4. A member of the Kennedy family influenced him to come out.
At Stanford University, Collins roomed with Joseph P. Kennedy III, the grandson of Robert F. Kennedy. Joe Kennedy, now a Massachusetts congressman, mentioned to Collins that he’d marched in Boston’s Pride parade last year. “I was proud of him for participating but angry that as a closeted gay man I couldn’t even cheer my straight friend on as a spectator,” Collins writes in SI. Because of that, he concluded, it was time to go public. Kennedy, who has tweeted his support for Collins, is just one of the athlete’s many high-profile political connections. They include Stanford schoolmate Chelsea Clinton and her parents, and, on the Republican side, former secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who was provost at Stanford in the 1990s. And as for that Boston Pride parade, Massachusetts governor and reliable ally Deval Patrick, who has a lesbian daughter, says he looks forward to welcoming Collins there this year.
5. If Collins doesn’t catch on with another NBA team, it may have nothing to do with his being openly gay.
So says Nate Silver, the frequently spot-on political prognosticator and statistician, who developed his number-crunching skills with sports data (and happens to be gay). “Mr. Collins ended the season as a 34-year-old free agent who mostly came off the bench,” Silver writes on his New York Times blog, FiveThirtyEight. “How likely is he to find a job in the league next year?” Looking at whether players with similar records in the 2011-2012 season found a job in the current one, Silver notes that 11 of 18 did, making the odds slightly in Collins’s favor. Silver concedes that antigay discrimination could keep Collins off the basketball court, but still, his sexual orientation “will represent only one data point.” Other players of Collins’s age see their careers end for a variety of reasons, so the question of whether he’s signed shouldn’t be considered “a referendum on whether the league is willing to employ an openly gay player,” Silver writes. At the same time, he adds, Collins’s coming-out is a braver move than it would have been if he were assured of a job next season.
To read up on another point of interest about Collins, that he wore number 98 in honor of Matthew Shepard and the Trevor Project, click here.