Brooklyn Nets center Jason Collins, the first openly gay player in NBA history, announced his retirement via a first-person essay which will appear in the Nov. 24 issue of Sports Illustrated.
Jason Collins is retiring from the NBA.
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Collins is making the announcement via a first-person essay which will appear in the Nov. 24 issue of Sports Illustrated:
"It has been 18 exhilarating months since I came out in Sports Illustrated as the first openly gay man in one of the four major professional team sports. And it has been nine months since I signed with the Nets and became the first openly gay male athlete to appear in a game in one of those leagues. If feels wonderful to have been part of these milestones for sports and for gay rights, and to have been embraced by the public, the coaches, the players, the league and history.
"On Wednesday at the Barclays Center, I plan to announce my retirement as an NBA player. The day will be especially meaningful for me because the Nets will be playing the (Milwaukee) Bucks, who are coached by Jason Kidd, my former teammate and my coach in Brooklyn. It was Jason who cheered my decision to come out by posting on Twitter: 'Jason's sexuality doesn't change the fact that he is a great friend and was a great teammate.'
"Considering all the speculation about problems I might face within the locker room, Jason's support was significant. It has been argued that no team would want to take on a player who was likely to attract a media circus from the outset and whose sexuality would be a distraction. I'm happy to have helped put those canards to rest. The much-ballyhooed media blitz to cover me unscrambled so quickly that a flack jokingly nicknamed me Mr. Irrelevant.
"Among the memories I will cherish most are the warm applause I received in Los Angeles when I took the court in my Nets debut, and the standing ovation I got at my first home game in Brooklyn. It shows how far we've come. The most poignant moment came at my third game, in Denver, where I met the family of Matthew Shepard, a gay college student beaten to death in a 1998 hate crime on the outskirts of Laramie, Wyo. For the past two years I have worn number 98 on my jersey to honor his memory. I was humbled to learn that number 98 jerseys became the top seller at NBAstore.com. Proceeds from sales, and from auctioned jerseys I wore in games, were donated to two gay rights charities.
"There are still no publicly gay players in the NFL, NHL or major league baseball. Believe me: they exist. Every pro sport has them. I know some of them personally. When we get to the point where a gay pro athlete is no longer forced to live in fear that he'll be shunned by teammates or outed by tabloids, when we get to the point where he plays while his significant other waits in the family room, when we get to the point where he's not compelled to hide his true self and is able to live an authentic life, then coming out won't be such a big deal. But we're not there yet."
NetsDaily.com's Tom Lorenzo chimes in on Collins' retirement:
"It's a fantastic piece, where Collins talks about how he hid his sexuality from his teammates, how he spent lonely nights in hotel rooms watching TV, while on the road, because he didn't want to go out on the town and be something he wasn't. He also talks about the time Tim Hardaway called him to tell him he was proud of him, and his interactions with President Obama.
"Collins then goes into the conversations he had with his former teammate and then head coach of the Nets, Jason Kidd, who who was vocal in signing Collins to his first 10-day contract.
"Kidd played an important role in Collins being with the Nets last season, as the first openly gay active player in the history of the NBA, and on a night in which Kidd returns to Brooklyn to face the Nets, Collins announces his retirement.
"Best of luck in whatever it is you decide to do, Mr. Collins. I suspect you have greater things left to accomplish off the basketball court, and I know we at NetsDaily are looking forward in following your post-NBA career."
The 35-year-old Collins averaged 3.5 points, 3.7 rebounds and 0.9 assists in 735 career games for the then-New Jersey Nets, Memphis Grizzlies, Minnesota Timberwolves, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Washington Wizards and Brooklyn Nets, per ESPN stats.
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