We Never Really Knew Jason Collins. I Can’t Wait to Get the Chance. | Truth About It.net

We Never Really Knew Jason Collins. I Can’t Wait to Get the Chance.

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Updated: April 30, 2013

 

[Jason Collins on the day he arrived in Washington after being traded to the Wizards from the Boston Celtics.]

He came to D.C. in a bizarre midseason trade, played all of six games, and scored a mere four points.

The most ever written about him on this site, until today: 128 words, in a recap of game 82.

Yet Jason Collins is destined to be the most remarkable unremarkable Wizard of all-time.

(And for a star-crossed franchise that’s boasted a constellation of characters, from a rising Gilbert Arenas to a fading Michael Jordan to a…whatever-the-heck Ledell Eackles was… well, that’s saying something.)

Collins announced that he was gay in a self-authored Sports Illustrated piece on Monday morning, and within minutes, teammates from across his career were offering their support.

 

 

“We are extremely proud of Jason,” said Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld, on behalf of the team. “He has been a leader on and off the court and an outstanding teammate throughout his NBA career.”

Winding path to Washington

Since graduating from Stanford in 2001, Collins has played for six NBA teams, counting the Wizards. That’s something I knew without a visit to Basketball-Reference.com; as a guy who was lucky enough to spend a little time on Stanford’s campus, I’ve followed Collins’ career a bit more closely than most.

Back in 2001, I arrived in Palo Alto a few days before Collins and his brother formally left. Watching that summer’s NBA draft in a Stanford dorm room, we pondered where the twins would fall on the league’s list of brother combos. (Accurate prediction: Below Horace and Harvey Grant, although well above Ed and Charles O’Bannon.)

So once Collins joined the Wizards, I’d always meant to talk to him—I even wore my Stanford sweatshirt to the locker room at one point—but think we said all of three words to each other, mostly because Collins played so little and was never around.

Of course, a lot of folks who covered the team, much more closely than me, are wishing they’d talked just a bit more with Collins before this week.

It’s not uncommon to ask players why they wear certain numbers; I wonder if Collins would’ve been ready to tell us the reasons behind choosing #98. (Update: Via the Washington Post‘s Dan Steinberg, he wasn’t.) I remember being in the Wizards locker room when a reporter was quizzing players about whether they’d be OK with a gay teammate. Would Collins have felt OK answering that, or would it have come too close to the mask he felt he needed to wear?

Now there’s a whole new batch of questions facing Collins. The practical: The Wizards got him as a throw-in; will he stay in a Washington uniform–or any uniform–next year? The cynical: Will teams that are chasing a title welcome his leadership and courage, or want to avoid the potential media distraction?

And the inspirational: Did he ever, in his darkest days, think that a moment like this was in his future?

But those answers can wait a bit. Twenty-four hours after his announcement, the only conversation needs to be about the conversation that Collins wants to start.

Meanwhile, ESPN.com moved the Collins story out of front-and-center position to its sidebar by early Monday evening, returning to the business of covering the NBA playoffs.

So perhaps that was the most remarkable part of a memorable Monday: on a day when Jason Collins made history, we can relish just how unremarkable the news actually felt.


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