NEW YORK (AP/CBS) — Jason Collins, the NBA’s first openly gay player, announced his retirement on Wednesday.
The 35-year-old Collins played 22 games with the Brooklyn Nets last season and was not on the roster this season.
He announced his retirement in a first-person story for Sports Illustrated, saying it has “been 18 exhilarating months” since he came out as the first openly gay man in one of the four major North American professional leagues.
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.
Collins started his career with the New Jersey Nets in 2001 and rejoined the franchise in Brooklyn in February. He had a number of former teammates on the Brooklyn team, including former coach Jason Kidd. He thanked Kidd for his support in his retirement announcement, “considering all the speculation about problems I might face within the locker room.” Collins says he’s “happy to have helped put those canards to rest.”
Collins came out in a Sports Illustrated article back in April 2013. After being drafted 18th overall by the Houston Rockets in 2001 out of Stanford, Collins played 13 NBA seasons for the New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets, Atlanta Hawks, Memphis Grizzlies, Boston Celtics, Minnesota Timberwolves and Washington Wizards.
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