Last night when the Brooklyn Nets had put the finishing touches on the heist of the Chicago Bulls’ four game winning streak with about three minutes left in the game. There was a loud chant from the sellout crowd in the Barclay Center. Jason Collins! Jason Collins! When Jason Kidd had him go in to sub out Deron Williams for the rest of the night, the crowd went nuts. This was the first home game for Jason Collins after being back in the NBA for a week as the first openly gay player. He had signed a 10-day contract that is supposed to expire today. According to reports he will be signed to another 10 day contract. He has played in all five games since he was signed February 23.
He didn’t do much in this game basketball wise, believe me. He committed a foul five seconds in, almost shot an airball, had one rebound and one steal. But for this night, he probably did something that if you paid attention something that a lot of people, gay or straight have even accomplished in their lifetime. Be cool and comfortable with who he is.
When he was in the league prior, I’m not going to lie with the numbers he put up, I thought he was a seven-foot stiff that fit the stereotype…You can’t coach seven feet! Outside of being drafted out of Stanford with his twin brother, it looked like that was going to be his claim to fame. The road he was on was a career journeyman one. Upon learning the game, I realized how well he plays defense. He plays hard leaning on the opposing center and if he got beat, he’d foul his opponent hard and send him to the line. If you think that was not effective ask Dwight Howard. That strategy gave him fits. Some teams have players who’s role is to give hard fouls and provide the strong message in the middle that no easy baskets will be allowed. That was his role then. Believe me that’s his role now. He probably has more personal fouls and points right now. I know he did last night.
I learned from someone who taught me that you deal with everyone as an individual. You judge a person by their character and not their lifestyle. That’s the message Jason Collins is trying to get across. In 1993, I remember I was in the United States Coast Guard boot camp in Cape May, New Jersey. Our company commander was sitting at a table with me and five other recruits. Somehow the conversation went to gays in the military. At the time the military had a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. He asked us all one question that sticks with me to this day over twenty years later. He asked us “If you were in the field and the enemy had a gun to your head and a gay soldier was the only one who could save your life, would you accept his help? Would you care about his sexuality? Well that logic is what the Brooklyn Nets and a lot of NBA players past and present believe right now. They don’t care about his lifestyle. They care if Jason Collins can still play basketball and the Nets care if he can help them get in the playoffs. To all the naysayers out there, if your team was up by one in the seventh game of the NBA Finals and the opposing team was going for the game winning basket and Jason Collins was the only one that could stop him from scoring and winning the title, would you care?
If you are new to this website, I am one of those writers that is not known for bedside manner. I tell it like it is. Let me tell you this. One day I will be able to write… Oh my god! Jason Collins came into the game and didn’t score a point, fouled a guy five seconds into the game, why is this guy on the floor right now? Put him on the bench! I SHOULD be able to write this without his lifestyle being a factor in any way. The day I CAN write that without anyone thinking about his lifestyle, will be the day Jason Collins legacy will be cemented in sports history. That will be the day he will be truly be treated like everyone else. I hope and pray that day comes soon. Congratulations on your second 10 day contract, Mr. Collins. Much respect.