Longtime NBA big man Jason Collins announced his retirement from the NBA on Wednesday in a personal column for Sports Illustrated. The first openly gay athlete in one of the four major American sports leagues after coming out roughly 18 months ago, Collins now calls it quits after 13 years as an NBA journeyman.
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 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.'
Collins, 35, last played under Kidd last season with the Brooklyn Nets. He only appeared in 22 games, mostly getting garbage minutes on a playoff contender, but became prominent around the country after announcing his sexuality in an SI article last year.
With that announcement, Collins became the first openly gay athlete actively playing in one of the four major American sports leagues. He's since become one of the most public supporters of gay athletes in professional sports, using his platform to increase awareness and encourage a more inclusive environment for all people.
Now Collins heads into his post-playing life, but not before reflecting on some career highlights in his retirement announcement. The most important one involves wearing the No. 98 after meeting the family of Matthew Shepard, a gay college student who was beaten to death in a 1998 hate crime in Wyoming.
Collins doesn't specify what he plans to do now that he's prepared to leave professional basketball behind, but one imagines he'll continue to be an important, outspoken public figure in the gay rights movement.
Over 13 NBA seasons, Collins averaged 3.6 points and 3.7 rebounds in 735 games for the Nets, Hawks, Celtics, Timberwolves, Grizzlies and Wizards. He appeared in back-to-back NBA Finals with New Jersey in 2002-03, but never won a ring.