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Ball Don't Lie

Jason Collins discusses coming out with ABC; TNT crew, Stern, others react to announcement

Dan Devine
Ball Don't Lie

Jason Collins' Monday announcement that he is gay sparked responses throughout the NBA world and beyond, and while we covered some of the immediate reactions on Monday, discussion has continued to stir and spread. Here's some things that have been said and written that might be worth your time.

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Collins reiterated that he "never set out to be the first" in a Monday interview with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos that aired during Tuesday's broadcast of "Good Morning America."

"You're sort of waiting around for somebody else to … raise their hand," he said. "I'm ready to raise my hand but, you know, you still look around like, 'OK, come on, guys.' It's time for someone else in the room to raise their hand and say, 'You know what? Yeah, so big deal. I can still play basketball. I can still help the team win, and that's what's most important.'"

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TNT commentators Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O'Neal discussed Collins' announcement prior to the network's broadcast of the Eastern Conference playoff matchup between the Brooklyn Nets and Chicago Bulls, with Barkley saying "we've all played with gay players," Smith emphasizing the role his race plays in his support for inclusion because "as an African American [...] that's the one thing that we always wanted," and O'Neal commending Collins for "his character" and for "showing us what leadership looks like."

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Later, Barkley reiterated and expanded upon his earlier comments during TNT's "Inside the NBA" broadcast:

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NBA Commissioner David Stern spoke with NBA TV's Dei Lynam about what comes next during Monday's Game 4 between the Atlanta Hawks and Indiana Pacers at Philips Arena:

"I think we're going to get past everything in a good way. It's going to become a non-issue. [Jason is] great. His family is great. He's part of our family. And after the immediate media frenzy because the media can always be depended upon for frenzy, it's going to be alright, so what and it will help the next athlete that wants to do the same thing."

On whether Collins' announcement will hinder future opportunities in the NBA:

"Oh, I don't think so. I think that our guys want to win. If he can help, he'll be signed. If it's viewed that he can't, then he won't be. But it will not be on this issue. For sure."

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Washington Wizards coach Randy Wittman, Collins' most recent coach, sums up his feelings for Dave Sheinin and Michael Lee of the Washington Post: “How I think of him doesn’t change. I still would love to have Jason part of our team. Black, white, Jewish or Christian. Religion, sex. It’s all the same. Who gives anybody the right to judge anybody?”

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But while Wittman would welcome Collins back, as CSN Washington's J. Michael notes that, as a matter of practical roster consideration, Collins and the Wizards don't seem to be a good match for next season:

None of Collins' teammates or coaches in Washington knew that he was gay, and neither did Grunfeld. While they all spoke glowingly of him, before the announcement and since, only in a worse-case scenario would the team pursue bringing back Collins.

The Wizards' starting center is Emeka Okafor and the first player to relieve him is Kevin Seraphin. With 7-foot Nene at power forward, the team has enough size. All three are under contract for next season.

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Nate Silver of the New York Times' FiveThirtyEight blog on the likelihood of Collins finding another NBA job next season, based not on his announcement, but on his relative on-court value as a 34-year-old reserve center:

Basically, we’re looking for other aging big men who mostly came off the bench, but who were deemed good enough to start on occasion.

The search identified 18 such players before last season; one of those was Mr. Collins after the 2011-12 season. How many of them played at least some minutes in the N.B.A. the following year?

Eleven of eighteen did, or 61 percent. The odds have been slightly in favor of their extending their careers, in other words — but they are also treated as expendable commodities.

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Tennis legend Martina Navratilova, who came out as a lesbian in 1981, framed Collins' announcement in stark, bold terms during an interview with NBC's "TODAY": "There is some kid out there who is not going to commit suicide because Jason is out."

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Cyd Zeigler of Outsports.com, long one of the standard-bearers in the fight for inclusion for gay fans and athletes in sports, on what Collins' announcement means:

There's no doubt in my mind that being gay, just struggling with my sexuality and being teased for it by the other boys, kept me off the basketball court. Like many LGBT youth, I opted for individual sports — track & field and cross-country — instead.

Thanks to Collins, the young ones in Pee-Wee football today won't know a world without an openly gay male pro athlete. The teens in youth basketball, just starting to understand their own sexuality, will forever have someone to look up to, someone who looks like them. The young gay men playing college baseball today got a shot in the arm: They now know the sports world is ready for them.

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Jason Gay of the Wall Street Journal addresses those who might suggest the announcement is in some way lacking because Collins is not and has never been a star in the NBA:

Is this a big deal? Yes. Collins's decision to come forward is significant, despite efforts to diminish it by pointing to his low career scoring average or the six teams he has played for since entering the league. But Collins now owns a stat that matters. Seriously, if you're wondering why you should care, here's why: because no one has done this before.

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Bruce Arthur of the National Post takes that "no one has done this before" point and spins it forward:

In five years we’re going to be so far from here; in 20 this will feel like it happened at the dim edge of a long-ago horizon. This is moving in one direction. You Can Play has already partnered with the National Hockey League on gay issues, and will almost certainly partner with other leagues, in time. Athletes have come out in other sports, at the pro and college level, in North America and overseas. But this was a barrier, and it isn’t anymore. Collins isn’t the end point of history. He’s a beginning.

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David Roth of The Classical on how, initial surprise aside, both the nature and content of Collins' coming out fits hand-in-glove into how NBA fans have understood him for the duration of his 12-year career:

Jason Collins has faced off with Shaquille O'Neal and Tim Duncan and David Robinson in the NBA Finals and his generation's other NBA giants in games significant and insignificant, and he has not outscored or outplayed them in any of those games. Collins went into those games knowing that he would not, could not do that. He might foul them in a timely or intelligent way, or piss them off, or set good enough screens and play good enough defense to mitigate at least to some extent the inescapable physical fact that his opponents were bigger and stronger and better at basketball than him. His ability to do those things, his willingness and knack for the NBA's most rote and punishing work, has made him both professionally valuable and personally wealthy.

And if Collins' bravery today has made him an historically significant figure—and I'd argue that it has—it's worth remembering that his humble heroism is of a piece with his reliable and consistently unheroic life in basketball. Jason Collins earned both respect and a living by doing work, by pushing and fighting and fighting even when it was more or less futile, because that was his job as he understood it and because it was the way he could do it best.

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Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated on why, in its own way, the game of basketball provides the perfect setting for this sort of revelation:

Different sports foster different values that evolve into different cultures. In football, you hear about the need to be disciplined. In basketball, you hear about the need to be free. In football, players camouflage their personalities, because 11 must work as one. In basketball, players showcase their identities, because one often carries five. The institutions are as different as Tom Brady and Chris "Birdman" Andersen. "Be you," NBA coaches tell their players, a kind of league-wide mantra. Ty Lawson drives. Steph Curry shoots. Rajon Rondo passes. Tyson Chandler dunks. Only a fool would try to change them. For 12 years, Collins screened. His role might have seemed frivolous to those who didn't have to chase guards around his 7-0, 255-pound physique. Jason Kidd, Richard Jefferson and the old New Jersey Nets reached two NBA Finals bounding off those screens. Be you? "Twin," as Collins was known in Jersey, seemed like an expert. But only now has he completed the job.

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Matt Yoder of Awful Announcing responds to an NBA journalist's faith-informed statement with one of his own:

I don't write this to pile on certain people or certain viewpoints that may be viewed as antiquated. I believe the perspective widely viewed as "Christian" today on Jason Collins coming out is a misinterpretation of sin and grace. Sin is a free will choice where one turns away from God. Even if one is to unequivocally believe homosexuality is a sinful choice (a position that has not and may never be proven), one must also acknowledge that every believer sins. The wonderful freedom in being a Christian is the hope and knowledge that grace saves us from our sin because there is more grace in God than sin in us. And this entire discussion would be in a much better place if there was more grace from all 360 degrees.

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Bleacher Report's Dan Levy on one of Monday's more curious subplots — hand-wringing over the question of whether Collins' announcement justified branding him a "hero":

Jason Collins isn't the first openly gay man in America, nor is he the first openly gay athlete. He's not the first openly gay team athlete or even the first openly gay male athlete. What Jason Collins is, today and forever, is the next face in a long line of faces to make the decision that how they live their lives in private is nothing to be ashamed of in public.

Collins is a vital part of this struggle, but he isn't alone. His announcement has made sure the next athletes won't be alone either.

If that makes him a hero—like Robbie Rogers and Megan Rapinoe and Brittney Griner and John Amaechi and Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova and Greg Louganis and David Kopay and the many other athletes who came before Collins to announce they are gay—then a hero he is.

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SB Nation's Spencer Hall considers the same topic:

For someone out there, he is leading. Debate whether he's a hero or not in your world, but he's leading by example for a small subset of people who need examples, and doing so positively: with love, and work, and still more work. The two are ultimately indistinguishable when done right, and what they leave behind is the capacity to pass that work forward. I know what Jason Collins is doing, and has done, will be the work of life. I don't know what people like Broussard and Brando are doing. It might be leading, but it requires neither work nor love by any definition of either.

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Dan Steinberg of the D.C. Sports Bog details the jokes made by late-night talk-show hosts about the news of the day, which came not at Collins' expense, but rather at the Wizards'. Also, The Onion framed things nicely.

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Sports on Earth's Chuck Culpepper, who is gay, looks at how Collins' NBA role as a bringer of hard screens and tough fouls informs the "gathering detente" between popular notions of homosexuality and masculinity, and suggests not overstepping on the issue:

Still, we ought not extol the breach of stereotype at the expense of that other impossibly rugged being, the men who do fit the "stereotype." Men branded effeminate have withstood more needless, mindless crud through the years than most of the rest of us put together, weathering it through high school, college, taunts in their neighborhoods and frowns in their families. As conquerors of one of the great human fears — that of what others think — they're among the toughest sorts we've got, much tougher of hide than those who needle them.

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On the more media-centric end of the spectrum, Deadspin's John Koblin looks at how Sports Illustrated broke the story and, perhaps more interestingly, how Franz Lidz and SI got the story. (Wysh nails it, as always.) And back at SI, Lidz walks us through what Collins' Monday was like.

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The headline on this Dallas Morning News' Collins reaction piece: "Men's pro sports joins gay-rights trend." Cool story, Dallas Morning News.

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The headline on this Outsports post by guest writer Tony Jovenitti: "Jason Collins Inspires A Young Sportswriter To Come Out Of The Closet." Fantastic story, Outsports. Congratulations and best wishes, Tony.

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