EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — If Jason Collins doesn't become the first openly gay active player in NBA history this season, it won't be because he didn't work hard enough to attain that goal.
The veteran center's twin brother said Thursday that Jason has trained feverishly in his native Los Angeles the past few months in hopes of earning a contract offer for the upcoming NBA season. Jason has supplemented his usual offseason weightlifting and plyometrics regimen with long runs in the mountains and wind sprints while wearing a 30-pound weight vest.
"I know it's a cliche to say he's in the best shape of his life, but I really think Jason is," former NBA center Jarron Collins said while working at the West Coast Conference's Tip-Off Luncheon. "He's at five percent body fat. He's as strong as he has ever been. He continues to train and work out. If the opportunity presents itself, he'll be ready to go."
Many were optimistic Jason would make an NBA roster this fall when he announced that he's gay on the pages of Sports Illustrated in late April, but the odds look more bleak now than they did back then. No NBA team has extended the 34-year-old 12-year veteran a training camp invite or contract offer and the season tips off Tuesday night.
Some believe the lack of NBA interest is a result of Jason's advancing age and declining skill level. Others think NBA teams fear the relentless media attention Jason's presence will cause will outweigh any contributions he makes as a situational player off the bench. Jarron is hesitant to speculate, but he's hopeful the reason his brother is still a free agent has nothing to do with sexual orientation.
"I'm always optimistic," Jarron said. "I always want to think the best of people. Whether it's a question of age, performance or something else, those questions are better for the front office folks."
One of the reasons Jason's decision to come out received so much attention in late April was because he was the first professional athlete in a major sport to reveal he was gay before retiring. Other openly gay professional athletes like ex-NBA player John Amaechi all came out long after their careers were over.
Would it diminish Jason's impact if he were to never play an NBA game as an openly gay man? Jarron pauses to reflect a few seconds before giving his opinion.
"The only thing that can answer that question is time," Jarron said. "It will be a lot easier to answer that looking back from the future.
"I will say this: My brother came out for himself and he has become a symbol for others. I would love for him to get an opportunity to play for who he is as a basketball player. If it means more to others for other reasons, then so be it."
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