Former Brooklyn Nets forward Jason Collins announced his impending retirement from the NBA on Wednesday. Collins, 35, became the league's first openly gay player in 2014, nearly a year after he publicly acknowledged his sexuality in a column for Sports Illustrated.
“I have been an openly gay man for approximately three percent of my life. I have been a professional basketball player for almost half of it,” Collins wrote in a column for The Players’ Tribune Wednesday announcing his retirement. “In order to understand why I am so lucky to be sitting here today as a person who is finally comfortable in his own skin, you need to understand how basketball saved me. I needed to live the past few years as an openly gay basketball player in order to be at peace retiring today.”
Collins plans to formally announce his retirement at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn ahead of Wednesday night’s game with the Milwaukee Bucks. Milwaukee’s head coach, Jason Kidd, was Collins’ longtime teammate on the Nets in the early 2000s. Kidd was also responsible for offering Collins his first contract after he announced that he was gay – a 10-day deal signed in February 2014. In another column for Sports Illustrated Wednesday, Collins praised Kidd for publicly supporting him after the announcement.
He also discussed the status of gay athletes in professional sports and how they are perceived by other athletes. “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 wrote.
Collins spent 22 games with the Nets during the 2013-14 NBA season, averaging 7.8 minutes and 1.1 points per game. He did not sign with an NBA team this season prior to his retirement. The seven-footer spent 13 years in the NBA.