Jason Collins has decided to retire, detailing his thoughts in a first-person account for Sports Illustrated. Collins made history last season as the first openly gay athlete to play in either the NBA, National Football League or Major League Baseball. The 35-year-old veteran of 13 NBA seasons will make a formal announcement today at the Barclays Center, as he writes in his essay for the magazine.
Collins spent the second half of last season with the Nets, who signed him in February to the first of a pair of 10-day contracts before inking him on March 15th for the rest of the season. The 7’0″ center cites the support of Jason Kidd as key to his tenure, as he writes in Sports Illustrated, and Collins presumably chose to make his announcement today in Brooklyn to coincide with Kidd’s return there for the first time as Bucks coach after he coached the Nets last year.
Kidd put Collins into 22 games last year, including one start, but he saw just 7.8 minutes per appearance, and he didn’t make it into any of Brooklyn’s postseason contests. Collins said in May that he wasn’t sure he wanted to continue his playing career, and an August report indicated that he would likely walk away from the professional game.
Collins came out as a homosexual after the 2012/13 season, one in which he played 38 games split between the Celtics and Wizards. He languished as a free agent throughout the summer and well into the season as speculation swirled about whether any team would sign him and invite the media attention that would follow. Such worries turned out to be unfounded as his presence on the Nets largely became an afterthought soon after the team signed him, as Collins details in a longer piece on his retirement for The Players’ Tribune.
He was never a household name throughout the majority of his playing career despite having played a prominent role on back-to-back Eastern Conference championship teams with the Nets in 2001/02 and 2002/03. Collins didn’t make it back to the Finals after doing so the first two years of his career, but he became well-known to NBA front offices as a rugged defender capable of going toe-to-toe with the league’s elite inside scorers. He played for the Grizzlies, Timberwolves and Hawks in addition to his time with the Nets, Celtics and Wizards, averaging 3.6 points and 3.7 rebounds in 20.4 minutes per game over his 13 seasons, numbers that belied his work on the defensive end. The Arn Tellem client collected nearly $34.2MM in salary as an NBA player, according to Basketball-Reference.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.