Jason Paul Collins (1978- )

Jason Collins, March 15, 2014
Courtesy Keith Allison (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Jason Collins, a National Basketball Association center, made history in May 2013 by becoming the first professional athlete in a major American team sport to reveal his homosexuality in an interview which appeared in Sports Illustrated magazine.

The oldest by eight minutes, Jason and his twin brother Jarron were born in Northridge, California to Paul and Portia Collins on December 2, 1978.  Jason and Jarron graduated from Los Angeles-based Harvard-Westlake School, a co-educational university preparatory day school, in 1997. They also attended Stanford University, graduating in 2001 where Jason earned All-American honors. In August 2013, three months after publicly revealing his sexual orientation, Collins was among the first class of inductees into the National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame.

Collins joined the NBA in 2001 when he was a first-round draft pick (18th overall) by the New Jersey Nets.  He played with the Nets until 2008 when a series of trades moved him around the league.  He played with the Memphis Grizzlies in 2008, the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2008-2009, the Atlanta Hawks from 2009 to 2012, and the Boston Celtics in 2012-2013. He was picked up by the Washington Wizards in 2013 but became a free agent in July 2013.  Since his declaration of his sexual orientation, Collins has not been signed to any other NBA team.

Collins’ aunt Teri Jackson, the first female African-American Superior Court Judge in San Francisco, was also the first person to learn about his revelation, but as it turned out, she already knew, and persuaded him to come out to the rest of the family, including a gay uncle and Jarron. After the initial shock, Jason was embraced and supported by his family, NBA commissioner David Sterne, and a few fellow NBA players such as Kobe Bryant. He also garnered support from President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and ex-President Bill Clinton whose daughter Chelsea was a classmate of Collins’ at Stanford University.

While it was not his goal to become the first openly gay athlete, Collins was encouraged to go public when his friend and old Stanford roommate Joe Kennedy, a Massachusetts congressman, marched in Boston’s 2012 Gay Pride Parade. The other reason was the pain he felt by concealing his orientation for his entire life and having to live with what he called “a lie.” Collins was in an eight-year relationship with WNBA center Carolyn Moos and the two were engaged to be married, but Collins broke it off in 2009. Moos says she was unaware of Collins’ sexual orientation.  Currently, Collins is single and lives in Washington, D.C.