For starters, as it’s been said ad nauseum, Collins is getting all of this attention based on the technicality that he’s an active player. To me, it’s semantics. He’s not officially retired, therefore you have to deem him an active player. But even a fan like me had no idea he was even a free agent. I don’t want to take away from the courage that it took for him, as a gay black man, to come out and express that you can be homosexual and be masculine. I do wonder what this means for him, and players like him, in the near future as it relates to being professional athletes.
Be that as it may, I don’t see Collins being on a roster next season for the following reasons:
1) Fans are very fickle. The media is trying
(and sort of failing) to prop Collins up as a figurehead for other closeted athletes. Digital media has created this reliance on microwaveable “stars” who aren’t actually famous. When the story lines have stopped coming, people forget. Take example Kris Humphries; prior to him dating Kim Kardashian, few could pick him out of a line up of other light-skinned basketball players. People began to care more about him and his life when the 2 became an item. If you remove Kardashian from the limelight, Humphries’s ho-hum life is just that. Jason Collins is clearly a very private and reserved person. So unless he starts dating another athlete or a semi-famous guy, the hype behind him right now isn’t going to sustain itself to be enough for a team to want that extra press.
2) The NBA’s inside game has changed. Collins came into the league where guys like Shaq, Big Z, Mutombo, and David Robinson were formidable pure centers down low. In fact, Collins gave Shaq a lot of problems in the early 2000s. However, now the NBA bigs are extremely athletic and versatile. They’re not just posting up and backing down counterparts with their size. Marc Gasol, Tyson Chandler, Tim Duncan, Joakim Noah, and to a certain extent, Dwight Howard are all centers who can knock down shots 12 feet away from the basket. Collins’s ability to defend those type of dynamic centers just isn’t there. In fact, he’d probably be more of a defensive liability than a help.
3) His age. Now, as a Knicks fan, ageism isn’t an excuse. Kenyon Martin, Rasheed Wallace and Marcus Camby have been huge playmakers in the absence of Amare Stoudemire. Their tenacious defense and ability to finish at the rim has been instrumental in the epic season the Knicks have had. Yes, Collins was good enough to play in the NBA. That inherently quantifies him as a great basketball player. But in reality, we all know he’s not that good.
4) He shouldn’t want a sympathy spot. Refer to #3. I’m all for giving athletes a chance to prove their worth and fight for a spot on a roster. Although he played for the Celtics, I didn’t see any of Collins playing time. Looking at the sheer physicality of the sport, can his body take the grind of an 82 game schedule? Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan are in damn good shape for their respective ages. Duncan averaged 33 minutes per game in the regular season. Garnett averaged 35 minutes per game in the Knicks series alone! Collins averages less than 21 minutes for his career. Unless he can be a true role player for a team needing a veteran, he shouldn’t just take a job for the sake of making a statement.
5) Him coming might not have the effect people want it to have. As I said, I don’t want to take diminish the courage Collins displayed by coming out on his terms and when he was ready. But this now has people wanting the next gay player coming out to be someone of notoriety. It’s actually a little disturbing to me that people bank the future of homosexual athletes being comfortably out on 1 marquee player essentially putting his brand on the line. I have an issue with those who say “it won’t matter until somebody A-list comes out.” It shouldn’t have to be that way. Athletes are public figures and by virtue, have a lot of influence of the younger generation. So by Collins taking the proverbial 1st step, it’s like people are waiting with an awkward anticipation.
I think the focus should be on acceptance from those who aren’t gay. The idealism of Jason Collins’s announcement is set up to be an example of organizational and professional tolerance. However, tolerance is not the same as acceptance. It’ll be very telling to see what happens with this story over the summer, especially with David Stern being a lame-duck commissioner now.