theGrio’s 100: Jason Collins, breaking barriers as NBA’s first openly gay active athlete

Who is Jason Collins?

Standing at 7 feet tall and with a wingspan that’s almost as long, Jason Collins has skillfully played defense against some of the most imposing basketball players in the NBA. After graduating from Stanford University alongside his twin brother Jarron, Collins was drafted by the New Jersey Nets where he helped the team make it to back-to-back NBA finals in 2002 and 2003. He was later traded and went on to build an impressive resume on notable basketball teams including the Memphis Grizzlies, Minnesota Timberwolves, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards.

Why is he on theGrio’s 100?

Collins made headlines this year when he became the first openly gay active American athlete in a professional sports league.  Collins revealed the news in a piece he penned in Sports Illustrated, which opened with “I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.”

His honest letter recounts his journey of self-discovery, self-acknowledgment and self-acceptance and the courage he found along the way to share it. Collins’ reveal drew the support of many on social media including that of fellow NBA stars including Kobe Bryant, Tony Parker, Steve Nash, among others. President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama also praised his courage.

In his SI piece, Collins wrote: “I want to do the right thing and not hide anymore. I want to march for tolerance, acceptance and understanding. I want to take a stand and say, ‘Me, too.’”

What’s next for Collins?

When announcing his homosexuality to the public, Collins also revealed that he decided on becoming a free agent. Now, he hopes that his 12 years in the league and his modest career statistics will land him on an NBA team.

However, basketball aside, Collins has continued to receive an outpouring of support from many members in the community – they have lauded his bravery and wish him all the best in achieving happiness in both his personal and professional lives.