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Jason Collins, First Openly Gay NBA Player, Announces Retirement

The NBA’s first openly gay player, Jason Collins, has announced his retirement from the league. Collins played for six teams in his 13-year NBA career, he averaged 3.6 points and 3.7 rebounds per game for his career. Collins talked about what the NBA lifestyle was like as a gay man and how it affected him. Via The Player’s Tribune: 

Today, I am retiring from the NBA after 13 seasons. Most people reading this probably don’t know me from SportsCenter. Most people know me as “the gay basketball player.” 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.

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. Why? It starts on a bus and ends on a plane.

“Hey Jason … Jason! How come we never see you with any women? Are you gay?”

The team bus was uncomfortably silent. Everybody from the front of the bus to the back heard the question. It wasn’t the first time something like this had happened. In sports, guys bust each other’s balls all the time. I had been asked that question a few different times by teammates in my previous years in the league, but this time was different. Whenever guys would go out on the town on road trips, I always had a built-in excuse—a trip to a local casino or a visit to a family friend or a college buddy in that city who I had to go see. Sometimes those friends were real. Sometimes I made them up and would sit alone in the hotel watching TV while the guys went out to enjoy the nightlife.

It was a lonely experience, even when I was around other people. It was always mentally draining, because I always had to be on, 24/7. Whenever I went out to dinner with teammates, I became especially skilled at steering any conversation away from the personal and back to the realm of sports or entertainment. After a while, guys just know you as the vet who loves to talk basketball. When you go to a new team, you have to create that character all over again.

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