About a year ago, I found an interview with an end-of-the-bench big who had just been traded. It caught my eye because of the frankness and wit of the player involved. He said that what kept him in the league was his ability to give fouls, and said he chose his number to make the refs hold up a lot of fingers. I don’t think I ended up including it in my blog, but it stuck with me nonetheless.
That player was Jason Collins. Turned out he was lying about the reason he wore his number. Today, he signed with the Nets, and announced he’d be keeping his number.
— Mike Mazzeo (@MazzESPN) February 23, 2014
He’ll be following in the footsteps of Glenn Burke, who was out with his teammates, though not the general public. Burke was a talented outfielder coming up in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ minor league system in the 70s, but after some initial struggles, was traded to Oakland, allegedly because of his sexuality. Burke died of AIDS in 1995.
Collins will also be following in the footsteps of soccer player Justin Fashanu, who is maybe the most tragic story in the sad history of gay athletes. He came out in the British press in 1990, and it ruined his soccer career (no English team offered him a full-time contract afterwards) and life (his brother disowned him). Fashanu committed suicide in 1997.It’s been 24 years since Fashanu came out, and even longer since Burke played in the majors. And now Jason Collins is about to play in the NBA. He’s not going to change the course of a franchise, but he could show us how far we’ve come as a society in the last 25 years. As basketball fans, as people who love the game, as people in general, let’s not let Collins’ story go the same as Fashanu’s and Burke’s. For the sake of future gay athletes, players like Michael Sam, who will enter the NFL draft in a few weeks, it’s time to show that the world has changed for the better.Here’s the story on Collins’ signing, via Adrian Wojnarowski and Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports:
Jason Collins signed a 10-day contract with the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday, clearing the way for the first openly gay athlete in major professional sports history. The story was first reported by Yahoo SportsCollins will be available to play on Sunday when the Nets meet the Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center.
“Jason told us that his goal was to earn another contract with an NBA team. [Sunday], I want to commend him on achieving his goal,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in an issued statement. “I know everyone in the NBA family is excited for him and proud that our league fosters an inclusive and respectful environment.”
CLIPPERS SIGN GLEN DAVIS
What made Collins signing with the Nets possible was the domino that fell earlier: the recently bought-out Davis turning down the Nets to go to Los Angeles. Collins was next on their list. Unlike the Collins signing, this one is purely significant for basketball reasons.
Doc: “It gives us another big and what I like about a guy like that is he can play a five with a four… he also knows my system.”
— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) February 23, 2014
Davis is just the first in a line of players on losing teams getting their deals bought out and signing with contenders. Any such deals would have to happen before March 1 for the players to be playoff eligible. Danny Granger could be next:
Word is Danny Granger buyout in Philly is a distinct possibility, but trade isn’t even official yet so nothing imminent.
— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) February 23, 2014
Davis’ 13.9 PER is probably the best of any March 1 buyout candidate. That’s a slightly below average mark, but as a backup big, especially on the frontcourt-starved Clips, that’s more than good enough.
The next best player who could be bought out is Caron Butler, who has been less than thrilled to play in Milwaukee after spending last season with Chris Paul in Lob City. Unfortunately for Butler, none of the major contenders need veteran help at the wing, with Houston adding Jordan Hamilton recently.
Metta World Peace, Beno Udrih, and Roger Mason all have been bought out, or will be soon, but none of them seem like they’d be great fits with contenders after Udrih and Metta bombed in New York and Mason barely saw the court in Miami.
In essence, Davis was the big prize, and he’s gone now. Granger might not get bought out, since the Sixers would have to forfeit any sign-and-trade options for him this summer if they bought him out, but if he does, he could be interesting to a team that needs outside shooting. The Heat could be a fit, and the Grizzlies never seem satisfied with their shooters either.
Dan Malone is in his fourth year as a journalism student at the University of King’s College in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and spent this summer as a features intern at the Cape Cod Times. He blogs, edits and learns things on the fly for Sheridan Hoops. Follow him on Twitter.