Jason Collins was an All-American basketball player his senior year at Stanford University and was drafted by the Houston Rockets as the 18th overall pick in the 2001 NBA draft. A powerful, 7-foot center, Collins was a defensive powerhouse, the most aggressive player on the team. He would later equate this need for physicality with the desire to keep the truth about his sexuality hidden. Not knowing how people would react in both his personal and professional life, Collins would play most of his professional basketball career without acknowledging he was gay. During the NBA lockout in 2011, Collins realized once his career was over he would need other options which is why he gradually let close relatives and friends know of his sexual orientation. He began hiding in plain sight with the choice of his jersey number, 98, an homage to college student Matthew Shepard who in 1998, was murdered for being gay. Collins said he “wanted to acknowledge this new identity that I was becoming more and more comfortable with. So, each time that I put on my jersey, whether it be a practice or a game, I was wearing jersey No. 98.” It wasn’t until April of 2013, that Collins became the first male athlete in any of the four major sports to announce he was gay. He became a free agent three months later and was picked up in February of 2014 by the Brooklyn Nets where Collins would finish his career having played 13 years in the NBA. Collins now serves as an NBA ambassador and is an involved gay rights activist. This away game jersey were donated by The Washington Wizards shortly after Collins made his historic announcement. While Collins will be celebrated for his successful basketball career he will be most remembered as a bringing much needed openness and change to the stereotypical team sport model.
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