slam dunk

How Jason Collins changed the game for LGBTQ athletes and became a living legend

If there are three things Jason Collins knows how to beat, it’s basketball, homophobia, and, as it turns out, COVID-19.

In March 2020, the retired NBA star revealed that he and his boyfriend, Brunson Green, had contracted the virus while visiting New York in early March. Collins was there to serve as special guest of Brooklyn’s Pride Night game against the Grizzlies, when he learned several players later tested positive. 

“That’s when we connected the dots that we have it,” Collins told the New York Daily News, before describing the symptoms that came along with it. “It felt like I got punched by Mike Tyson. Like Mike Tyson in his prime, right in the heart.”

Collins and his boyfriend eventually beat the virus. But more noteworthy than his recovery is Collins’ role within the LGBTQ community.

In 2013, Collins made history when he came out in an issue of Sports Illustrated. The move cemented his role as the NBA’s first openly gay player–at least publicly. 

“There are still no publicly gay players in the NFL, NHL, or major league baseball. Believe me: They exist. Every pro sport has them. I know some of them personally.” he famously shared in 2014.

“When we get to the point where a gay pro athlete is no longer forced to live in fear that he’ll be shunned by teammates or outed by tabloids, when we get to the point where he plays while his significant other waits in the family room, when we get to the point where he’s not compelled to hide his true self and is able to live an authentic life, then coming out won’t be such a big deal. But we’re not there yet.”

Collins’ coming out was met with hundreds of messages of support from other pro athletes… along with Oprah Winfrey and Barack Obama, no bd.

Though he has since retired from the NBA, Collins uses his platform to fight for justice and equality both within sports and the LGBTQ community.

According to OutSports, the NBA donated $100k+ to GLSEN and the Matthew Shepard Foundation because of him. He also continues to work with the NBA to speak out against relevant social issues, like bullying among LGBTQ youth.

But most importantly, Collins has changed the game (puns are fun, okay?!) when it comes to LGBTQ players in sports. He has opened the doors for many others to live authentically. 

Since him, pro athletes such as Michael Sam, Robbie Rogers, and many more have all come out. Not to mention, he is living proof that playing sports and being LGBTQ does not have to be mutually exclusive. Now that’s a slam dunk in itself, is it not?  Welcome to the Pride50, Jason!

Queerty’s Editorial Director Chris Bull got the chance to talk with Collins about Pride50 and so much more. Here’s what he had to say:

Pride50Welcome to Queerty’s Pride50. We’re celebrating the members from our community who are responsible for some of the most inspiring and extraordinary moments for LGBTQ people over the last year. See all the honorees