NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Veteran NBA center Jason Collins is a groundbreaker in every sense of the word, coming out last year as the first openly gay player in any of the four major American professional leagues.
And now he’s one of TIME Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People.”
TIME revealed its annual list this week, with Collins in the “Pioneers” section among the likes of outspoken Seattle Seahawks star Richard Sherman, stem-cell researcher Robert Lanza and SEC chairwoman Mary Jo White.
Collins’ testimonial was written by Chelsea Clinton, who said she met the Brooklyn Nets center in their first year at Stanford.
“Not surprisingly, the first thing I noticed was his height,” wrote Clinton, whose famous mother, Hillary, also made the list. “The second thing I noticed was his kindness off the court — and his fierceness on it. Kindness to his friends, his family and fans. Fierceness in his drive to win. Jason has always been focused on others, on what’s right for those he loves, and on helping those whose jersey is the same as his.”
The 7-footer said March 4 on WFAN radio that his teammates have been nothing short of great.
“My life is just so much better,” he told WFAN’s Marc Malusis. “Living an authentic life and being accepted for who I am, it’s been terrific.”
Collins, 35, came out last April, after ending the regular season with the Washington Wizards, in a first-person account for Sports Illustrated. He made history again 10 months later when he signed with the Nets, becoming the NBA’s first openly gay active player.
Missouri defensive end Michael Sam, poised to become the NFL’s first gay player, came out in February and is projected to be picked in the mid- to late-rounds of next month’s draft. UMass basketball player Derrick Gordon followed suit two weeks ago.
“Jason’s kindness and fierceness alike derive from that word too often bandied about and too rarely true: integrity,” Clinton wrote in TIME. “Jason has always maintained he’s first a basketball player. He is. But he’s also a leader and an inspiration. For Michael Sam, Derrick Gordon and others whose names we may never know. And also for those of us lucky enough to be fans — or to call him our friend.”
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