"I wish I wasn't the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, ‘I'm different.' If I had my way, someone else would have already done this," Jason Collins said in his Sports Illustrated essay. "Nobody has, which is why I'm raising my hand."
Nobody has, but I'll be the first. Sounds like a maverick.
That's not to say Collins' accomplishments as a professional are on par with the aforementioned names. If O'Connor were the judicial equivalent of a 3.6 points-per-game center, I doubt Ronald Reagan would have tabbed her for the Supreme Court.
Amid the praise and scrutiny of his decision to come out, Collins should be noted for his basketball abilities. The first openly gay, active athlete in U.S. major professional sports history is also one of the best hoops players in Stanford history.
Over 12 seasons, he's played in 713 career regular-season NBA games. Among Cardinal alumni, only Brevin Knight (729) has more experience.
With Jason Kidd and Richard Jefferson leading the way, he helped the New Jersey Nets win the Eastern Conference his rookie year and joined a short list of Stanford products with NBA Finals experience. Beyond Adam Keefe and Mark Madsen, you have to go way back to Jim Pollard (Minneapolis Lakers) and George Yardley (Fort Wayne Pistons), in fact.
But those professional highlights have nothing on the kind of glory Stanford fans envisioned when Jason and twin brother Jarron Collins declared their college intentions. Once upon a time, Jason Collins' biggest announcement was that he wasn't going to UCLA. The Pac-10 balance of power shifted directly in the Cardinal's favor once the Collins clones, the pride of Harvard-Westlake School, headed north.
It all seemed like it would culminate in something truly remarkable by 1999-2000, when Stanford earned the program's first No. 1 ranking as the pair finally played a full season together (injuries curtailed Jason's first two years).
That 2000 season offered a glimpse into the college basketball future. With high school stars filling NBA rosters, great teams existed only in record books as NCAA Tournament results shredded experts' brackets like a woodchipper.
What if you heard, back then, that the Final Four would include two No. 8 seeds and a school known more (at the time) for SEC football? That a 2000 Rose Bowl participant would punch its ticket? You couldn't help but envision Stanford, with Collins leading the nation's best defense, collecting a national championship.
But it wasn't meant to be, not after Casey Jacobsen, Madsen and the Collins twins combined for a measly 22 points against North Carolina in round two. The stage was set for the team's high-profile members to achieve something great, just not a showdown against Mateen Cleaves.
Madsen now is an assistant coach at Stanford. By 2004, point guard Michael McDonald appeared prominently in an NCAA ad campaign whose tagline now applies perfectly to a former teammate.
"Almost all us are going pro in something other than sports."
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