On the morning of April 29, a day after the tumultuous Lakers were swept away by the Spurs and the powerhouse Heat pulled out the brooms on the Bucks, Sports Illustrated started off everyone’s day with a story that would shock the world:
Jason Collins, 12 year NBA veteran who’s set to be a free agent this summer, is gay.
“I didn't set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I'm happy to start the conversation. 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. Nobody has, which is why I'm raising my hand,” says Collins in Sports Illustrated.
Collins is the first active gay athlete, but not the first to have come out in the NBA, in fact his predecessor, John Amaechi, a former center for the Jazz in the 90’s, came out six years ago. BBC reported Amaechi had known about Collins being gay for quite some time and thinks he is the perfect spokesperson for gay athletes.
But while Collins’s responses have been mostly positive and supportive, Amaechi faced a much varied reaction, especially from his NBA peers. Tim Hardaway, the inventor of the killer crossover and former Warriors guard, now an advocate for gay rights, voiced a much harsher opinion when Amaechi first came out.
“"I hate gay people…I don't like to be around gay people. I'm homophobic. I don't like it. It shouldn't be in the world for that or in the United States for it. So yeah, I don't like it,” Hardaway said on the Dan Le Batard Show.
But of all the reactions and opinions voiced by various personalities, and even before the Collins story had come out, the talented forward from the Denver Nuggets, Kenneth Faried, may have helped smoothen the road for Collins by being the first NBA player to join Athlete Ally, an organization aimed at combating homophobia in sports.
Faried, a practicing Muslim, grew up in the mean streets of New Jersey, but according to his mother, Waudda, as reported in the Denver Post, she, her wife, and Faried’s biological father take full credit for his hustle and strong play, not the streets. Seeing as he was raised by two gay mothers, Faried’s inclusion into Athlete Ally is by no means a coincidence.
“I have two moms and I love them both very much," Faried said, in a statement released by Athlete Ally. "I respect, honor and support them in every way. The bond I have with them has made me realize that I want all members of the LGBT community—whether they are parents, players, coaches or fans—to feel welcome in the NBA and in all of our communities."
As of this moment, Faried and his Nuggets are back in the Mile High City after being eliminated in the first round by the Warriors, but the future is extremely bright for him and his team as he continues to excel on and off the court.