Shoutouts: Jason Collins, Showtime Lakers and Wichita State in the spotlight
We’re going coast-to-coast with basketball in this week’s Shoutouts.
A week and a half into the era of Jason Collins as the NBA’s first openly gay player—ESPN reported Monday that the Brooklyn Nets were set to sign him to a second 10-day contract Wednesday—Howard Beck wrote about Why the Significance of Jason Collins cannot be overstated.
Beck notes that the press conferences before every game have become routine for Collins, and that Collins says the attention will die down at some point. He also points out that once the game starts, Collins is the same player he always was: a backup center fighting for rebounds and setting screens. Normal. But, Beck writes, thinking that Jason Collins, openly gay NBA player, is no longer a big deal would be a mistake:
Yes, Collins broke a significant barrier last week, and in doing so demonstrated that the NBA is, and was, ready for an openly gay player. The positive response from fans has been encouraging.
But it is not about Collins now, or about the NBA. It’s about the next gay player who wants to live openly and honestly, whether he’s already in the league or if he’s a talented teenager with NBA aspirations. It’s also about the barriers that have yet to be broken in the NFL, NHL and Major League Baseball.
There are still players who fear coming out, and owners who might not draft or sign them if they do. So yes, Collins still matters and will for some time to come, even if his return has, so far, hardly created a stir …
This is a form of progress, but not the final word.
In an excerpt from his book “Showtime,” Jeff Pearlman describes the Lakers melting down on their way to a 63-win season and second-round playoff exit in 1989-90. Coach Pat Riley does not come off as a guy you’d want to work for.
Fred VanVleet is the point guard for the undefeated Wichita State Shockers. Jason King told the story of how this kid from the poverty-wracked town of Rockford, Ill., became the perfect point guard for his team. VanVleet says it has a little something to do with his stepdad, a Rockford cop, who drove him to train hard before dawn, brooked no backtalk and said no most of the time when Fred wanted to go out with friends.
“You’re going to spend four years being bored so you can enjoy the rest of your life,” VanVleet’s mother told him.
And, in response to a comment by LeBron James, Dan Favale offers up a statistical analysis of the career of “The Answer” in Is Allen Iverson the Greatest Pound-for-Pound NBA star of all time?