Before he became the first openly gay active athlete in a major American team sport, Jason Collins was known as a bruising centre with a very limited offensive game.
He has only averaged 3.6 points, 3.8 rebounds, 20 minutes per game in his career.
But he is a tough, big defender who could rebound — an unglamorous role player who does 20 minutes of dirty work before going back to the bench — and he has turned that limited skillset into a successful 12-year NBA career.
Collins’ one moment of glory came in 2011, when he became the “Dwight Stopper” after he had a bunch of good games against then-Orlando Magic centre Dwight Howard.
In March of 2011, ESPN’s John Hollinger wrote of Collins:
“Normally, Collins’ glaring deficiencies on offence make it too expensive to leave him on the court for his defence, but normally, the Hawks aren’t playing the game’s most dominant big man. On this night, Collins swung the game to the Hawks’ advantage early by drawing two quick fouls on Howard, one on the offensive boards and the other with one of his patented flops in the low post.”
“Collins did one other thing as well that had Howard and the Magic upset — when Howard got a clear look, Collins fouled him. HARD. A neck-tie by Collins in the second quarter had Howard particularly vexed, especially in the wake of the near-scandalous officiating at the end of Monday’s loss to the Knicks.”
Collins’ odd success against Dwight continued a few months later, when the Hawks upset the Magic 4-2 in the playoffs.
He played 17 minutes per game in that series (he averaged just 12 minutes during the regular season).
Collins’ status as Dwight’s kryptonite will probably take a backseat now though.
He’s currently a free agent.