Apr 13, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves small forward Andrei Kirilenko (47) reacts after a call during the third quarter against the Phoenix Suns at the Target Center. Timberwolves won 105-93. Mandatory Credit: Greg Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Coming Out in Support of Former Wolf Jason Collins

In the wake of recent headlines that former Timberwolf Jason Collins is gay (not to mention a very good writer), ESPN commentator Chris Broussard disapproves, Kevin Love, former Wolf Martell Webster and a slew of other current players tweeted their support of Collins, some interesting material — more interesting than a Christian Fundamentalist disapproving of the first active-and-out NBA player — has been linked to as a growth chart of Gay Rights, of sorts.

In 2007, John Amaechi wrote of his experience as a member of the Utah Jazz as a closeted gay man. Among the many anecdotes, he has some that reflect very well on Andrei Kirilenko and (I have no idea why it’s surprising, but it is) Greg Ostertag…

On the court I was always known as a solid defender, but now my guard was collapsing. One night before a game, Greg Ostertag, with whom I’d become close, asked me point-blank in the tunnel, “Ya gay, dude?” “Greg, you have nothing to worry about,” I said. It was clear Greg couldn’t have cared less. Looking back, I wish I’d confided in the gentle big man.

The same goes for Andrei Kirilenko, our talented Eastern European small forward. I called him Malinka, Russian for “little one,” and our non-American (or “un-American,” as I was sometimes accused of being) backgrounds created an obvious bond.

Sometime after Christmas of my last Utah season, in 2002, Malinka instant-messaged an invitation to his New Year’s Eve party. Then he wrote something that brought tears to my eyes: “Please come, John. You are welcome to bring your partner, if you have one, someone special to you. Who it is makes no difference to me.”

Not as well portrayed in the article is long-time Jazz coach, Jerry Sloan.

The day I was packing to depart at the end of the season, my building manager said to Ryan, “I wish John had had a better time here. Perhaps if Sloan hadn’t known about John’s lifestyle.”

There it was: I’d been sent packing because Sloan couldn’t comprehend me, especially my sexuality. He dealt me unceremoniously to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Glen Rice, a once-terrific scorer who was near the end of his career. Unbeknownst to me, Sloan had used some antigay innuendo. It was confirmed via e-mails from friends who worked in high-level front office jobs with the Jazz.


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