Monday, May 6, 2013

The Openly Gay Athlete Edition of Studs and Duds

By Jeremy Conlin and Joe Parello

Studs and Duds is a weekly feature on Suite Sports. Who had a good week? Who had a bad week?


Jason Collins

The journeyman NBA center made headlines last week when he announced he was gay in a Sports Illustrated feature. Collins (as you surely have heard by now) is the first openly gay male athlete in major North American professional sports.

For me, the amount of qualifiers in that last sentence is my favorite part of the story. That's how much progress we (as a society) have made over the last few years - we can't just say he's the first openly gay male athlete in pro sports, boxer Orlando Cruz came out last October. We've had female stars like Brittney Griner and Megan Rapinoe talk openly about their sexual orientation. Collins represents the final (and biggest) hurdle - male major team sports - the highest-publicity and arguably where the stigma surrounding homosexuality is the greatest. Hopefully this spurs other gay athletes (of which there are certainly more) to come forward.

As great as this story is, I look forward to the day when an athlete discussing his sexual orientation is no longer news.


LeBron James

The world's best basketball player was voted the NBA's MVP for the fourth time in five years, joining an elite fraternity of roundball greats. Only Kareem, Jordan, Russell and Chamberlin have won the MVP four times, and only Russell did it in a five year span.

Oh yeah, and there was that whole "No freaking way we're giving the MVP to LeBron" season his first year in Miami. You remember that, it was the year Derrick Rose won the award despite nobody thinking he was the best player on the planet.

Well, it's back in LeBron's hands, and he joins Kareem as the only player to win back-to-back MVPs on multiple occasions. The question now becomes if he can catch Michael's five MVPs and Kareem's record-setting six. At only 28, I wouldn't bet against The King.


Floyd "Money" Mayweather Jr.

Forget about Young Money, Mayweather proved that Old Money is just as valuable, as he dismantled Robert Guerrero to retain the world welterweight championship. The "pound-for-pound" best fighter in the world also proved that, even at the age of 36 and after two months in prison, there is still no hotter ticket in boxing.




Did you just read that above? A 36-year old that spent two months in jail is the only beacon of hope for this sport. Not to mention the fact that the only fight mainstream sports fans have any interest in seeing (Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao) will likely never happen.


Former Steelers Receivers

First it was Mike Wallace's ignorant tweet about not understanding homosexuality in the wake of Collins' decision, but then Super Bowl XL MVP Hines Wards said on the radio that he didn't think the NFL was ready for a gay player.

"I don't think football is ready, there's too many guys in the locker room and, you know, guys play around too much," Ward said Tuesday on Erik Kuselias' NBC Sports Radio show, via "Hopefully, one guy comes out of the closet and (will) be comfortable with himself. I don't have anything against a gay football player or a gay person period, so if he does, he has support from me. I want people to live their lives for who they are and don't have to hide behind closed doors to do that."

Now, Ward's statement clearly showed an understanding and respect for the gay lifestyle. But, the fact that he doesn't think that the NFL is ready, especially after statements from linebacker Brendan Ayanbadejo and others supporting a football player coming out, is counter-productive.

If he truly wanted to help push this thing forward, he would simply lend his support to the cause and encourage current players to do the same.


The Pacers and Knicks

Remember when these two teams fought for the right to lose to Jordan's Bulls in the 90s? Yeah, same thing's about to happen with LeBron's Heat.


Vinny Del Negro

Here are some things Vinny Del Negro did in Game 6 of the Clippers' Round 1 series against Memphis:

- Played Grant Hill more minutes than DeAndre Jordan
- Benched Jamal Crawford for the entire second half
- Played Chauncey Billups in crunch time
- Left Eric Bledsoe on the bench as Chauncey Billups crapped the bed in crunch time.
- Down 13 with 10 minutes to play, he sat Chris Paul for two minutes to "rest" him

It's almost as if he spent the entire season jerking around the minutes of his young players (Jordan and Bledsoe) and then they were in no position to help the team when they needed them the most. Oh, wait, that's EXACTLY what happened.

With all due respect to Lamar Odom, Chauncey Billups, and Grant Hill, but it's 2013. The only way these guys are going to make serious contributions to a championship-contending NBA team is if there's a time machine involved. Del Negro placed his trust in them (over higher-ceiling players like Jordan and Bledsoe), and it ultimately was his undoing.

Del Negro's contract expires on June 30th. It's basically a foregone conclusion that he won't be back next season. However, I kind of hope that the Clippers fire him even before his contract runs out. Just to send a message.