Jason Collins becomes first openly gay man to play in NBA
Veteran signs 10-day deal with Brooklyn Nets and comes off bench against Lakers
Jason Collins has become the first openly gay player to see action in an NBA game.
Collins, signed Sunday to a 10-day contract with the Brooklyn, reported into the game against the Los Angeles Lakers with 10:28 left in the second quarter and the Nets leading 35-26 after Nick Young made the first of his two free throws.
The crowd welcomed him with a nice ovation when public address announcer Lawrence Tanter announced his name.
Earlier, Collins said he was too busy trying to learn plays to worry about making history.
Collins signed a 10-day contract with the Nets to become the first openly gay man playing in a major US professional sports league.
Collins, 35 and a 13-year NBA veteran, revealed his homosexuality last April.
But that was after his contract with the Washington Wizards had expired, and he had not been picked up by another team since then.
Nets general manager Billy King said the move to sign Collins was “a basketball decision”.
“We needed to increase our depth inside, and with his experience and size, we felt he was the right choice for a 10-day contract,” King said.
Even though King said the Nets weren’t intending to make a social statement, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver commented on the deal.
“Jason told us that his goal was to earn another contract with an NBA team,” Silver said in a statement.
“Today, I want to commend him on achieving his goal. I know everyone in the NBA family is excited for him and proud that our league fosters an inclusive and respectful environment.”
Collins was praised for his courage in coming out as gay by US President Barack Obama, former president Bill Clinton and many players in the NBA.
If he takes the court in an NBA game, Collins would be the first openly gay man to play in one of the four major North American pro sports leagues.
Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder Robbie Rogers became the first openly gay male athlete to play in a US pro league when he took the field for a Major League Soccer match last May, three months after revealing he was gay.
In addition, University of Missouri defensive end Michael Sam, a US college star in American football who announced this month he is gay, is likely to be selected in the NFL Draft later this year. But his first chance to play in the NFL would not come until an exhibition game in August at the earliest.
Collins played for the Nets in his first six seasons in the league, helping take the team to the 2002 and 2003 NBA Finals when it was based in nearby New Jersey.
Collins will be united with former Nets teammate Jason Kidd, now the Nets’ coach.
The Nets, in the midst of a seven-game road trip, are clinging to the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and lie four games behind Toronto for the Atlantic division lead.