with 10:28 left in the second quarter and the brooklyn nets leading the los angeles lakers 35-26, jason collins entered the game. he was greeted warmly by the staples center fans. he played ten minutes, gathered two rebounds, had one steal and missed his only field goal attempt. although the nets beat the lakers 108-102, their win belied nba history.
collins became the first openly gay athlete to play in one of the four major professional sports. he spoke after the team's victory and said, "i thought it was great. being an l.a. kid, i can't think of a better situation, playing for the nets and playing here, and getting the win. i'm just glad kobe and shaq weren't out there."
brooklyn general manager billy king said, "the decision to sign jason 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 ten-day contract." however, collins was not their first choice. its no secret brooklyn coveted orlando's glen davis, but they were unable to sign him.
the nets are owned by russian billionaire mikhail prokhorov. his pro-lgbt stance alienated him from people and politicians in a country where anti-homosexual propaganda was the subject of controversy at the 2014 winter olympics in sochi. before purchasing the nets, prokhorov ran for president and came in third place, losing to vladimir putin.
nba commissioner adam silver - less than one month into his new job - welcomed collins into the league with open arms. he said, "jason told us that his goal was to earn another contract with an nba team. 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, 35, is a savvy 12-year veteran. he played seven seasons with the nets - when they were in new jersey - and the team's point guard, jason kidd, is now the nets' coach. the 7' center helped them earn consecutive nba finals appearances; losing to the lakers in 2002 and spurs in 2003. also, collins has been a teammate of several current nets players, including veteran forward paul pierce.
pierce said, "in the society we live in, this was going to happen eventually. he is a guy that is going to be able to open up the door for athletes around the world. it doesn't matter your race, gender or sexuality because it's about being part of a team and caring for one another. every guy in here does their own thing and so be it. in this sport everything is magnified and it's great to have him here to open up doors for so many athletes."
collins played 38 games with boston and washington in 2013, averaging less than two points and two rebounds per game in limited minutes. last april he revealed he's gay - on the cover of sports illustrated. collins' article led to a media explosion, and the subject of gay athletes in sports was ablaze in america. still, he remained an unsigned free agent.
although the personable african-american downplayed the magnitude of his experience, collins is fully aware of his impact on societal attitudes and sports policy. during a crowded news conference after the game he said, "right now i'm focusing on trying to learn the plays, learning the coverages and the game plan and the assignments. so i didn't have time to really think about history."
- mark j. tuggle
- harlem, usa
- same-gender-loving contemporary descendant of enslaved africans. community activist, feminist, health educator, independent filmmaker, mentor, playwright, poet & spiritual being. featured at, in & on africana.com, afrikan poetry theatre, angel herald, bejata dot com, bet tonight with tavis smiley, blacklight online, black noir, brooklyn moon cafe, gmhc's barbershop, klmo-fm, lgbt community services center, longmoor productions, nuyorican poets cafe, our corner, poz, pulse, rolling out new york, rush arts gallery, saint veronica's church, schomburg center for research in black culture, sexplorations, the citizen, the new york times, the soundz bar, the trenton times, the village voice, upn news, uzuri, venus, vibe, wbai-fm, wnyc-fm & wqht-fm. volunteered with adodi, bailey house, inc., black men's xchange-new york, colorofchange.org, drug policy alliance, east harlem tutorial program, imagenation film & music festival, presente.org, save darfur coalition, the enough project, the osborne association, the sledge group & your black world. worked on films with maurice jamal & heather murphy. writing student of phil bertelsen & ed bullins. firstname.lastname@example.org.