February 24

Nets’ Jason Collins becomes NBA’s first openly gay player

’Once you’re out on the court, it’s about basketball,’ Collins says after Sunday night’s game.

By Bernie Wilson
The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

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Brooklyn Nets center Jason Collins, left, battles for a loose ball with Los Angeles Lakers guard MarShon Brooks during the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday in Los Angeles. Collins was making history by being the first openly gay NBA player on the court.

The Associated Press

“Jason told us that his goal was to earn another contract with an NBA team. 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,” Commissioner Adam Silver said.

The Collins signing comes as Michael Sam, the SEC co-defensive player of the year from Missouri who recently revealed he is gay, is taking part in the NFL combine. Sam’s on-field workouts in Indianapolis are scheduled for Monday.

Collins was asked if he felt the tide is turning regarding gay players coming out, including Sam.

“I hope so. What Michael said was it was about him being a football player and me being a basketball player, and going out there and trying to help our respective teams win,” Collins said.

He played 38 games last season with Boston and Washington and averaged 1.1 points and 1.6 rebounds in limited minutes. For his career, the 7-foot Collins averages 3.6 points and 3.8 rebounds.

Collins’ announcement last spring was followed by numerous NBA players insisting he would be welcomed in the locker room. Collins has played for five other teams and is respected inside and outside the league – he attended the State of the Union as a guest of first lady Michelle Obama.

Former Suns player Kevin Johnson, now Sacramento’s mayor, said he saw Collins two weeks ago at the White House “and I thanked him for his courage and being strong and wished him well and to keep fighting hard.

“I think it’s incredible for him. I think it’s incredible for the league. If I’m on the Nets, my commitment is I want to get in the playoffs and I want to go far. All that is fine, but I need him to win games and I think he’s up for that challenge.”

The Nets had an opening for a big man after trading Reggie Evans along with Jason Terry to Sacramento on Wednesday for guard Marcus Thornton. King said Thursday that Collins would be among the players they would look at, insisting they wouldn’t be concerned about any extra attention the signing of Collins would provide.

“We’re going to bring in a basketball player,” King said. “It’s not about marketing or anything like that.”

The Nets posted a photo on their Twitter account of Kidd watching Collins sign his contract, encouraging followers to retweet it to welcome Collins to Brooklyn.

Collins is third in Nets history with 511 games played, and also ranks in their top 10 in minutes played, and offensive rebounds and total rebounds. A limited offensive player, the Nets hope he can still provide a presence defensively and on the boards.

“I know Jason Collins is a competitor. One thing I know about him is he fouls very hard,” Miami’s Dwyane Wade said with a laugh. “He’s one of those tough veterans. I’m sure he’s happy to be back playing in the league. Welcome back.”

Since making his announcement last year, “Life is more exciting for me,” Collins said. “I mean, I don’t have to hide who I am and I can be my normal self. The past 10 months have been incredible. I’m making new friends, hearing different people’s stories, sharing experiences. It’s just been an overall positive.”

Collins grew up in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles and has a house here, so there was some normalcy to his day.

“It was pretty easy for me just to come to the game tonight,” Collins said, “drive down the 405, take the 10 and get here in 20 minutes.”

Hours later, he was helping get his teammates open and contributing to a win. He said his favorite moment was hearing Jordan Farmar of the Lakers complain that he had set an illegal pick.

“I know that I can play in the NBA and it felt good to be out there tonight,” Collins said.

AP Basketball Writer Brian Mahoney in New York and AP Sports Writers Steven Wine in Miami and Bob Baum in Phoenix contributed to this report.

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