Jason Collins became the first openly gay player to compete in the NBA when he took to the court for the Brooklyn Nets in Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Signed on a 10-day contract earlier in the day as a short-term coverage for the center position after some trades, Collins played 10 minutes without scoring and said he was more concerned with getting back into the swing of NBA competition than he was about being a pioneer for gay players.
“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,” Collins said.
“The pressure is playing in an NBA game tonight and last time I played in an NBA game was last April. That’s enough pressure right there,” he added.
The 35-year-old revealed at the end of last season he is gay, but he was a free agent and had remained unsigned until Sunday.
With a need for another big man after trading Reggie Evans along with Jason Terry to Sacramento on Wednesday for guard Marcus Thornton, the Nets turned to the 2.13m Collins, who helped them reach two NBA Finals in the early 2000s.
“The decision to sign Jason was a basketball decision,” general manager Billy King said in a statement. “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.”
Collins entered the game with 10:28 left in the second quarter and the crowd welcomed him with a nice ovation.
“It felt like: ‘I’ve done this a thousand times before,’” Collins said. “You go to the scorer’s table, you hear what the play’s going to be for the next offensive play and you go out there. Once you’re out on the court, its basketball. It’s what I’ve been doing for almost three decades.”
Since coming out last year, Collins said life is “more exciting.”
“I don’t have to hide who I am and I can be my normal self,” Collins said. “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.”