LOS ANGELES — History? Pressure? Jason Collins would have none of it after becoming the NBA's first openly gay player.
After all, there was a game to play.
"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 at a crowded press conference less than an hour before his Brooklyn Nets faced the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday night.
Collins signed a 10-day contract with the Nets earlier Sunday and played 10 scoreless minutes with two rebounds and five fouls in the Nets' 108-102 victory.
"I know that I can play in the NBA and it felt good to be out there tonight," he said afterward.
The 35-year-old center revealed at the end of last season he is gay, but he was a free agent and had remained unsigned.
Collins said he was aware of the magnitude of his signing, which made him the first openly gay player in the four major U.S. professional sports leagues, but repeatedly said he was most concerned with learning the Nets' schemes.
"The pressure is playing in an NBA game tonight and last time I played in an NBA game was last April," Collins said. "So I think that's enough pressure right there."
With a need for another big man, the Nets turned to the 7-foot 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 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.
Walking to the scorer's table to check into the game for the first time, "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, it's basketball. It's what I've been doing for almost three decades."
Collins has played 12 NBA seasons, including his first seven with the Nets, when they were in New Jersey and Jason Kidd was their point guard. Kidd is now the Nets' coach and Collins has been a teammate of several other current Nets.
"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 news 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 draft 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.
|Utah Valley U||64|
|(5) South Carolina||67|
|(14) NC State||79|
|(11) Penn State||82|
|(2) Notre Dame||83|
|(19) Michigan State||61|
|(13) North Carolina||73||FINAL|
|(15) Texas A&M||86|
|San Diego State||46||FINAL|
|San Jose St||80||FINAL|