Jason Collins didn’t sign his first NBA contract Sunday, nor was Sunday night his NBA debut. But when he stepped on the court for the Brooklyn Nets in Los Angeles to take on the Lakers, he made history as the first openly gay player in one of America’s four major sports.
Former NBA player John Amaechi, who announced he was gay in 2007, spoke with Frank Isola and Stacey King on SiriusXM NBA Radio about Collins, who played 11 minutes and grabbed two rebounds in the Nets’ 108-102 win.
“He was a role model before any of this,” Amaechi said. “He was the kind of student-athlete you wish every person playing basketball, or any sport, was. Took his studies seriously, took his responsibilities as a human being seriously […] What he’s doing today is an extension of that – being a role model, really, in an authentic way.
Amaechi later compared coming out as an athlete in 2007 to coming out as an athlete in today’s climate.
“I certainly think the entire environment is a lot less hostile,” Amaechi said. “I think the political environment in 2007 was noticeably different than nowadays […] The public perception’s changed. But one of the things that has really changed is that some of the leagues – not all of them, the NFL’s got a ways to go – but some of the leagues, especially the NBA, has really made huge strides.”
ESPN New York reporter Ohm Youngmisuk told Isola and King that the Nets’ signing of Collins was purely for basketball reasons, and that he expects Collins’ tenure with the team will last beyond his 10-day contract.
“I think short of Jason Collins showing that he doesn’t have anything left in the tank, I think he sticks,” Youngmisuk said,
Evan Cohen and Steve Phillips echoed Youngmisuk’s thoughts on Mad Dog Sports Radio, and Cohen called Collins’ signing and appearance “the most historic moment of the weekend.”