(LOS ANGELES) — History was made in Los Angeles on Sunday night.
Jason Collins signed a 10-day contract with the Brooklyn Nets earlier in the day, and he became the first openly gay athlete to serve as an active player in one of the four major U.S. professional sports leagues.
Nearly 10 months after he revealed his sexuality in a Sports Illustrated article, Collins played 11 minutes as the Nets defeated the Lakers 108-102. He had two rebounds and five fouls, but did not score any points.
“I know that I can play in the NBA and it felt good to be out there tonight,” Collins said. “Conditioning-wise, I felt good. I don’t think I got tired. It was a lot of fun to get back out on the court and set screens, hard fouls. Didn’t take any charges tonight — that’ll change. I’ll get in position next time. As far as basketball timing, it’s going to take at least a couple of practices.”
Deron Williams led the Nets (26-28) with a season-high 30 points and seven assists. Brooklyn snapped an 11-game losing streak against the Lakers.
“In the society we live in, you know this was going to happen eventually,” Nets forward Paul Pierce said of Collins’ first game. “He is a guy who’s going to be able to open the door for so many athletes — not only in America but around the world — to feel comfortable to come out and not feel embarrassed and feel like they’re welcomed in the sports world. It isn’t about race, gender or sexuality. It’s about being a part of a team and caring for one another. That’s all that matters at the end of the day.”
Collins is a 12-year NBA veteran who spent his first six-plus season with the Nets, helping them reach the NBA Finals in 2002 and 2003. This was his first appearance in an NBA game since April 17, 2013, with the Washington Wizards.
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Madison Park, Keith Allen and Andreas Preuss, CNN