The Brooklyn Nets signed center Jason Collins to a 10-day contract Sunday, making him the first openly gay active player in major North American professional sports history.
Collins' signing was confirmed by the Nets' official Twitter account:
ESPN insider Marc Stein reported that Collins is likely to be in uniform Sunday night for the Nets' game against the Los Angeles Lakers:
Plenty of others had a lot to say on Twitter after news broke of the landmark acquisition. Bleacher Report's Ethan J. Skolnick reported what Miami Heat superstar Dwyane Wade and Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said upon hearing of Collins' signing:
Dwyane Wade on Jason Collins: "One thing I know about him is he fouled very hard.... Welcome back."— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) February 23, 2014
Tom Thibodeau on Jason Collins: "It's great. I'm happy for him."— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) February 23, 2014
Tom Thibodeau: "I just know Jason as a person and a player, and that's what I'm happy about it. He's earned it, he deserves it."— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) February 23, 2014
Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com welcomed the development and took delight in writing about it:
When he joins the Nets, Jason Collins will officially become the first openly gay athlete in pro sports. Man that felt great to type that.— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) February 23, 2014
"His impact [Sunday night] is greater than what people think," Bryant told Yahoo Sports before the game. "You look at it from the context of having the first openly gay player. But they missed the domino effect that it has way beyond sports."
"It's fantastic. It sets an incredible precedent," said Bryant, who is currently out of the Lakers' lineup indefinitely with a knee injury. "I think the most important part about it, what I've learned on the issue is that one person coming out is showing this type of courage that gives others that same type of courage.
"It's dealing with a lot of issues for kids who are afraid to be themselves. Afraid to be themselves because of the peer pressure that comes with it. A lot of these kids have depression issues or they're being teased from other kids for being different. You wind up seeing a lot of suicides, kids injuring themselves and getting hooked on things that they should not be hooked on."
NFL free agent Brendon Ayanbadejo has been an advocate for gay rights and congratulated Collins on the newly minted deal, as did prospective NFL rookie and reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Year Michael Sam:
Congratulations @jasoncollins34 on signing with the nets!!— Brendon Ayanbadejo (@brendon310) February 23, 2014
Sam came out as gay ahead of the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine, and another openly gay athlete in Los Angeles Galaxy soccer player Robbie Rogers tweeted his support as well:
Very excited to watch @jasoncollins34 tonight more importantly I am proud to call him my friend.— Robbie Rogers (@robbierogers) February 23, 2014
Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News felt proud of the team he covers and added an anecdote about Brooklyn owner Mikhail Prokhorov's presidential campaign in his native Russia:
Just landed in L.A. and excited to see history. Proud to cover the Nets today.— Stefan Bondy (@NYDNInterNets) February 23, 2014
Should be noted as well that Mikhail Prokhorov campaigned for gay rights in Russia during his presidential bid.— Stefan Bondy (@NYDNInterNets) February 23, 2014
Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated felt that Collins' return to the Nets was a logical and proper pairing, and he also documented what Richard Jefferson had to say about the matter:
No better player/situation to make history than Jason Collins and Brooklyn. Universally respected player with a team/teammates he knows well— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixSI) February 23, 2014
Richard Jefferson--Collins friend and ex-teammate in NJ--was thrilled for Collins: "His attitude never changed. He was determined."— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixSI) February 23, 2014
Yahoo! Sports insider Adrian Wojnarowski passed along what general manager Billy King had to say about what Collins brings to the table in joining the team:
Nets GM Billy King on Jason Collins signing: "The decision to sign Jason was a basketball decision. We needed to increase our depth inside…"— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) February 23, 2014
King brings up some strong points to justify signing Collins that make sense from a basketball standpoint in addition to making significant history. The 35-year-old has never brought too much in terms of offense, but he's renowned for his rebounding ability, defense and overall intelligent play.
That's something Brooklyn could use in bolstering its front line, which has been especially thin since Brook Lopez's injury earlier in the 2013-14 NBA campaign. The Nets have improved as a team since then, but they could definitely use help on the glass, where they rank 29th, averaging 39 rebounds per contest.
Collins spent his first six-plus seasons in the NBA with the Nets, and he will be reunited with former teammate and current head coach Jason Kidd. That should help him fit in right away, bringing another savvy basketball mind to the locker room and a veteran presence that will help the Nets as they continue striving for the playoffs.
This Brooklyn bunch has been a work in progress all season long, and bringing in a humble personality like Collins to a mix of superstar egos with Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Joe Johnson and Deron Williams can only help.