The first openly gay athlete to compete in one of the four major American sports received a standing ovation upon making his home debut last night.
NBA player Jason Collins entered the game for the Brooklyn Nets with 2:41 remaining against the Chicago Bulls, in a 96-80 victory for the home side.
Having chanted his name prior to his introduction, many in the crowd rose to greet the 7ft tall centre as he stepped onto the court for his home debut in front of more than 17,000 fans at the Barclay’s Centre.
“It was cool. It was a lot of fun to go into the game,” Collins told reporters after the game.
“The most important thing is that we got the win. Chicago’s been playing really well as of late and for us to come out and really be – I think we played more physical than they did tonight,” he added.
Collins’s performance was somewhat of a mixed bag; committing a foul five after just five seconds and shooting an air shot were not in the plan but he did come up with one of the Nets’s 19 steals and grabbed a rebound – the job he was predominantly brought to Brooklyn to do.
It was enough to help Brooklyn hold on for a big win and for Collins to be offered a second 10-day contract, after which the franchise will either have to sign him until the end of the season or release him.
Collins came out as gay in April 2013 when he penned the cover story of May’s edition of Sports Illustrated – making him the first active male athlete in one of the four major North American sports to publicly do so. Former University of Missouri football star Michael Sam, who is a highly ranked prospect in this year’s NFL draft, may soon join him having come out as gay earlier this year.
Collins has worn the ‘98’ jersey for much of his career in tribute to a gay college student Matthew Shepard who died in 1998 having been tied to a post, beaten and tortured.
Elsewhere, in the NBA last night reigning league MVP LeBron James recorded a new career-high 61 points in a 124-107 win over the Charlotte Bobcats.
James, who is sporting a protective mask having broken his nose the Oklahoma City Thunder last week, shot a hugely impressive 66.7% from the field as shown in the graphic below.
It’s the latest phenomenal performance in the race between James and Kevin Durant to claim this year’s MVP crown – perhaps the most contested since Larry Bird and Magic Johnson’s epic rivalry in the 80’s.