|Collins will be the first active openly gay player in the NBA and in any of the four major North American professional sports|
Well, it was expected to happen, but that doesn't make it any less significant for the NBA, the sporting world, or even the wider realm of American civil right. Today, at some point close to 5:00 pm, the Brooklyn Nets–once they officially receive word that Glen "Big Baby" Davis will sign with the Los Angeles Clippers, as expected–will sign Jason Collins, who came out as gay last April, to a 10-day contract. There is a significant chance that Collins will suit up tonight for the Nets as they take on the Lakers in Los Angeles, his hometown and where he currently lives.
This news, although certainly basketball-motivated since Brooklyn really needs a big man with the defensive capabilities that Collins provides, is truly groundbreaking for the United States in addition to just the sporting world. LGBT relations and equality differences have taken over the mainstream media in recent months and years, and the NBA having an active and openly gay player on one of its more notable teams in its biggest market is a big advancement for those in that community.
The Nets were rumored to be interested in Collins over the summer, but ended up not signing him, deciding to pass at the time. However, more than halfway through the 2013-14 season, general manager Billy King felt his team needed another big body to help out down low, and went after someone many people in the organization are familiar with. Coach Jason Kidd played with Collins for over six years with the New Jersey Nets in the early 2000s–when the Nets made and lost two NBA Finals–while Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett spent the last season with him in Boston.
Collins is, for all intensive purposes, an original Net, as he was traded, along with Richard Jefferson, to New Jersey on Draft Day 2011 from the Houston Rockets. He spent the beginning of his career with the team, before moving on to the Grizzlies and a host of other teams after that. Still, he's mainly associated with the Nets, and a reunion, even at this point of his career, makes a ton of sense.
Who knows how well he is going to do with Brooklyn, or even if he's going to earn a second 10-day deal and it doesn't even matter, even though a player of Collins' experience and ilk probably will help the Nets a lot. What matters is that, like Jackie Robinson did to the race barrier in the MLB with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, another big stride has been made in terms of American society and equality.
Will the media circus to inevitably follow Collins around with the Nets distract the team some? It's a fair bet to say so, yeah, but with a veteran squad like Brooklyn with grizzlied and experienced stars in Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Jason Kidd (he's the coach, but still counts), Joe Johnson, and Deron Williams, to name a few, the "distraction" will become negligible as this team tries to push forward to the playoffs. Good job, Billy King and the rest of the Nets' front office. Great move for the Nets, basketball, sports and the U.S. overall.