DENVER-After nearly 13 seasons in professional basketball, Brooklyn Nets’ center Jason Collins is finally living his life without hiding his sexual orientation from both his NBA teammates, and society.
Collins, and the Nets, are in Denver Thursday to take on the Nuggets. Fresh off the court from warm-up, he dedicated a few minutes of his time to address his new life as the NBA’s first openly-gay player.
“It is the same-old-same-old,” Collins said, discussing the change in lifestyle since announcing his sexual orientation. “Fans come out and cheer for their team, and fans on the road have been very receptive when I go into the game, and that is nice.”
Collins signed a 10-day contract with the Nets, his first contract since his announcement. Since signing with the star-filled Nets’ roster, Collins’ jersey emerged as the No. 1 selling jersey across the NBA in a matter of five days.
In honor of Matthew Shepard, a gay-male who was murdered in 1998 because of his sexual orientation, and in respect to progress made in the GLBT community in the year 1998, Collins wears No. 98 for the Nets.
“It’s an awesome feeling to have [the top selling jersey],” Collins said. “It is also a tribute to Matthew Shepard and also to the year 1998. The year 1998 holds a lot of significance to me and a lot of other people.”
Shepard, a student in Wyoming at the time of his death, is survived by his parents and brother. Collins said that the Shepard’s would be at the Nets vs. Nuggets game, and he had plans to meet with them after the game.
“I am very honored. I’m very much looking forward to meeting with them after.”
Collins admitted that the media presence following him the past week had been overwhelming at times. Collins said that the media presence was slowly withering game-by-game. But, at the same time, he wanted the focus to not be on him, but on his message.
“In our society, or at least in the sports world, we are moving to a place where all of us can be our true authentic selves, and we can still contribute to our teams. Hopefully it will encourage other parts of the country and other parts of society to move forward and bring people together and not exclude them.”
Collins, while frequently redirecting many questions about his sexual orientation back his dedication to the success of his team, did make sure to leave a message to those who are still keeping specific parts of their lives private from the public.
“I’m always encouraging others to live their authentic life. Speak up. Come forward if you want to. There is always others waiting to support you.”
Dillon Thomas is your inside source to the Denver Nuggets, and the NBA. Follow him on Twitter for complete locker-room coverage from across the NBA. Twitter: @DillonMThomas