He stepped on a traction mat, removed the T-shirt covering his jersey top and joined his
It was a routine that was everything like and nothing like one Collins had carried out thousands of times in his
With 10 minutes 28 seconds left in the second quarter against the
History was met with gracious applause, a handful of fans in the lower bowl standing to cheer.
Then Collins did what he set out to do after signing a 10-day contract with the Nets earlier in the day: The 7-footer set screens, grabbed rebounds and earned a pat on the head from teammate Alan Anderson after being fouled by the Lakers'
"Once you're on the court, it's about basketball," Collins said after the Nets' 108-102 victory. "It's what I've been doing for almost three decades."
Of course, it was about so much more than that.
Collins had the courage to be himself in a way that no athlete had previously in the 404 years of existence of the NBA, NFL, MLB and NHL.
No one will remember that he missed his only shot and was scoreless with two rebounds and five fouls in 10 minutes.
Being there was all that mattered.
"He is a guy that is going to be able to open up the door for athletes around the world," Brooklyn forward
Ten months had passed since Collins, 35, announced he was gay in a
The Nets needed a big man after trading forward
Brooklyn could provide a comfort zone unlike any other team. Collins had previously played with the Nets'
Williams welcomed Collins to the team Sunday during a breakfast meeting by asking about his notoriously bad golf game.
"The jokes start right away," Collins said.
Collins wore No. 46 against the Lakers because the No. 98 jersey he intends to wear to honor
Collins said he did not view himself as a crusader, but he did have a message for others. "Be your true, authentic self," he said, "and never be afraid or ashamed or have any fear to be your true, authentic self."
There was a minor media frenzy for the game, with a Lakers spokesman saying the team issued 40 to 50 extra credentials. Lakers Coach
"We'll get to the point where you'll ask me if he's a good addition or not because he can play or not," D'Antoni said. "That's what we need to get to."
We're getting closer. Collins showed himself to be a capable NBA player in the 714th game of his career, one that felt like so many others but didn't.