Jason Collins had played in 713 regular-season NBA games before arriving at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Sunday but he had never made an appearance quite like the one ahead of him.
Just hours after signing a 10-day contract with the Brooklyn Nets, the 35-year-old veteran center became the first openly gay athlete to compete in any of the four major North American professional sports leagues. Collins checked into the Nets' game against the Lakers with 10:28 remaining in the second quarter.
The crowd at Staples Center greeted Collins with cheers when the entrance was announced. The first stint of the rest of his career lasted 4 minutes and 15 seconds. The Nets stretched their lead from 35-26 to 49-33 while Collins was on the floor. He would return to the court in the fourth quarter as the Nets closed out a 108-103 win. In 11 minutes of playing time, Collins pulled down two rebounds, nabbed one steal and dished out five personal fouls.
"I know that I can play in the NBA and it felt good to be out there tonight," Collins told reporters after the game, via The Associated Press. "Conditioning-wise, I felt good. I don't think I got tired. It was a lot of fun to get back out on the court and set screens, hard fouls. Didn't take any charges tonight — that'll change. I'll get in position next time. As far as basketball timing, it's going to take at least a couple of practices."