Jason Collins, who made history last month by becoming the first openly gay player in the history of the National Basketball Association by signing a ten day contract with the Brooklyn Nets, has subsequently been given a second ten day contract. That means his landmark stint with the Nets will last until at least the middle of the month, and increases the odds that he ends up on Brooklyn’s active roster once the playoffs begin. But that’s still another six weeks away, meaning the Nets will have to make a decision at least once more on whether to keep Collins around.
Thus far Jason Collins has proven to be essentially the same player in 2014 that he has been for his entire decade-plus NBA career: a defensive stopper who can come off the bench for hard nosed minutes and tough fouls while keeping the blood off the uniforms of the stars he’s giving a rest to. That’s more or less what the Nets were expecting when they added him to the bottom of their roster just ahead of the deadline for playoff roster eligibility. The only thing different about Collins this time is that he’s no longer keeping his homosexuality a secret.
While Collins continues to be a minor role player on the court, the significance of his role as the first openly gay player in any of the “big four” American sports – NBA basketball, NFL football, MLB baseball, and NHL hockey – has pushed the longtime journeyman player into the spotlight off the court. His new number 98 jersey, a number chosen to honor murdered gay youth Matthew Shepard, is one of the most popular jerseys selling in the online NBA store, rivaling that of even LeBron James for the moment.
Due to the middling nature of Collins’ basketball talent and the fact that his age dictates he’s near the end of his career, there was the distinct possibility that Collins’ landmark stint with the Nets could have been over nearly as soon as it began. But Brooklyn’s decision to give him another ten day contract suggests that the team is pleased with the on-court results thus far and wants to see more.