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First openly gay NBA player takes court

US basketball player Jason Collins makes history as first openly gay man playing in a major US pro sports league game.

Last updated: 24 Feb 2014 05:00
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Collins, who last April revealed that he was gay, says he was inspired by the 2012 Gay Pride Parade in Boston [AP]

Jason Collins took another trailblazing step as the first openly gay man in a major US pro sports league when he took the court for the NBA's Brooklyn Nets.

Hours after the Nets inked Collins to a 10-day contract on Sunday, he came in as a substitute in the second quarter of the Nets' game against the Los Angeles Lakers, AFP news agency reported.

It was the 13-year NBA veteran's first appearance in the league since he went public in April about his homosexuality, a revelation that came after his contract with the Washington Wizards expired.

Facing a bevy of media at the Staples Center before the game, Collins said his biggest immediate concern was proving he still belonged in the league.

Earning a contract

"Right now, I'm focused on trying to learn the plays, trying to learn the coverages, the game plan, my assignment," he said. "I don't have time to really think about history right now."

Nets general manager Billy King said the move to sign Collins was a basketball decision.

"We needed to increase our depth inside, and with his experience and size, we felt he was the right choice for a 10-day contract," King said.

Even though King said the Nets had no intention of making a social statement, NBA commissioner Adam Silver commented on the deal.

"Jason told us that his goal was to earn another contract with an NBA team," Silver said.

"Today, I want to commend him on achieving his goal. I know everyone in the NBA family is excited for him and proud that our league fosters an inclusive and respectful environment."

As part of a sports world still perceived as hostile to homosexuality, Collins drew praise for his courage in coming out as gay by US President Barack Obama, former President Bill Clinton and many players in the NBA.

Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder Robbie Rogers became the first openly gay male athlete to play in a US pro league when he took the field for a Major League Soccer match in May, three months after revealing he was gay.

But Collins will be the first in any of the four leagues that dominate the US sports landscape. 

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