jason collins returns

Jason Collins is simply focused on basketball and helping the Nets win

The Nets defeated the Los Angeles Lakers, in a historic game.

Hours after signing a 10-day contract with Brooklyn, reserve center Jason Collins became the first openly gay athlete to play in a major American team sports game.

The 35-year-old Collins, who spent the first seven of his previous 12 NBA seasons with the Nets, had gone unsigned until Sunday after coming out publicly back in April.

Collins played 11 minutes against the Lakers, contributing with a +8 plus/minus.

After the game, Collins said that it was fun to be back on the court again after a 10-month hiatus, and while he knows he’s blazing a significant trail for gay athletes everywhere, his focus right now is on basketball and helping the Nets win games.

“It felt good to go out there [on the court] and foul people,” he said with a smile. “I know I’m capable of playing in the NBA. I think I showed that tonight.”

Jon Presser, Contributor

Collins has always been one of those players whose contributions don’t always show up on the stat sheet, and last night was no different. In his first game in a Nets uniform since February 2, 2008, Collins did what the Nets needed him to do, as he brought some toughness and stingy interior defense to the table.

Before the game, Collins said that he was just focusing on being ready to contribute on the court when called upon, and after the game, he reiterated that he’s not thinking about his barrier-breaking accomplishments right now. Someday, he’ll let it all sink in, but for now, he’s focused on helping his old/new team win any way he can.

Someday, there will be a time when a gay athlete playing his or her respective sport won’t require a pregame press conference. Sunday in Los Angeles, Jason Collins made history just by stepping on the court. As long as he keeps playing the way the Nets need him to, it’ll be business as usual for the 13-year veteran. As it should be.