Jason Collins became the NBA's first active openly gay player Sunday, signing a 10-day contract with the Brooklyn Nets.
Collins entered his first game with the Nets later that evening in Los Angeles against the Lakers. He was greeted with loud applause from the opposing fans at the Staples Center, according to USA Today.
The 35-year-old center revealed at the end of last season he is gay, but he was a free agent and had remained unsigned.
With a need for another big man, the Nets turned to the 7-foot-tall Collins, who helped them reach two NBA Finals in the early 2000s.
"The decision to sign Jason was a basketball decision," Nets general manager Billy King said in a statement. "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."
Collins has played 12 NBA seasons, including his first seven with the Nets, when they were in New Jersey and Jason Kidd was their point guard. Kidd is now the Nets' coach, and Collins has been a teammate of several other current Nets.
"Jason told us that his goal was to earn another contract with an NBA team. 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," Commissioner Adam Silver said.
The Nets worked out with Collins during the All-Star break and met with him again Sunday, as his twin brother, Jarron Collins, hinted that history would be made.
"Hope everyone is enjoying their Sunday. Today should be a pretty cool day!" Jarron Collins tweeted.
The news on Jason Collins comes as Michael Sam, the Southeastern Conference defensive player of the year from Missouri who recently revealed he is gay, is taking part in the NFL draft combine. Sam's on-field workouts in Indianapolis are scheduled for Monday.
Collins played 38 games last season with Boston and Washington and averaged 1.1 points and 1.6 rebounds in limited minutes. For his career, Collins averages 3.6 points and 3.8 rebounds.
After Collins announced that he was gay, numerous NBA players insisted he would be welcomed in the locker room. He has played for five other teams and is well respected inside and outside the league, and he attended last month's State of the Union address as a guest of first lady Michelle Obama.
"I just know Jason as a person and as a player. That's what I'm happy about. He has earned it. He's a great guy. It's good for the league. The important thing is to judge him as a person and a basketball player," Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau said. "I know people who have coached him, and I know how highly thought of he is."
The Nets had an opening for a big man after trading Reggie Evans along with Jason Terry to Sacramento on Wednesday for guard Marcus Thornton. King said Thursday that Collins would be among the players they would look at, insisting they wouldn't be concerned about any extra attention his signing would provide.
"We're going to bring in a basketball player," King said. "It's not about marketing or anything like that."
The Nets posted a photo on their Twitter account of Kidd watching Collins sign his contract, encouraging followers to retweet it to welcome Collins to Brooklyn.
With 510 games played, Collins is tied for third in Nets history, and he ranks in their top 10 in minutes played, offensive rebounds and total rebounds. He is a limited offensive player, but the Nets hope he will provide a presence defensively and on the boards.
"I know Jason Collins is a competitor. One thing I know about him is he fouls very hard," Miami's Dwyane Wade said with a laugh. "He's one of those tough veterans. I'm sure he's happy to be back playing in the league. Welcome back."
The Associated Press