Friday, February 28, 2014

Center Stage

When Jason Collins signed a 10-day contract with the Brooklyn Nets, he became the first openly gay athlete in America's four major sports.  Boy howdy, is he making the most of those 10 days.

Not as an offensive threat; the trainer gets more points than he does.  The Nets acquired Collins, a 35-year-old journeyman center, to defend and rebound and be generally menacing around the basket.  No, Collins is having a different kind of impact.  His Nets jersey is the top seller on NBA.com.  He's beating out stars like LeBron James and Kevin Durant, players who can actually, y'know, score.

And Thursday night Collins met with Matthew Shepard's parents and brother following a game in Denver.   Collins wears No. 98 with the Nets, just as he did with the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards in the days before he came out on the cover of Sports Illustrated.  He chose that number in honor of Matthew, who was murdered in 1998.

''Obviously, it started off my friends and family knew why I chose that number and it's just cool to see that so many people support it as evidenced by so many people buying the jersey,'' Collins told The Associated Press.

He gave the Shepards an autographed jersey, laughing, ''I did not want to give them a sweaty jersey, so this is a backup."

''It was delightful. We were happy to finally have the opportunity to meet,'' said Judy Shepard.  She spoke with Collins over the phone last year after he came out and told the world he wore No. 98 in memory of her son.

Man, if Collins gets picked up for another 10-day stint, the only way he can top this one is if he actually scores points.