ESPN reports that the Brooklyn Nets brought Jason Collins to a private training event in Los Angeles this week, spurring speculation that the team is considering signing him. Collins would become the second* openly gay active player in any major American professional sport. The first was pro soccer player Robbie Rogers, who returned to the sport last May after coming out during a short retirement.
Nets general manager Billy King did not attend the workout, but said he was told Collins is “in shape.” The Nets (25-27), three games behind Atlantic Division-leading Toronto entering Thursday’s play, are one game into a five-game Western Conference swing. One scenario under consideration, sources said, is making a 10-day roster addition during the trip. Collins’ potential reunion with the franchise, for whom he played during his first six-plus seasons in the league, would put the 7-footer in line to become the first openly gay athlete to play in any of North America’s four traditional major team sports. Despite his modest career averages of 3.6 points and 3.8 rebounds, Collins is a natural target for the Nets, given his defensive know-how, history with the franchise and reputation as a great teammate. Collins was the 18th pick in the 2001 NBA draft by Houston before being sent to the Nets in a draft-night deal. He has played for Memphis and Minnesota in addition to his stints with the Nets, Hawks, Celtics and Wizards.
*Collins came out last April while a free agent with the Washington Wizards and has not played in the NBA since. But some have argued that he still gets the “first” title since he technically belonged to a team at the time. And of course there are those who wouldn’t call pro soccer a “major” sport.