While just over two weeks ago it appeared a near certainty that Michael Sam would become the first active athlete to be openly gay in any of the four major American sports, it now appears he may have some competition. This is because the Brooklyn Nets are reportedly considering signing Jason Collins to a 10-day contract, which is a move that they must make as soon as possible for a number of reasons.
The first reason that the Nets should sign Collins is because he genuinely has something to offer on the court and will bring an up court presence that the team needs so badly. They currently have Kevin Garnett playing out of position at center, which has also forced Paul Pierce into playing at small forward and Shaun Livingston starting at shooting guard, which has all come into effect since Brook Lopez suffered a broken right foot.
Collins will not be a one man wrecking ball at the position of center, but the 7-footer would be a more than adequate option off the bench for 10 to 15 minutes per game. This in turn would allow Andray Blatche to move into the starting role that he deserves, with the knowledge on the part of the Nets that he won’t be forced to play more than 30 minutes per game, which would likely lead to fatigue and ineffectiveness. In addition to this deputy role off the bench, Collins would be a great leader in the locker room, as the 35 year old has been around for a while and has always been known as a great character player.
Another reason that may not be as significant on the court, but will have an effect that will range far past the current season, is that signing Collins will make the career of Sam and other gay athletes much easier in the future, once front offices and players see that adding a gay man into the locker room will not cause any sort of negative shift in terms of on-court production, fan reaction or how players view their teammates. In fact, it could only be a positive, as the NBA will be at the forefront of showing that being respectful of individuals no matter who they are will only send a positive message to young people who view athletes as role models, and will raise the profile of the league as a whole.
One would think that two people quietly hoping that Nets general manager Billy King pulls off this move are NBA commissioner Adam Silver and Brooklyn head coach Jason Kidd, although for vastly different reasons. For Silver, the move would prove a great start to his tenure as commissioner and would help start off a legacy of being the guy who is on the front foot in history. To Kidd, this move would represent an upgrade for his team, both in that it would give him a veteran presence in the locker room and a much-needed big man up front.
Simply put, this is a win-win for everyone involved, and signing Collins to a 10-day deal and then a contract for the rest of the season should be a priority for the Nets.