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Kobe Bryant on Jason Collins signing: ‘It’s fantastic. It sets an incredible precedent.’

Feb 24, 2014, 10:14 AM EDT

kobe all star presser Getty Images

Jason Collins became the first openly gay, active professional athlete on Sunday when the Nets signed him to a 10-day contract, and then became the first to play in a game when he checked into the lineup against the Lakers at Staples Center with 10:28 remaining in the second quarter.

Collins handled all of the attention as though his situation was unremarkable, and someday that may be the case. But Kobe Bryant was in attendance as he continues to work his way back from injury, and he knows just how much Collins’ signing can mean in the grand scheme of things.

From Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports:

“His impact [Sunday night] is greater than what people think,” Bryant told Yahoo Sports before the game. “You look at it from the context of having the first openly gay player. But they missed the domino effect that it has way beyond sports.” …

“It’s fantastic. It sets an incredible precedent,” said Bryant, who is currently out of the Lakers’ lineup indefinitely with a knee injury. “I think the most important part about it, what I’ve learned on the issue is that one person coming out is showing this type of courage that gives others that same type of courage.

“It’s dealing with a lot of issues for kids who are afraid to be themselves. Afraid to be themselves because of the peer pressure that comes with it. A lot of these kids have depression issues or they’re being teased from other kids for being different. You wind up seeing a lot of suicides, kids injuring themselves and getting hooked on things that they should not be hooked on.”

Collins played 11 minutes in his Nets debut, and largely looked to be a combination of aged and rusty. He has never been one to put up even decent scoring numbers, but he was slow on defense, picking up five personal fouls and committing two turnovers while hauling down a couple of rebounds.

But his basketball contribution to the Nets this season won’t be the story, whether he sticks the rest of the year or is released after just 10 days. As Bryant noted, the impact of Collins signing and playing with a team has implications far beyond the game itself.

  1. adoombray - Feb 24, 2014 at 10:37 AM

    it was unremarkable. It was just another big rolling in off the bench on a 10 day contract.

    Serious question: Don’t you guys think that the intense media circus around his personal choices is exploitation? his personal life is his soundbite. it’s his buzzword.

    The only thing remarkable about this is that the Nets signed Collins over the very available Marcus Camby. Probably because of the good press it would bring. Meanwhile, sportswriters everywhere post the same article about social progress and a step in the right direction, making themselves sound painfully dated to anyone under 35 because a person’s orientation means nothing to us ; that’s why you’re seeing the social progress. This isn’t news. This is a one liner.

    • jimeejohnson - Feb 24, 2014 at 11:21 AM

      “…anyone under 35 because a person’s orientation means nothing to us;”

      I think you’re lying.

      • adoombray - Feb 24, 2014 at 12:16 PM

        now THAT is an impediment to social progress and a harder article to write than this one. There is a really good story hidden here somewhere about how society would be better off if it didnt automatically assume that social issues from 40 years ago still existed. By and large, they don’t.

      • genericcommenter - Feb 24, 2014 at 1:30 PM

        I will turn 35 next month. I had to leave college before graduating for health and financial reasons. After working and starting a business, I took advantage of a good opportunity to go back to school last year. I’m not exactly Thornton Meloning it up, but it’s alright. So, I am around a lot of 20-22 year-olds M-F. I also interact or at least observe a lot of social media from this age group. Besides my wife and in-laws, almost everyone I interact with is under 35. I see a LOT of bigotry and ignorant beliefs and comments from young people. This idea that everyone under 35 is so socially liberal and open-minded is not true. I’ve had gay friends and classmates and observed them not being treated well. I’ve heard racist, sexist, otherwise bigoted comments from plenty of people when they assume they are in “safe” places to do so (probably assume I am a standard straight white guy, which isn’t exactly the case). I’ve seen Human Rights Campaign volunteers and how they are treated. I live in a “heartland” type state that’s one of those battleground almost 50/50 D/R places, but the city and University are definitely on the liberal side, and the city has a well-regarded and accepted gay scene and population. Still, it would be quite a stretch to say young people as a whole are more tolerant. I think what we DO have is a good chunk of young people who will stand up in support of gay rights and call out people who do or say bigoted things, but I think there’s still a good chunk (probably less than 50% but significant) of young people who certainly do care about things like this and will express their true feelings in certain environments.

    • asimonetti88 - Feb 24, 2014 at 11:27 AM

      Marcus Camby might be a bigger name, but you do realize he averaged 1.8 PPG, 3.3 RPG and 0.6 BPG last year? And was cut in training camp this year because he couldn’t stay healthy at age 39?

      Everyone keeps saying Collins was only signed for publicity, but there’s a reason most of these guys are sitting at home right now- they’re all mediocre to bad. If there was someone more deserving than Collins, they’d be on a roster already.

      • casualcommenter - Feb 24, 2014 at 12:51 PM

        Agreed. Regardless of publicity, Collins was one of the 3 best free agent bigs left on the market, because anybody significantly better wouldn’t be sitting on their couches this late in the season with so many injuries this year to key players. Camby became incredibly injury prone after signing his final deal with the Knicks, to the point that some accused him of letting himself go, so there are questions about his desire to play.

        Collins is a role player who has been keeping himself in shape and fills a distinct role. He rebounds, sets picks, and plays good low-post defense. That skillset becomes more valuable in the playoffs when the game slows down, and he’s basically Kendrick Perkins except far, far, far cheaper. Not surprised he was signed eventually.

      • jerze2387 - Feb 24, 2014 at 2:23 PM

        thats still better than the 1ppg and 1rpg collins averaged.

      • Kevin S. - Feb 24, 2014 at 2:46 PM

        If you’re just looking at per-game averages to determine which back-end guy to sign, I don’t know how to help you.

      • asimonetti88 - Feb 24, 2014 at 3:12 PM

        jerze2387 – Feb 24, 2014 at 2:23 PM
        thats still better than the 1ppg and 1rpg collins averaged.
        —————————————————————————-

        Collins wasn’t cut from a team for being unable to stay healthy.
        ____________________________________________________________

        Kevin S. – Feb 24, 2014 at 2:46 PM
        If you’re just looking at per-game averages to determine which back-end guy to sign, I don’t know how to help you.
        —————————————————————————-

        Isn’t that what all the criticisms of Collins are based on? That he only averages 2 PPG and 2 RPG?

      • asimonetti88 - Feb 24, 2014 at 3:13 PM

        Not to mention the per game averages that matter most when it comes to Camby: 10.8 and 24. As in, last season he played 10.8 MPG in the 24 games he played due to injuries.

      • Kevin S. - Feb 25, 2014 at 5:28 AM

        Yeah, and they’re stupid criticisms. Look, Collins doesn’t put up stats on a per-minute basis either, but quoting per-game averages for guys who get ten minutes a night is eight kinds of dumb.

      • asimonetti88 - Feb 25, 2014 at 10:32 AM

        You’re completely missing the point. Camby is averaging 10 MPG because he’s not healthy. There’s a reason why he averaged 10 MPG last year, and there’s a reason why he was not signed before Collins this year. He’s simply not healthy.

    • kb2408 - Feb 24, 2014 at 12:24 PM

      Anytime someone does something that no one else has done, it is news. Sure, we all know that there are gay pro athletes in all the major sports. However, the fact that this guy is the first to publicly acknowledge it and is now on a pro roster, is news.

    • casualcommenter - Feb 24, 2014 at 12:54 PM

      I love how you say, “This isn’t news for anybody under age 35.”

      Well, allow me to blow your mind.
      First, this is news to people like me who are under age 35 because this is a barrier being broken down.
      Second, believe it or not, there are actually a fair number of people in this world who are over age 35, and those people read the news too.

      So yes, it is newsworthy. There’s a reason why writers want to do interviews and Collins agrees to do interviews. If you don’t want to read about it, don’t click on the articles.

  2. pfic15 - Feb 24, 2014 at 10:50 AM

    So we can expect more old guys who like guys to get a 10 day contract?

  3. echech88 - Feb 24, 2014 at 10:50 AM

    I was happy for him and thought it was a nice milestone but I think most people would agree that hopefully this doesn’t continue to be a big deal. You’d hate to see Collins or Michael Sam become targets because of how much the media could wear the story out.

    A good example is someone like Tim Tebow, who without the insane media avalanche, would probably just be an ordinary guy in the league. The hate comes from media fatigue.

    The biggest sign of equality is treating it like it’s a normal thing. That means not talking endlessly about it in the future.

    • kb2408 - Feb 24, 2014 at 12:16 PM

      Two dudes making history I think is a little different than a mediocre QB. This will stop being news when more male pro atheletes come out.

      • sumkat - Feb 24, 2014 at 2:50 PM

        it will stop being news when people stop pretending it makes people “special” or different if they are gay

        people are people, what they decide to do at home and who they do it with is no concern of mine.

        the things we consider “making history” these days……..sad really

    • genericcommenter - Feb 24, 2014 at 1:40 PM

      I think Tim Tebow brought a lot of that on himself from his unwillingness to do the work that would help his teams, and that was more important than his religion or other off the field activities. He’s had several offers to be a Pro Football QB at the level of competition he deserves and turned them all down. Many great college QBs were not NFL caliber. Some of them changed positions or humbled themselves by working hard or showcasing their skills in another league. Tebow did no more (and probably less) than someone like Vince Young to convince an NFL team to give him a shot at QB. Either one could be playing in the CFL now or perhaps studying a playbook hard to become a backup or change position. I’m not religious and hesitate to judge anyone using the terms that (some) Christians would, but it seems like Tebow has problems with pride and humility. The media attention didn’t run him out, his lack of QB development did.

      Guys like Collins and Sam are situational players, who are going to provide certain limited but needed skills or at least have the chance. Collins isn’t going around insisting he’s on Lebron James’ level and demanding that a team install him as their leader, and Sam is going to be a passing down rusher if he makes a team. If Tebow had a useful skill and was willing to provide it, he might be on a team.

  4. creek0512 - Feb 24, 2014 at 11:55 AM

    Are Robbie Rogers, Megan Rapinoe & Brittney Griner not active professional athletes who are openly gay?

    • Kurt Helin - Feb 25, 2014 at 10:54 AM

      Not in the four major American sports.

  5. adoombray - Feb 24, 2014 at 12:21 PM

    “It’s dealing with a lot of issues for kids who are afraid to be themselves. Afraid to be themselves because of the peer pressure that comes with it. A lot of these kids have depression issues or they’re being teased from other kids for being different. You wind up seeing a lot of suicides, kids injuring themselves and getting hooked on things that they should not be hooked on.”

    Let me translate:

    “That way of life is totally weird, they are sad because they are different and might hurt themselves, so its good that those sad weird people can see some guy play basketball, because this totally changes everything for them. I’m with you, sad, weird depressed addicts. Buy my shoes. P.S. I deserved the extension”

    • kb2408 - Feb 24, 2014 at 12:25 PM

      Huh???

      • casualcommenter - Feb 24, 2014 at 1:06 PM

        He’s completely lost it. To be clear, I’m far from a Kobe fan, but nothing Kobe said is controversial or mean spirited. adoombray’s comment says more about himself than it does about Kobe.

    • casualcommenter - Feb 24, 2014 at 1:03 PM

      Let me translate your translation:

      “That way of life is totally weird, they are sad because they are different and might hurt themselves.”
      Yes, in many parts of the country, being gay counts as being weird. Fun fact – When you’re considered weird and different as a teenager, that’s a risk factor for being bullied and ostracized. Being ostracized and bullied causes teens to feel depressed. In addition, there are some very religiously conservative parents who view homosexuality as a sinful choice, which is another cause of anxiety for gay teens. Kobe is acknowledging those very real issues.

      “so its good that those sad weird people can see some guy play basketball, because this totally changes everything for them. I’m with you, sad, weird depressed addicts.”

      Seeing a guy like Jason Collins get paid a lot of money to play a prominent role in sports is a big deal for any gay teens who want to try to be professional athletes but are worried they’ll have to hide who they are to get a shot in the NBA, NFL, etc. The positive press coverage is reassuring to any who might be nervous that social attitudes haven’t really changed.

      Also, Kobe never referred to anybody as addicts. That’s just you.

      “Buy my shoes. P.S. I deserved the extension”
      He neither mentions his shoes or his contract extension.

    • casualcommenter - Feb 24, 2014 at 1:04 PM

      Your “translation” is completely off and says more about you than it does about Kobe. If you have any gay friends, they’ll tell you that feeling weird or abnormal once they realize they’re gay is par for the course and can very much cause depression and anxiety.

      Absolutely nothing Kobe said is negative.

  6. 1heatedtoombrayduh - Feb 24, 2014 at 1:05 PM

    PERSONALLY I dont see the big deal..if dude can help the team win..sign him; if you cant ball i dont care if youre black,white green, gay, autistic, a hemophiliac (sp) diabetic, old, young, then i dont want you on my team…

    soon keeping the terrible players out will be discrimination…
    Headline: i’ll be the first unskilled player in the NBA

    this story is a story because of media…plenty of openly gay players on the blacktops outside…

  7. antistratfordian - Feb 24, 2014 at 2:34 PM

    Good for Kobe. He’s come a long way.

    • Professor Fate - Feb 24, 2014 at 6:45 PM

      That’s right, anti, the post is all about Bryant, not Collins.

      • antistratfordian - Feb 24, 2014 at 8:53 PM

        The news here is the reformed homophobe. A great example for everyone.

    • loungefly74 - Feb 24, 2014 at 7:17 PM

      Comments like that destroy your genius input here. You’re better than that, anti.

      • antistratfordian - Feb 24, 2014 at 8:59 PM

        Did we forget Kobe was a slinger of anti-gay slurs until he was caught and reformed? He was the NBA’s Michael Richards for a spell. We should acknowledge the progress he’s made – it should be celebrated – but apparently I’m the only one who has noticed.

      • asimonetti88 - Feb 25, 2014 at 10:34 AM

        Oh please. Saying that word does not make him a homophobe. Kobe is well known as having an extremely profane vocabulary on the court.

      • loungefly74 - Feb 25, 2014 at 10:52 AM

        exactly, 88. the banter on the court is ruthless…anti, dang, dude…you are stretching it big time. anti’s stock is dropping….

  8. jzone954 - Feb 24, 2014 at 2:36 PM

    The only reason why this is all “news worthy” is because he’s gay, and that’s sad because this comes from the same people who say “it shouldn’t matter” if he’s gay which all there really trying to do is make it matter. Im sitting there last night, change to espn and “breaking news” in the ticker was “Jason Collin actually plays some minutes”
    I couldn’t stop laughing because I don’t understand why that was labeled breaking news? Then the liberal media agenda
    Came to mind and then I realized. Honestly it’s gonna keep unfolding more and more. Gay history month, national gay holidays, yet……we will still be told not to look at these people for being gay.

  9. sumkat - Feb 24, 2014 at 2:47 PM

    Translation “Good, that he signed somewhere else. I was afraid that Lakers management, desperate for attention, would sign him to a long term deal here”

  10. mackcarrington - Feb 24, 2014 at 3:57 PM

    We know what Kobe really thinks about people like Collins.

    • leafsilluminati - Feb 24, 2014 at 4:06 PM

  11. obmig - Feb 24, 2014 at 8:31 PM

    That’s the first thing positive Kobe has said all year. I’m glad he still has it in him. He’s seemed angry and more willing to talk about his anger this year than ever before.

    • turkbox420 - Feb 25, 2014 at 3:05 AM

      He seems like normal Kobe to me, dogging his teammates and telling the world they ain`t nuthin without him. He waited til Blake was gone to say he liked him.

  12. turkbox420 - Feb 25, 2014 at 3:01 AM

    Camby 2 years ago in Houston and Portland put up 10 reb 5 pts and a block in 20 minutes. Last year he was hurt for the Knicks.
    Collins best season barely compares and that was 8 years ago.
    Camby will probably go to Miami though for the playoff run and end up in the Miami Mafia behind the bench with ,Zo, Tim Hardaway, Riley and James Jones, Lebron, Wade, and Ray Allen eventually.

    Indy has been sweeping up free agents, if Bynum does not play well maybe they look at Camby.
    OKC, San Antonio, Phx, and maybe Portland or LAC may show interest.

    New Jersey oops Brooklyn just wanted some press.

    Camby deserves a ring anyway and he was not getting that at either NY team. He will probably go to which ever he will be best chance and contribute. PJ Brown style 2008.

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