NEW YORK - On a day when 12th-year center and ex-New Jersey Net Jason Collins came out as the first openly gay active male athlete in a major American professional sport, opinions and statements have come in from all over the sporting world.
Those opinions include current Nets, some of whom are ex-teammates, as well as General Manager Billy King, who has never served as Collins' employer, but as a competing executive in the same division during his days as General Manager of the Philadelphia 76ers.
"Jason Collins was a vital member of the New Jersey Nets for six and a half years, and as an executive with a competing NBA team, I always respected the standard he set for team play and the example he set for the league in playing with integrity and purpose," King said in a statement late Monday afternoon. "He exemplifies everything we look for in players, and for those players and associates within our organization, our primary focus is creating the most accepting and respectful environment for everyone to succeed."
Jerry Stackhouse has seen plenty in his 18 years in the NBA, but only spent one season as a teammate to Collins last season with the Atlanta Hawks. Despite the short stay together, the relationship was strong enough that the two actually spoke on Monday afternoon after the Sports Illustrated cover story on Collins was released online.
"I spoke with him and he was just tired of the half-truths and tired of not being able to really enjoy what he do," Stackhouse told the media before the Nets took on the Chicago Bulls in Game 5 of their best-of-seven playoff series. "I told him he was one of the most courageous people that I could think of, just because I don't know if I would have the courage to do it. The fact that he did, I'm gonna support him 100 percent and I'm gonna encourage other guys to support him as well."
Stackhouse believes that a major reason the reaction across the NBA to this news is almost entirely positive and supportive is because Collins is a veteran and almost universally-viewed as a good guy and a better teammate.
If someone younger, with less experience or a worse reputation had come out of the closet, maybe the reception wouldn't have been as positive.
"If there's someone to do it and someone who has the personality, smarts and the character to do it, I think Jason is that guy," Stackhouse said. "This is a guy that had been around for 12 years, who has been a great teammate, who hasn't infringed on anybody's space, who hasn't done anything negative at all and has been a true pro. I think that's the plus-side of it being him."
The 18th overall selection in the 2001 NBA Draft by the Nets, Collins went to the NBA Finals with the Nets as a rookie in 2002 and again in 2003 after a standout collegiate career at Stanford, where he was a third-team All-American and first-team All-Pac-10 selection.
Another former Cardinal star center went to bat for Collins late Monday afternoon.
"It is an honor for me to call Jason Collins a friend," said Brook Lopez, who was a third-team All-American as a sophomore in 2008. "I admire his dignity, as well as his courage to come out. I'll always have his back."
Collins spent three seasons with Joe Johnson and the Atlanta Hawks. Between the 2010, 2011 and 2012 seasons, Collins played in 103 games with 38 starts to his credit.
"Jason Collins was one of the best teammates I've ever had," Johnson said. "I respect his tremendous courage to come out and will always support him."
Josh Newman is SNYNets.com’s Field Reporter. Follow him on Twitter for up to the minute news and banter on all things related to the Brooklyn Nets and the NBA