Jason Collins just became most popular player in NBA - KMSP-TV

'Out of 390 people, there's only one' Jason Collins

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For years, it's been rumored a professional athlete from one of the four major American sports would come out as gay -- and a former Timberwolves player made a historic announcement on Monday.

Jason Collins, a center who finished last season with the Washington Wizards, announced he is gay in an article for Sports Illustrated -- and another former Timberwolves player is commending him for becoming the first active NBA member to come out.

At the 43 Hoops Academy in Hopkins, athletes of all ages try to make a slam dunk out of their dreams -- but founder and former Timberwolves player Chris Carr says a different milestone will mark the NBA's next season than those of years past.

"I was a little surprised," Carr admitted. "It's been such a closed-lipped topic through professional sports in general for many, many years."

Collins, who played one season with the Timberwolves, is now the first openly-gay player in major league sports.

"Out of 390 people, there's only one of him," Carr said. "It'll be interesting."

So far, the reaction has been mostly positive. Congratulations have come from NBA Commissioner David Stern and former teammate Kevin Love. Although Miami Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace stuck his cleat in his mouth when he sent a tweet saying, "All these beautiful women in the world and guys wanna mess with other guys," he quickly took it down.

Yet, Carr told FOX 9 News the reaction that matters most to Collins will be those of his teammates in the locker room.

"If they receive him with open arms -- which they should as teammates, then his preference off the court shouldn't have to be anybody else's business," Carr said.

Just like when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball, some -- including Carr -- believe Collins' announcement could level the playing field for other gay athletes.

"He's free to do what he wants to do. I'll shake his hand and congratulate him because the journey he's about to embark on is going to be very riveting for years to come," Carr said.

Collins told Sports Illustrated the disruption to his routine during the NBA lockout forced him to confront who he really is -- and that the Boston Marathon bombings convinced him life is short and the time was now. Collins also credited straight athletes like Vikings punter Chris Kluwe with inspiring him to stand up for what he believes.

"He just became the most popular guy in the NBA," Carr told FOX 9 News. "No matter if Lebron scores 50 points and 30 rebounds -- everyone will be writing about him."

Next season, Collins will be a free agent. It is not yet known whether another team will sign him. 

Since the announcement, many people have sent shout outs to Collins, including President Barack Obama; President Bill Clinton and his daughter, Chelsea; and Kobe Bryant.

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