- Ohm Youngmisuk, ESPN Staff Writer
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GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Jason Kidd got the phone call yesterday morning and “was caught off guard.”
Jason Collins called and told his old Nets teammate about the historic announcement that Collins is gay.
“He wanted to talk to me about it,” Kidd said on Tuesday at the Knicks practice facility when asked about his reaction. “And I fully support his decision. I think everything now will work itself out. It takes a lot of courage of what he did," Kidd added. "But it's just going to make the world a better place at the end of the day."
Kidd believes other NBA players will accept Collins moving forward. The Knicks point guard said all anyone has to do is watch “42” to see what Jackie Robinson dealt with. Kidd wasn't likening Collins’ situation to Robinson's but rather saying that it really shouldn’t be an issue.
“I think it shouldn't be a problem,” said Kidd, who played six-plus seasons with Collins in New Jersey. “You just have to go watch Jackie Robinson and see what he went through as a player and I think everybody will be fine with it.”
Kidd and Kenyon Martin both played with Collins while leading the New Jersey Nets to two consecutive NBA Finals appearances in the 2001-02 and 2002-03 seasons. Both Knicks were extremely proud of their former teammate.
Martin, who played with Collins from 2001 to 2004, said he “didn’t have any inclination of anything like that” when asked if he knew about Collins’ sexual preference when they were teammates.
“Takes a brave man,” Martin said. “I commend him for him having the courage to do it. I have no problem with it. He was my friend before and he will still be my friend.”
“It’s huge for him to take this stand,” Martin later added. “Like he said in the [Sports Illustrated] article, somebody had to be the one to raise the hand. And he was the first to do it so you have to take your hat off to him.”
Carmelo Anthony says he is glad to see Collins come out and now be able to live the way he wants to.
“It was shocking I think to everybody,” Anthony said of his initial reaction. “But you see everybody supporting his decision. I’m just glad he came out. A secret like that can eat you alive. It sounds like, from what I’m hearing in the interviews, that he is a free man now.”
“For him to come out right now and be the first athlete to do it takes big [guts] to do that,” Anthony later added. “Especially the society we live in and knowing that everybody is going to have something to say. For him to step up to the plate and do that I’m pretty sure it’s going to open the floodgates for a lot of other people.”
Knicks coach Mike Woodson coached Collins for one season (2009-2010) in Atlanta and he spoke to his former center on Monday.
“I have the utmost respect for him,” said Woodson. “He was a hard player for me and the decision that he made, we have to live with. That’s his personal life, and life goes on.”
Kidd and Martin believe Collins, a free agent, will get a shot to play again next season since teams can always use a physical big man who plays hard and smart. Collins does a lot of the dirty work that never shows up in a box score but is so appreciated by teammates and coaches.
Both would gladly be teammates with Collins again anytime.
“I can’t speak on nobody else,” Martin said when asked how he thinks other players will accept Collins in the locker room moving forward. “I only know the way I would treat him. He was my friend and he will still be my friend.”
7dSteve Ilardi and Jeremias Engelmann