Support for NBA's First Openly Gay Player

As Brooklyn Nets fans gathered at the Barclays Center for the first round of play-off games, several paused to reflect on the day's little piece of history: an active professional athlete, in one of the world's most popular sports, came out as openly gay.

Jason Collins, a 12-year veteran, published an essay in Sports Illustrated, explaining his identity, his reasons for keeping his sexual orientation secret, and for coming out.

"I've endured years of misery and gone to enormous lengths to live a lie. I was certain that my world would fall apart if anyone knew," Collins wrote. "And yet when I acknowledged my sexuality I felt whole for the first time. I still had the same sense of humor, I still had the same mannerisms and my friends still had my back."

Brooklyn Nets fans were unstinting in their praise for Collins, almost all of them commending him for being courageous.

"This is today's life, and everybody has a choice, and they should be able to live as they please," said Warren Hazel, a New York City Transit worker from Old Mill Basin, Brooklyn.

Montclair State student Kyle Tompkins says he was a big fan of the Nets growing up, and he supports Collins.

"I think it's a bold move. I'm not surprised that there's gay athletes, but I give him a lot of credit to come out, because he's going to take a lot of criticism," he said.

In his essay, Collins says he doesn't mind if fans heckle him because he's been booed before.

He ha has played for six teams throughout his career, most recently as a reserve with the Washington Wizards. Collins is now a free agent and wants to keep playing in the NBA.

Jack Smith contributed reporting.