Jason Collins joined TNT's "Inside The NBA" on Tuesday night, a day after he came out as gay in a moving first-person article in Sports Illustrated. The 12-year NBA veteran talked with panelists Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, Shaquille O'Neal and Ernie Johnson about his decision to come out, the reaction he initially received as well as his aim to remain an active NBA player.
"It was amazing," Collins said after Johnson asked about his feelings waking up on the day after his landmark revelation. "It was a truly overwhelming experience ... humbling, the amount of support I received. I'm truly blessed to have the people that I have [who] have my back, and just support me and lift me up."
During an interview that stretched more than ten minutes, O'Neal asked Collins about the potential impact of his decision to become the first openly gay active professional athlete in any major U.S. team sport.
"I hope it will encourage to live an honest and genuine life," Collins explained. "Going back to what Charles said, it's important for everybody to make decisions in their life that makes them happy and to be honest. Once you put down that mask and live an authentic life, it's liberating. You don't have to hide anymore. You can just be yourself. You're still the same you. You're still the same guy who likes to laugh and joke. But now it's just being completely honest."
Collins also addressed his own hope to find a new team for next season. The 34-year-old center played for the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards during the 2012-2013 season and is a free agent.
"I can still play in this league. I want to still play in this league," Collins told the TNT crew. "I still have a love for the game and I still feel that I can offer an NBA ballclub that veteran leadership. I think I've proven by doing this that not only will I talk the talk but I will walk the walk and I think everybody in the league respects that."
While not showing replays of O'Neal and Collins battling in the post, the discussion touched on Collins' decision to come out, his initial discussion with his twin brother and the way he spent the few days between completing the SI piece and it's publication online. Collins also revealed that his agent, Arn Tellem, played an integral role behind the scenes.
"The person who helped me the most, it wasn't a push, he enabled me to tell my story in my own terms, in my own way, and that was Arn Tellum, my agent. Arn is like the uncle everybody wishes that they had. I trust him with my life," Collins said in response to a question posed by Smith. "When I first told him that I was gay at the end of the season, that I wanted to come out of the closest, he was a little hesitant to say the least. But talking further with him, I sort of convinced him that this was the right course of action. He was the one who enabled me to work with the writer at Sports Illustrated and all the people at Sports Illustrated to tell my story in a way that made me feel comfortable and allowed me to keep my dignity."
While Collins has received an overwhelming amount of support since coming out, he discussed how he intended to respond to those who reacted negatively.
"For anyone who has their doubts, I say let my career and more importantly my teams that I play for and my teammates and the coaches, my professional conduct, my work ethic, let that be what does the loudest talking for me," Collins said. "That's what you want to be judged on."