The three biggest leaders in the Oklahoma City Thunder locker room voiced support on Sunday for Jason Collins, who became the first openly gay active player in the four major North American team sports after signing a 10-day contract with the Brooklyn Nets.
Kevin Durant chose to look at him as a basketball player.
Russell Westbrook viewed him as a hard worker.
Derek Fisher reminded that he's a person.
“My opinion is not unbiased,” Fisher said. “I played with Jason's brother, Jaron, in Utah. I know his family, his mom and dad, his sister-in-law. And they're some of the greatest people you'll ever meet.”
Fisher noted that Collins' signing came in the middle of Black History Month, becoming a fitting testament to all that the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood for.
“Judging people on the content of their character and not the color of their skin or their sexual orientation or ethnicity, their background, where they're from, where they live,” Fisher said. “That's more so what I'm focused on.”
Collins, 35, has played 14 seasons with six NBA teams. The former 18th overall pick out of Stanford holds career averages of 3.6 points and 3.8 rebounds in 713 games. He split last season with Boston and Washington, appearing in 38 games, before coming out in a cover story by Sports Illustrated last May.
“I just think about basketball,” Durant said. “He's a physical, physical center that plays his tail off for his team. And that's all we should be worried about is just how he plays basketball ... He's been looking for his chance to get in the league and now he's back.”
Asked if he thinks NBA players will accept Collins, Durant said yes.
“I think so,” Durant said. “From what I've heard from all the guys that know him, great teammate, put his body on the line for the team. I can roll with anybody like that.”
Westbrook knows Collins. The two worked out together in past offseasons in Los Angeles.
“Jason's a good guy,” Westbrook said. “I know him personally … Jason's been a player in this league for numerous years, and regardless of what he does off the floor he comes to work every day and does his job.”
Fisher said that's what teammates are likely to focus most on, Collins' performance.
“Whether people choose to treat him differently because of his orientation,” Fisher said, “the guys in his locker room will ultimately judge him based on how he can help the team win basketball games and what kind of teammate he is.”
Current Nets players Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett were teammates of Collins with Boston last year. Fisher said those previously existing relationships should help.
“I don't think they'll be surprised at just how great of a person he is and how great of a teammate he'll be,” Fisher said.
It's those who are on the outside world that Fisher isn't so sure about.
“In my opinion, it won't change his experience within his team, within the league,” Fisher said. “Whether fans or other people outside of our business choose to treat him differently, I can't say. But like I said, many of his teammates he's been on teams with before. He's been on multiple teams. He's been in and out of multiple locker rooms. And so I think guys know him for who he is as a person and really won't be concerned with the news of how he chooses to live.”