Jason Collins kicked open the closet door, revealing in late April that he is gaybecoming the first out, active male on a major professional team sport. President Obama responded to the news, Oprah reacted and water-coolers worldwide were abuzz.
So what's nexta woman on the roster of a National Basketball Association (NBA) team? More so, a woman actually playing in a regular-season NBA game?
That could happen, and sooner than most would imagine, said Wayne "Tree" Rollins, who played 18 seasons in the NBA and now is a first-year assistant coach for the Chicago Sky in the WNBA.
"There's going to be a day when we have a female in the NBA, when a female is able to compete with the men," Rollins said. "It's no different than women officials," now working in the NBA.
Who might it be?
Perhaps Elena Della Donne, the Sky's 6-foot-5 rookie from the University of Delaware; or maybe the WNBA's No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 Draft, Brittney Griner, the 6-foot-8 standout from Baylor University who now plays for the Phoenix Mercury. Griner revealed she is gay before playing her first WNBA game.
"Playing in the NBA, size helps, definitely," said Rollins, who stands 7-foot-1 and played for five NBA teams during 1977-95. "Maybe in the next 15 or 20 years, there's gotta be one [female in the NBA.]
"Back in my day, I don't think a female could have withstood the punishment that she would have taken, especially in the paint. But with the rules now, it could happen. A woman can now safely compete with the men."
The Chicago Force is one of the best women's tackle football teams in the nation, with convincing wins in its first six games this season, including an 82-20 thrashing of the Indy Crash. The Force roster features 12 openly gay players, including quarterback Sami Grisafe. Other out Force players include Tricia Charbonneau, Dawn Pederson, Darcy Leslie, Brandy Hatcher, Latoya Kiner, Jen Kelly, Bethany Evans, Kim Marks, Carolyn Lee, Jamie Menzyk, and Liz Okey.
Plus, there are five Force staff members who are openly gay: Ro Soper, Yvette Holt, Linda Bache, Jen Thompson and Sam Powell.
"The world that we live in now, [coming out] may be important to that individual, but it's not important to me; you're still a human being and I'm going to treat you like any other human being, regardless of sexual orientation," Rollins said. "For me, I looked at [Collin' coming-out] as not really a big deal."
Rollins said Collins likely will not have any problems next season if signed by an NBA teamand he will most assuredly be signed for the 2013-14 season, Rollins said. (Collins is now a free agent.)
"I get my real information from the barber shop," Rollins said, laughing. "I got my haircut around the time [Collins] came out and [his coming-out] came up, and yet no one [in the barber shop] was negative about it."
But, back when Rollins played, being openly gay probably would have been a problem, he said.
Times have changed, on and off the court.
"I have bisexual friends, gay friends, heterosexual friends … and there's really no difference. And that's a positive thing," Rollins said. "[Collins] can now live his life the way he wants to live it with no fear of being treated differently. I think that's one step where the human race has moved forward on.
"There are bigger things in the world, such as the issues with North Korea, than a person's sexual orientation."
The Sky home opener is Friday, May 31, against Connecticut. Tipoff is 7:30 p.m., at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont.