Most players on a ten-day contract don’t get a lot of people requesting their jersey. They’re usually just hired guns trying to get their first — or last — shot on any team that’ll have them. But, duh, Jason Collins isn’t most players.
Tuesday was the first day Collins’s #98 jersey was available to the public on NBA.com, and sure enough, Collins had the top-selling jersey of all NBA players on its inaugural day, according to NBA Senior Vice President Vicky Picca.
Not bad for a jersey that hasn’t even been worn yet; Collins wore #46 on Sunday, as it was the only jersey the Nets had lying around. The significance of #98 goes deeper than an NBA player’s decision to wear an arbitrary number, it’s a reference to Matthew Shephard, a college student who was tortured and murdered in 1998 for being gay.
There’s a lot of people around the world (and around comment sections on Collins articles) that allege being gay doesn’t matter in this day and age, and that the fact that Collins is the first openly gay player isn’t a big deal. Even if you think it shouldn’t matter, it does. In a weird cultural twist, the free market helped dictate that.
According to the New York times, demand for Collins’s #98 jersey had reached “unprecedented” levels, which in turn led the NBA to make Collins apparel available.
A Jason Collins road jersey goes for $69.95 at the NBA store.
Despite the unprecedented demand, the Nets have not begun selling Collins’s jersey yet in their store. They have a general policy about not selling jerseys for players on ten-day contracts. If Collins gets a contract for the remainder of the season, they’ll put his jersey on their website.