NBA veteran Jason Collins made history by coming out as gay in the May issue of Sports Illustrated, and now his former high school is speaking out, commending the basketball player for his courageousness Monday. Collins is the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport.
Collins and his twin brother Jarron carried the Harvard-Westlake High School basketball team to victory in 1996 and 1997, earning the school two state titles.
Both the Los Angeles-based high school’s president, and Collins’ former basketball coach on Monday expressed support.
“He was raised right, educated right, and now he's done right,” said Harvard-Westlake High School president Tom Hudnut.
Greg Hillard, Harvard Westlake's longtime basketball coach, recalled meeting Collins and his brother for the first time. Both teens were nearly 7 feet tall.
“When they came in to meet me and ducked under the door, I kind of felt pretty special,” Hillard said.
Hillar said that in high school Collins was a leader on court and off.
“If there was ever a guy who could handle this and be an articulate spokesman for something important,” it’s him, Hillard said.
Collins thanked scores of supporters and followers on the Twitterverse Monday afternoon, saying:
Thank you to everyone who has reached out to me thru email, texts, calls, tweets, letters, and every other form of communication. #support
— Jason Collins (@jasoncollins34) April 29, 2013
Collins co-wrote the Sports Illustrated article for the May issue, saying that remaining in the closet became "unbearable" as the U.S. Supreme Court weighed in on same-sex marriage.
He also wrote, "I wish I wasn't the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying 'I'm different.' If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I'm raising my hand."
Though Collins said he wasn't sure how his fellow NBA players would react, support from multiple teams poured in on Twitter, including Kobe Bryant:
“Proud of @jasoncollins34. Don’t suffocate who u r because of the ignorance of others. #courage #support”.
Collins responded in kind, thanking his supporters via Twitter.
“All the support I have received today is truly inspirational. I knew that I was choosing the road less traveled but I'm not walking it alone,” Collins tweeted Monday.
NBC4's Ted Chen contributed to this report.
See the impact Collins' announcement had on social media: