Basketball center Jason Collins became the first openly gay active player in a major sport by telling his story in a Sports Illustrated cover story released Monday. (Click here for his first-person story.)
The 34-year-old Collins is a free agent who played for the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards this season. He went to school locally at Harvard-Westlake School and grew up for a time in Northridge.
Collins and his twin brother Jarron Collins in the class of 1997 played basketball at Harvard-Westlake and played alongside actor Jason Segel, (Knocked Up) while on the team. It was a year the Wolverines won two state championships for the first time and was called "The Best Team Ever" by local press.
Harvard-Westlake School hasn’t yet released a statement about Collins, but ironically a few weeks ago the school had an assembly from former NBA player and openly gay performance psychologist John Amaechi. He was describing the discrimination he felt and his path of coming out.
Harvard Chronicle student reporters also interviewed Head Basketball Coach Greg Hilliard, who coached the Collins brothers, and said, “Sexual orientation was never an issue to any of us. I’m just proud that he at this point decided it’s the right time to talk about it.” He said he recalls the athlete visiting him and bringing his girlfriend even in his 30s. Click here for the full story.
Collins said he dated women in school, but as he grew older, he was more definitive about his sexual identity, but kept it private. A roommate in Stanford tried to talk him into coming out, but he wasn’t ready.
He said: "When I was younger I dated women. I even got engaged. I thought I had to live a certain way. I thought I needed to marry a woman and raise kids with her. I kept telling myself the sky was red, but I always knew it was blue."
When he played for the Boston Celtics, he chose #98 as a private silent solidarity with the gay community because that represents 1998, the year that gay college student Matthew Shepard was tortured to death in a hate crime in Wyoming.