For most of the world, Jason Collins’ remarkable return to the NBA marked a major point in history for the world of sports as Collins became the first openly gay athlete to play in one of North America’s four major sports. And although some are criticizing and downplaying Collins’ achievement, NBA legend Kobe Bryant is loudly speaking out about how Collins literally changed the game for the sports world.
“It’s fantastic. It sets an incredible precedent,” Bryant told Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports about Collins signing a 10-day contract with the Brooklyn Nets. “I think the most important part about it, what I’ve learned on the issue is that one person coming out is showing this type of courage that gives others that same type of courage.”
Bryant explained that Collins’ triumphant return to the NBA would undoubtedly give younger LGBT athletes hope that they can one day make it in the big leagues as well.
“There is a kid out there who … is going to say, ‘Jason gave me strength in dark moments to be brave. He gave me courage to step up and accept myself for who I am despite what others might be saying or the public pressures. He gave me strength and bravery to be myself,’” Bryant said.
Collins, who helped the Nets score a 108-102 victory against the Los Angeles Lakers in his comeback game, also spoke highly of Bryant, saying he was relieved he didn’t have to go up against the NBA titan.
“I thought it was great,” Collins said of his return to the court, via the Los Angeles Times. “Being an L.A. kid, I can’t think of a better situation; playing for the Nets and playing here, and getting the win. I’m just glad Kobe and Shaq weren’t out there.”
We’re proud of Bryant for being so progressive and supportive of LGBT athletes, and we hope other straight players follow his example and embrace the future gay athletes who will join the league.
Check out some other sports LGBT allies below. – nicholas robinson