Last summer, Jason Collins called his parents and said he had something important to discuss.
"When you get a call like that, you don't know what it is," Paul Collins recalled. "So Portia and I went over to his house and sat down. And he said, 'I'm gay, and I want you guys to know.' "
Monday, Collins told the world.
The former Stanford player became the first male athlete in a major American team sport to come out during his career.
Collins, 34, who just completed his 12th NBA season, revealed his sexuality in a first-person story in Sports Illustrated.
"I wish I wasn't the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, "I'm different,' " he wrote. "If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I'm raising my hand."
The reaction to Collins' announcement was swift. There were critical comments on Sports Illustrated's website, but support for Collins came from such luminaries as first lady Michelle Obama and former President Bill Clinton.
"I have known Jason Collins since he was Chelsea's classmate and friend at Stanford," Clinton said on his website. "Jason's announcement is an important moment for professional sports and in the history of the LGBT community.
"It is also the straightforward statement of a good man who wants no more than what so many of us seek: to be able to be who we are; to do our work; to build families and to contribute to our communities."
Support for Collins poured in from NBA stars past and present, including Kevin Durant, Dwyane Wade and Magic Johnson.
Kobe Bryant tweeted: "Proud of @jasoncollins34. Don't suffocate who u r because of the ignorance of others."
Former Cal standout Jason Kidd, who played with Collins in New Jersey, wrote: "Jason's sexuality doesn't change the fact that he is a great friend and was a great teammate."
The reaction was no different in the Bay Area.
Warriors President Rick Welts, the highest-ranking openly gay NBA executive, tweeted that he was "very proud" of Collins.
Cal's Mike Montgomery, who coached Collins at Stanford, praised Collins' courage:
"Jason is an exceptional person who put a great deal of thought into this decision. ... I support him, along with his family and former teammates who have nothing but respect for Jason."
Collins attended the Harvard-Westlake School in Studio City and, along with twin brother Jarron, helped Stanford basketball become a Pac-12 powerhouse in the late 1990s.
Selected in the first round of the 2001 draft, Collins has played for six NBA teams and appeared in the Finals twice.
In the SI story, he wrote about the Three Degrees of Jason Collins, noting that he has been a teammate, or a teammate's teammate, of just about everyone in the league.
"He's the type of person who can bridge any gap and has the ability to relate to a lot of different types of people," said Mark Madsen, who played with Collins at Stanford and with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
"He's using his skills to start a dialogue that's very important."
Former Cardinal guard Michael McDonald believes Collins is ideally suited for the role of torchbearer because he doesn't define himself as a basketball player and possesses a world view.
In the story, which was co-authored by Sports Illustrated's Franz Lidz, Collins referenced such topics as President Barack Obama's second inaugural address, the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell and the 1998 Matthew Shepard hate-crime murder in Wyoming.
"If anyone was going to come out and do this, the blueprint would be Jason," said McDonald, who remains close friends with Collins. "He's a strong person. He has a great family and strong support system. Whatever he does after basketball, he's going to be successful."
Collins revealed his sexuality to his family last summer. He told his aunt, Teri, a superior court judge in San Francisco, who wasn't surprised; then he told Jarron, who was; finally, he told his parents.
"My initial reaction was: I love you, and if you're gay, that's OK," Paul Collins said. "As a parent, you just want your children to feel good about themselves.
"We had no indication, even in hindsight. He did a good job masking it."
Collins considered coming out during the season but put the announcement on hold to avoid being a distraction. His team, the Washington Wizards, did not make the playoffs.
"I'm sure after years of struggling with the timing of it and when is it right to make this announcement, he decided now's the time," said Greg Hilliard, who coached Collins at Harvard-Westlake. "He will be a great spokesman."
Collins' career has reached a crossroads, not because he came out but because he's a 34-year-old free agent with 12 seasons of wear and tear. To that end, Collins' training regimen includes running in the Santa Monica Mountains while wearing a 30-pound vest.
"Next season a few more eyeballs are likely to be on me," he wrote. "That only motivates me to work harder."
Madsen, who spent nine years in the league and is now a Stanford assistant coach, believes Collins will be supported by fans throughout the NBA and accepted by teammates wherever he plays.
"The attitude in the NBA is live and let live," Madsen said.
"In terms of NBA general managers, the big question will be whether Jason can still play. But even if he only plays a few minutes, he's a guy you want in the locker room as an extension of the coaches because he holds everyone accountable."
Staff writer Jeff Faraudo contributed to this report.
Mark Purdy: Jason Collins' announcement will prompt other male athletes to come out.
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