Jason Collins broke an incredible barrier on Sunday, becoming the first openly gay athlete in one of the United States' four major professional sports when he checked in for the Nets.
It was a big moment not just for the NBA, but in sports history.
“His impact [Sunday night] is greater than what people think,” Bryant told Yahoo Sports before the game. “You look at it from the context of having the first openly gay player. But they missed the domino effect that it has way beyond sports.”
“It's fantastic. It sets an incredible precedent,” said Bryant, who is currently out of the Lakers' lineup indefinitely with a knee injury. “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.
“It's dealing with a lot of issues for kids who are afraid to be themselves. Afraid to be themselves because of the peer pressure that comes with it. A lot of these kids have depression issues or they're being teased from other kids for being different. You wind up seeing a lot of suicides, kids injuring themselves and getting hooked on things that they should not be hooked on.”
No denying Kobe's support is impressive and encouraging. But you also can't ignore the elephant in the room here. In 2011, Kobe was fined $100,000 for using a homophopic slur directed at a referee. However, here's what Kobe said then: "What I said last night should not be taken literally. My actions were out of frustration during the heat of the game, period. The words expressed do NOT reflect my feelings towards the gay and lesbian communities and were NOT meant to offend anyone."
Based on Kobe's passionate comments in support of Collins, his story checks out. And moreover, it sounds like maybe Kobe himself learned a lot from that incident in 2011.
As for Collins, he didn't play all that well in his 11 minutes on the floor Sunday, picking up five fouls while looking a bit slow and rusty. But who cares. Like Kobe said, it was bigger than that.