"I am extremely happy and proud of Jason Collins. He's a pro's pro. He is the consummate professional and he is one of my favorite 'team' players I have ever coached," Rivers said. "If you have learned anything from Jackie Robinson, it is that teammates are always the first to accept. It will be society who has to learn tolerance."
Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant tweeted that he was proud of Collins, writing: "Don't suffocate who u r because of the ignorance of others," followed by the words "courage" and "support."
Even while hiding his sexual orientation, Collins says, he quietly made a statement for gay rights by wearing No. 98 with the Celtics and Wizards: 1998 was the year Matthew Shepard, a gay college student in Wyoming, was killed, and the Trevor Project, a suicide prevention organization, was founded.
According to the General Social Survey, the public has grown increasingly accepting of gay relationships since the late 1980s. That survey found in 1987 that 76 percent of Americans thought sexual relations between adults of the same sex was morally wrong. That fell to 43 percent by 2012.
"I'm glad I'm coming out in 2013 rather than 2003. The climate has shifted; public opinion has shifted," Collins writes in SI. "And yet we still have so much farther to go. Everyone is terrified of the unknown, but most of us don't want to return to a time when minorities were openly discriminated against."
While some gay athletes have expressed concerns about how earning potentials could be hurt by coming out, King said she thinks Collins' openness could have the opposite effect.
"I have a feeling he's got a whole new career," King said. "I have a feeling he's going to make more in endorsements than he's ever made in his life."