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Kyrie Irving, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist support former teammate Derrick Gordon

Apr 10, 2014, 9:55 AM EDT

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Derrick Gordon, the UMass basketball player who came out yesterday as gay, played high school basketball with Kyrie Irving and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist at St. Patrick High School in Elizabeth, N.J.

Asked about their former teammate, Irving and Kidd-Gilchrist replied similarly.

Irving, via Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal:

“I’m proud of him,” Irving said. “It’s a big step, not only in his life but in his career to get the weight of the world off his shoulders.”

Irving spoke to Gordon on Tuesday, but had no idea he is gay or that he was planning an announcement. Irving said he learned it watching television like everyone else.

Kidd-Gilchrist’s statement, via Rick Bonnell of charlotteobserver.com:

“Derrick was a great teammate and is an even better friend. I admire his courage and willingness to share his story. Just as we supported each other on the court, I am proud to support him now. He is a basketball player, a teammate and a friend, and that’s all that matters.”

Just as Jason Collins did, including with Gordon, Irving and Kidd-Gilchrist are using their platforms as NBA players to induce positive change.

Collins is a role model for young gay athletes everywhere struggling with their identities. Irving and Kidd-Gilchrist are role models for athletes on how to accept and welcome gay teammates – and friends. Really, these lessons transcend sports.

Despite legitimate reasons to fear the contrary, Collins, Gordon and Michael Sam have been applauded for being the pioneers they are. As those three blaze the trail for future (and current) gay athletes, these stories will stop becoming news – and that’s because of how players like Irving and Kidd-Gilchrist have reacted.

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