Four years after retiring from the NBA, John went public with his homosexuality. "Coming out squashes you," he says. "It reduces you from being full of ideas and hopes and dreams. People, they look and they stare and they point aghast, like 'There's the big, black gay guy.'"
John's announcement began to receive worldwide attention after Tim Hardaway, a former NBA all-star, spoke out. Tim said, "I hate gay people so, you know, I let it be known. I don't like gay people. I don't like to be around gay people. Yeah, I'm homophobic."
Initially, John says he couldn't believe Tim's comments. "I didn't think anybody would be so stupid as to say something like that in public," he says. "But I was relieved that finally people could stop telling me that nobody holds these sentiments."
Tim eventually apologized and his publicist reports that he has been involved with the YES Institute, a group that educates gay teens and promotes awareness.
After Tim's statement, John says he received e-mails from children living as far away as Australia who told him they felt less safe, and that somehow, bullies were emboldened by Tim's words. "I think people with these big booming voices, that when they speak, it rattles around the world," John says. "If you have a voice that has that impact, that power … then you've got to be really careful."
Though John and Tim have not spoken since the incident, he says Tim deserves a chance to make amends. "I just want him to own the magnitude of the damage he did before I pat him on the back and say, 'Thank you for saying sorry,'" John says.