When Jason Collins announced Monday that he is gay, he became the first openly gay active male athlete in any of the four major American professional sports. And yet he still might not be the most famous member of his high school basketball team.
Back in the mid-1990s, Collins and his brother Jarron starred for Harvard-Westlake School in North Hollywood, Calif., dominating the interior and leading the Wolverines to two state Division III-A championships. But while the Stanford-bound twin towers garnered most of the attention and headlines, a 6-foot-4 backup big man (hey, remember, it's high school) with some ups was getting his fair share of recognition, too. From a March 1996 feature on the team by Vince Kowalick of the Los Angeles Times (emphasis mine):
They call Alex Gelbard "Gelbows," a nickname born of his propensity to protrude a pointy joint whenever an opponent drives the lane.
Jason Segel answers to "Doctor Dunk," although he craves more than the 15 minutes of fame he received during an East Coast slam dunk contest.
And Abed Abusaleh, a.k.a. "Air-Ball Abed," is determined to sink a three-point shot, even if it means hurling enough bricks to build a small fire station.
Yep — it's that Jason Segel, the one who has starred on the CBS sitcom "How I Met Your Mother" for nearly a decade, and who starred in the films "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" and "I Love You, Man." But before he was a star of the big and small screens, he was "Doctor Dunk" — Jason Collins' backup.
Segel's performative bent manifested itself even as a reserve forward, according to Kowalick:
"I'm not nearly as skilled a basketball player as some of the other guys," Segel says. "But I have a lot of bravado."
Not to mention a made-for-the-highlight-reels dunk.
During Harvard's two-week East Coast trip in December, Segel wowed a Florida crowd with a two-handed slam made with the front of his jersey pulled over his head. Before the dunk, Segel stood poised, calling for silence with outstretched arms. After the dunk, he dove headfirst into the stands.
"He put on an absolute show," Da Costa said.
Segel took second place in the contest, although he later admitted he could see through the jersey that he pulled over his head. Shockingly, no scandal followed. (Very Cedric Ceballos of you, Mr. Segel.)
Kowalick also notes that Segel served as Harvard-Westlake's "court jester," keeping his teammates "loose with impressions of everyone from Arnold Schwarzenegger to Kermit the Frog" — which, of course, presaged Segel's passion project, the 2011 revival of "The Muppets," which he starred in, co-wrote and co-executive-produced.
“Sexual orientation was never an issue to any of us,” Harvard-Westlake head basketball coach Greg Hilliard, who coached the Collins twins and Segel, told the Harvard-Westlake Chronicle. “I’m just proud that he at this point decided it’s the right time to talk about it.”