Washington Wizards' center and 12-year NBA veteran Jason Collins comes out and makes history. Collins has become not only the first openly gay player in the NBA ... but he is now the first and only active openly gay male player in professional sports. Collins makes the announcement in the May 6, 2013 issue of Sports Illustrated.
I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay. I didn't set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I'm happy to start the conversation. I wish I wasn't the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, "I'm different." If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I'm raising my hand.
My journey of self-discovery and self-acknowledgement began in my hometown of Los Angeles and has taken me through two state high school championships, the NCAA Final Four and the Elite Eight, and nine playoffs in 12 NBA seasons.
I've played for six pro teams and have appeared in two NBA Finals. Ever heard of a parlor game called Three Degrees of Jason Collins? If you're in the league, and I haven't been your teammate, I surely have been one of your teammates' teammates. Or one of your teammates' teammates' teammates.
Now I'm a free agent, literally and figuratively. I've reached that enviable state in life in which I can do pretty much what I want. And what I want is to continue to play basketball. I still love the game, and I still have something to offer. My coaches and teammates recognize that. At the same time, I want to be genuine and authentic and truthful.
The Wizards faced the Celtics earlier this month in Boston. Celtics Head Coach Doc Rivers praised his former player as "literally is one of the best guys I’ve ever had in the locker room, player or coach."
In 2007, former Utah Jazz player John Amaechi published an autobiography, Man in the Middle, which became a New York Times bestseller. In the memoir, the former NBA player came out of the closet and became the first former NBA player to come out as gay. Ameachi became a media sensation—as well as the target for ugly homophobic rants and jokes. Amaechi was awarded the Officer of Order of the British Empire in 2011.
When Amaechi came out in 2007, Dwyane Wade and Shaq O'Neal said they looked forward to playing with a gay teammate.
SI's columnist Jon Wertheim notes:
At some point the idea of having no openly gay athletes in a league might sound as unimaginable as a ball field segregated by race. But today Collins becomes the first active male athlete in a major U.S. team sport to come out of the closet. Yes, that's a lot of qualifiers. Yes, it may be an artificial construct. But it is a milestone. Tens of thousands of men have played in the NFL, NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball. Until today none had expressed his homosexuality before retirement.
The seven-foot 34-years-old Collins was born in Los Angeles and attended Stanford with his twin brother. Collins has been to the playoffs in nine of his 12 seasons. He has played for the New Jersey Nets, Memphis Grizzlies, Minnesota Timberwolves, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics and is now positioned at center for the Washington Wizards.
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