This is absolutely brilliant. NBA basketball player-turned-social activist and entrepreneur John Amaechi has been awarded the Officer of Order of the British Empire for his services to sport and charity. Amaechi told R20 on Thursday. The official announcement was today in the Queen's Birthday Honours 2011 list, reports The Independent.
The now retired England international – who played for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Orlando Magic and the Utah Jazz – as well as leading European clubs, was also honoured for his work with troubled kids on both sides of the Atlantic. Amaechi set up a basketball centre in Manchester, worked with the Big Brothers mentoring scheme and devoted much of his time to political activities surrounding social inclusion and gay rights.
"I was once an overweight bookworm who hid in the corner of my school library and wished I was invisible," he said. "My mother told me that I could do better and I hope to use this platform to convince other young people just how true this can be for them too."
The 40-year-old Manchester native was at one point "the highest paid British athlete in the world." Amaechi captained England's basketball team and led the squad to its first-ever international medal in basketball at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne in 2006.
In 2007, 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 a media sensation—as well as the target for ugly homophobic rants and jokes.
The distinguished awards are published twice a year, at the beginning of the New yYear and on the Queen's official birthday. The Queen’s New Year's Honours List 2011 awarded an MBE to another Black gay man. Fifty-year-old Aslie Pitter founded Britain's first gay football club and was recognized for his 20-year-fight against homophobia.