Free agent NBA center Jason Collins came out of the closet today, in a cover story op-ed for Sports Illustrated that makes him the first active NBA player—and the first active male athlete in a major American professional team sport—to do so. "I wish I wasn't the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying 'I'm different,'" he writes. "If I had my way, someone else would have already done this." Collins isn't a star, but he is a veteran—he's played for six teams over 12 years, and says there's a running "Three Degrees of Jason Collins" gag in NBA locker rooms.
He says he struggled for years first to accept that he was gay, and to keep it a secret. "The recent Boston Marathon bombing reinforced the notion that I shouldn't wait" any longer, he writes. "Things can change in an instant, so why not live truthfully?" He isn't sure how fans or fellow players will react, but he intends to "lead by example and show that gay players are no different from straight ones." And he suspects being honest will make him happier. "Some people insist they've never met a gay person," he concludes, "But Three Degrees of Jason Collins dictates that no NBA player can claim that anymore." Click for Collins' full piece. (Read more Jason Collins stories.)