Washington Wizards Center Jason Collins has announced that he is gay in a Sports Illustrated article to be published in the May 6 issue.
He is the first player in a major league American sport to come out, reports ESPN.
"I didn't set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport," Collins said in the article. "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."
Collins, 35, was born in Los Angeles, and attended Stanford University, where he became an All American from 2000-01. He played for the Celtics before rounding out this season as center for the Wizards.
Now, he is a free agent, as he says, "literally and figuratively," and he wants to call the shots.
Collins said he didn't come out until now in the interest of his career.
"Loyalty to my team is the real reason I didn't come out sooner," he said. "...I decided to commit myself...and not let my personal life become a distraction."
The NBA community has welcomed his recent announcement, including Celtics coach Doc Rivers and NBA commissioner David Stern.
"We have known the Collins family since Jason and [brother] Jarron joined the NBA in 2001 and they have been exemplary members of the NBA family," Stern told ESPN. "Jason has been a widely respected player and teammate throughout his career and we are proud he has assumed the leadership mantle on this very important issue."
"He is the consummate professional and he is one of my favorite 'team' players I have ever coached," Doc Rivers said.
Even former president Bill Clinton, whose daughter Chelsea attended Stanford with the NBA player, released a statement commending Collins on his honesty and openness.
"Jason's announcement today is an important moment for professional sports and in the history of the LGBT community."
And indeed, this announcement is huge for a sports player who works in an industry crippled by homophobia and gendered issues.
Some say his statement of sexuality will change the face of sports, and might prompt other players who have been keeping their personal lives secret to come out.
"I'm glad I'm coming out in 2013 rather than 2003," he said. "The climate has shifted; public opinion has shifted. And yet we still have so much farther to go."