Jason Collins becomes NBA's 1st openly gay player

Los Angeles, Apr 29 (EFE).- "I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay," Jason Collins says in a front-page article in this week's edition of Sports Illustrated, becoming the first openly gay player in U.S. pro basketball.

"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," he said in the piece, posted Monday on the magazine's Web site.

"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," he said.

"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," Collins said.

The center, who has played for six NBA teams, is now a free agent after playing out his contract with the Washington Wizards.

His twin brother, Jarron, also had a career in the NBA.

"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," he said. "At the same time, I want to be genuine and authentic and truthful."

The open letter spurred a flood of reactions, from the NBA, from Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant and even from former President Bill Clinton, whose daughter, Chelsea, was a classmate of Collins at Stanford University.

"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," NBA Commissioner David Stern.

"Don't suffocate who u r because of the ignorance of others," Bryant said on Twitter.