NBA veteran Collins tells SI he is gay

Veteran NBA center Jason Collins, in an article he co-wrote for Sports Illustrated, has announced that he is gay.

The 34-year-old Collins is the first openly gay male athlete playing one of the four major American team sports.

"I didn't set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport," Collins wrote in the article posted on SI's website. "But since I am, I'm happy to start the conversation. If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I'm raising my hand."

Collins will be a free agent this summer after spending the 2012-13 season with Boston and Washington. He appeared in 32 games for the Celtics and six for the Wizards, finishing the campaign with averages of 1.1 points and 1.6 rebounds.

"We are extremely proud of Jason and support his decision to live his life proudly and openly," said Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld in a statement Monday. "He has been a leader on and off the court and an outstanding teammate throughout his NBA career. Those qualities will continue to serve him both as a player and as a positive role model for others of all sexual orientation."

In the article, Collins said he dated women and was even engaged at one point. He thought he had to live a certain way, but contemplated coming out during the 2011 NBA player lockout before finally making the decision at this time.

"The recent Boston Marathon bombing reinforced the notion that I shouldn't wait for the circumstances of my coming out to be perfect," Collins said in the SI story. "Things can change in an instant, so why not live truthfully?"

Collins said he told his twin brother, Jarron, last summer.

The NBA released a statement after the article was published.

"As (incoming NBA commissioner) Adam Silver and I said to Jason, we have known the Collins family since Jason and Jarron joined the NBA in 2001 and they have been exemplary members of the NBA family," said NBA commissioner David Stern. "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."

Jason Collins has played for the Nets, Grizzlies, Timberwolves and Hawks in addition to his time with Boston and Washington. A member of two NBA Finals teams with the Nets, the Stanford product has appeared in 713 games with 476 starts and has averaged 3.6 points with 3.8 rebounds.