(New York Daily News)- Jason Collins, a 12-year NBA veteran, is gay.
The 34-year-old center came out in an interview with Sports Illustrated on Monday.
“When I was younger I dated women. I even got engaged. I thought I had to live a certain way. I thought I needed to marry a woman and raise kids with her. I kept telling myself the sky was red, but I always knew it was blue,” Collins wrote in the first-person essay explaining his decision to reveal his sexuality.
Collins was a first-round pick of the Houston Rockets in the 2001 NBA draft. The Stanford product was traded to the New Jersey Nets in a draft-day deal and spent parts of seven seasons with the Nets. A backup for most of his career, Collins played in only six games for the Wizards this season, but says he still has a desire to play.
“I still love the game, and I still have something to offer. My coaches and teammates recognize that. At the same time, I want to be genuine and authentic and truthful,” Collins wrote.
Collins’ announcement caught the eye of President Clinton, who praised him for stepping forward.
“I have known Jason Collins since he was Chelsea's classmate and friend at Stanford. Jason's announcement today is an important moment for professional sports and in the history of the LGBT community. It is also the straightforward statement of a good man who wants no more than what so many of us seek: to be able to be who we are; to do our work; to build families and to contribute to our communities. For so many members of the LGBT community, these simple goals remain elusive. I hope that everyone, particularly Jason's colleagues in the NBA, the media and his many fans extend to him their support and the respect he has earned,” Clinton said in a statement.
Collins said that he first came out to an aunt and just told his twin brother — Jarron, also an NBA center — last summer.
“Openness may not completely disarm prejudice, but it's a good place to start. It all comes down to education. I'll sit down with any player who's uneasy about my coming out. Being gay is not a choice,” Collins said.