Jason Collins, a 12-year NBA veteran, is the first active male athlete in a major American team sport to come out as gay.
Collins made the announcement in a first-person essay for Sports Illustrated that appeared online Monday.
"I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay," Collins wrote in the first paragraph of the story that will run in the May 6 issue. It is co-written with Franz Lidz.
"I wish I wasn't the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, 'I'm different,' " Collins wrote. "If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I'm raising my hand."
Collins is a free agent who finished this past season with the Washington Wizards. He wants to continue his career.
"When I was younger I dated women," Collins wrote. "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."
Jarron Collins, Jason's twin, also wrote a first-person piece for SI in which he said his brother told him last summer: "I won't lie. I had no idea. We talked, he answered my questions, I hugged him and I digested what he had told me. At the end of the day, this is what matters: He's my brother, he's a great guy, and I want him to be happy. I'll love him and I'll support him and, if necessary, I'll protect him."
Former President Bill Clinton, whose daughter Chelsea was a classmate of Collins at Stanford, issued a statement of support saying: "Jason's announcement today is an important moment for professional sports and in the history of the LGBT community. ... 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. "
NBA commissioner David Stern said in a statement: "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."