The following is by Jason Collins, to Sports Illustrated

Jason Collins

I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.

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. 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.

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.

I’ve played for six pro teams and have appeared in two NBA Finals. Ever heard of a parlor game called Three Degrees of Jason Collins? If you’re in the league, and I haven’t been your teammate, I surely have been one of your teammates’ teammates. Or one of your teammates’ teammates’ teammates.

Now I’m a free agent, literally and figuratively. 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. 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.

– Reported by Jason Collins with Franz Lidz via Sports Illustrated

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UPDATE:  NBA Commissioner David Stern issued the following statement this morning regarding Washington Wizards center Jason Collins announcement today: “As 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.   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.”

ANOTHER UPDATE:  The following statements are from Atlanta Hawks Managing Partner/NBA Governor Bruce Levenson and President of Basketball Operations/General Manager Danny Ferry on behalf of the team: “We have great respect for Jason and his message today. Creating an environment where we support, respect, and accept our players’ individual rights is very important to us,” said Hawks Managing Partner and NBA Governor Bruce Levenson. “Jason represented everything that we look for as a member of the Atlanta Hawks and we are proud he wore our jersey.” “Our focus will always be on bringing in players that can contribute to the greater good of the Atlanta Hawks and ensuring that we create the most accepting, respectful, and productive environment for players to succeed,” said Hawks President of Basketball Operations and General Manager Danny Ferry.