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Jason Collins: "I'm gay"

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Bruce Bennett

Jason Collins, a big part of the Nets two NBA Finals teams and one of the smarter players to ever don a Nets uniform, has revealed to Sports Illustrated that he is gay.

"I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay," reads the opening line in his first person article in this week's edition of SI. "

"I didn't set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport," he wrote. "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."

Collins said that among the drivers in his decision to go public was a conversation with his Stanford roommate, Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy IV, who told him how he had just marched in the Boston Gay Pride parade.

"I'm seldom jealous of others, but hearing what Joe had done filled me with envy. I was proud of him for participating but angry that as a closeted gay man I couldn't even cheer my straight friend on as a spectator."

David Stern, in statement, says, "We are proud he has assumed the leadership mantle on this very important issue.”

Collins played six and a half years for the Nets before being traded in the 2006-07 season to the Grizzlies. He played in 75 playoff games, starting 48 as a Net. He will be a free agent, having been traded to the Wizards earlier this season.