Wednesday, February 07, 2007

It's About F*cking Time: Gays in the NBA

John Amaechi, a former player with the Utah Jazz and Orlando Magic, has become the first NBA player to come out as gay.

Amaechi will announce publicly for the first time that he is gay on an episode of ESPN's "Outside The Lines" to air Feb. 13, Outsports has learned. His book, published by ESPN Books, "Man In The Middle," in which he chronicles his NBA career and directly addresses the travails of being a closeted professional athlete, will be released the following week.

Amaechi's sexuality has been rumored for years. In an April 2001 column for Outsports, NBA columnist Randy Boyd named Amaechi, then playing with the Orlando Magic, as No. 16 among those in the NBA most likely to be gay.

"Could be that the Nigerian-Brit just operates on a different planet?" Boyd asked in his column.
"But then again, that explanation for his atypical behavior wouldn’t be any fun now would it?"

That atypical behavior included a penchant for designing gardens, listening to opera before games and writing poetry.

In Amaechi's first contact with Outsports in December, he asked with his playful sense of humor, "Why wasn't I higher than 16th?"

Outsports has been tracking this story for the last year, as quiet rumblings in private conversations started to surface, and had agreed to embargo a story until just prior to his first TV appearance. However, speculation that Amaechi was coming out has become heavy in the past few days, with his publicist, Howard Bragman, dropping hints at a Super Bowl week party in Miami about an NBA player coming out.

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