[h=1]Jason Collins Comes Out: NBA Player Becomes First Openly Gay Professional Male Athlete In Major Sport[/h] Posted: 04/29/2013 11:24 am EDT | Updated: 04/29/2013 11:46 am EDT 378 106 25 239 Get Sports Alerts: Sign Up Follow: NBA, Jason Collins, Gay Athletes, Jason Collins Comes Out, Jason Collins Gay, Sports News NBA center Jason Collins has become the first male athlete in a major professional sport to come out as gay. The 34-year-old, who is now with the Washington Wizards after having appeared in 32 games this season for the Boston Celtics, tells Sports Illustrated: "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." Collins continues, "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." As to why he opted to address his sexuality now, Collins says that he was partly inspired by the Boston Marathon bombings, adding that "it takes an enormous amount of energy to guard such a big secret." "I've endured years of misery and gone to enormous lengths to live a lie. I was certain that my world would fall apart if anyone knew," he writes. "And yet when I acknowledged my sexuality I felt whole for the first time. I still had the same sense of humor, I still had the same mannerisms and my friends still had my back." You can read Collins' full Sports Illustrated editorial here. The issue of gay players in professional sports has been a matter of heated debate in recent months, after San Francisco 49ers player Chris Culliver told Artie Lange that he would not welcome gay players in the NFL or on his team. "I don't do the gay guys, man," Culliver is quoted as saying. "I don't do that. No, we don't got no gay people on the team, they gotta get up out of here if they do." Furthermore, rampant media speculation over Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o's sexuality has prompted other professional athletes, including former Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita, to chime in. In a March interview, Fujita said he "would argue that the overwhelming majority [of NFL players] would be fine with having a teammate who was gay," and that "it would not be an issue" to have an openly gay player in the locker room. Meanwhile, Nike poached newly out women's college basketball star Brittney Griner for an endorsement deal, but the athletic wear giant apparently has even bigger plans in the works for the first openly gay male athlete.