Washington Wizards basketball star Jason Collins has become the first professional male athlete in America to 'come out' as gay.

Collins made the big announcement in a new Sports Illustrated magazine column, which will hit retailers in May (13).

He writes, "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."

The sportsman reveals his "journey of self-discovery and self-acknowledgement" began when he was growing up in Los Angeles, and he chose to 'come out' publicly after the Boston Marathon bombings earlier this month (Apr13), explaining, "The recent Boston Marathon bombing reinforced the notion that I shouldn't wait for the circumstances of my coming out to be perfect. Things can change in an instant, so why not live truthfully?"

The sportsman 'came out' to his twin brother Jarron, who is also a basketball player, last summer (12).

He recalls, "He was downright astounded. He never suspected. So much for twin telepathy. But, by dinner that night, he was full of brotherly love."

Collins, who was previously engaged to a woman, has played for six professional teams, including the Wizards and the Boston Celtics. He is currently a free agent looking for a new team.

One of the first people to applaud Collins for 'coming out' was former U.S. President Bill Clinton, whose daughter Chelsea was a classmate of the sportsman's at Stanford University.

A statement from the former leader reads, "Jason's announcement today is an important moment for professional sports and in the history of the Lgbt (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community. It is also the straightforward statement of a good man who wants no more than what so many of us seek: to be able to be who we are; to do our work; to build families and to contribute to our communities."