NBA veteran Jason Collins comes out as gay

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Jason Collins describes himself this way, "I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay."

With those words, posted today on the Sports Illustrated website, Collins became the first active player in any of the four major U.S. professional sports to come out as gay. He's now a free agent after a half-season with the Washington Wizards but says he'd like to continue his NBA career.

Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant tweeted his support of Collins, saying, "Don't suffocate who you are because of the ignorance of others."

Former tennis star Billie Jean King, who confirmed she was gay in the early 1980s, says, "We've got to get rid of the shame." And she says Collins "is going to help that" and "help give people courage to come out."

Collins has also heard support from the White House, and from former President Bill Clinton.

Momentum has been building toward this sort of announcement. Two NFL players were outspoken in their support of gay-marriage amendments during last year's elections.

The topic made waves during Super Bowl week when san Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver said he wouldn't welcome a gay member of his team. And a fellow player estimated that at least half of the NFL's players would agree with what he said, at least privately.