He Shoots, He … Comes Out of the Closet!


Photo courtesy espnmag.com

John Amaechi is about to gain more notoriety than he ever had during five nondescript NBA seasons as a journeyman center and forward for the Cavs, Magic and Jazz. He last played in 2003 , having never averaged more than 22 minutes, 11 points or 4 rebounds in any season. Now we’re about to know much more about him, more than some among us might want to know.

Sources have confirmed that in his memoir, due out next week, Amaechi is going to say he’s gay.

The book, “Man in the Middle,” is being published by ESPN Books and ESPN the Magazine will run an excerpt.

The Sports Business Journalreported Monday that a former NBA player was coming out of the closet in a new memoir. But they did not publish his name. I confirmed the name today with two sources.

Amaeche’s publicist, Howard Bragman, also represented WNBA star Sheryl Swoopes, who admitted she was a lesbian awhile back (also coming out in ESPN The Mag). Her confession evoked yawns. Will a similar revelation from a male athlete prompt a different reaction? Should it be a big deal? More important, will it sell books?

As you’d imagine the digital prairie is being stampeded with this one. Apparently Tracy McGrady was widely quoted as saying a few years ago he thought 5% of the league’s players were gay.

One version of a quote promoting the memoir reads: An inspiring memoir by a former NBA star (RSJ Note: Fact-checking should have caught this mistake!) who is gay. Man in the Middle chronicles one man’s extraordinary journey from an awkward, overweight child to a jet-setting NBA star. Along the way, he encountered endless obstacles to achieving his hoop dreams—his father’s abandonment, being cut from his first college team, a life-threatening injury, abusive coaches, the death of his mother—all the while protecting a vital secret that could end his career. He was gay. ”

Amaechi was raised in Briton by his English mother (his father is Nigerian), played college hoops at Vanderbuilt before transferring to Penn State. In a 2002 interview with the Scotsman, he was quoted as saying this about the idea of a active athlete coming out of the closet: “If you look at our league, minorities aren’t very well represented. There’s hardly any Hispanic players, no Asian-Americans, so that there’s no openly gay players is no real surprise. It would be like an alien dropping down from space. There’d be fear, then panic: they just wouldn’t know how to handle it.”

Billie Jean King, tennis champion and human rights advocate, said tonight: “I hope John has reached this decision on his own terms. Finsinf one’s truth and living it takes courage. But even in today’s world there is still work to be doneand we all look forward to the day when a person’s sexual orientation is not an issue.”

Amen. Sooner or later, a current player will be bold enough to reveal himself. The publishing of this memoir, and the reaction to it might be just the beginning.

Outsports, which has known about the book for a year, has a more detailed account of Amaechi.

ESPN The Magazine’s, Excerpt of “Man in the Middle”


24 thoughts on “He Shoots, He … Comes Out of the Closet!

  1. wyclefdoug says:

    Because it’s not a star, I doubt anybody will care. If it was James Worthy or something like that though, then it might get a little attention.

  2. Juan says:


    It does sound like it was a former star. We’ll see if they are. I’m buying the book.

    I got to figure that it will draw attention, if it’s even the last dude on the bench. NBA stars are more visible than are say football players like Esera Tuaolo (openly gay former player, NFL vet)and Billy Bean (not Beane). No dugouts or helmets in NBA. And both of those dudes got attention when they came out.

  3. wyclefdoug says:

    If you hear anything about it, it’ll be for about 2 days and that’s it. That’s not that big of a story to me.

  4. NewYorkified says:

    Who Cares….

    What some people will do to sell books. Is being gay like wearing the scarlet letter? If he were coming out in Billie Jean King’s time or even Martina Navritilova’s time, I could see this book making a statement, but he’s not the first gay person to come out in sports and he certainly won’t be the last. Plus, he chose to come out after he retired from basketball, so what kind of pain and suffering did he endure by being in the closet? He was so un-exposed during the height of his career. Gimme a break. Puh-leazze!

  5. Juan says:

    It’s not the Scarlet Letter, but it’s newsworthy because:

    1) former NBA guy who had some success
    2) 1st guy coming out in a hetero-dominated field like hoops

    Most importantly, I ‘m not going to pretend to know or offer insight into what it was like for John or whether he suffered or not by being in the closet while in the NBA . I can’t imagine it would be easy to hear slurs, etc. None of us really know.

    I bet it’s an interesting read, because he was an interesting cat to begin with. I’m looking forward to it, hope he gets paid, and finds literary success and success in general in his life, both personal and professional away from the court.

  6. Derek Wright says:

    I watched Amechie play and even though, as a center, he was ‘soft’, I would have never imagined gay.

  7. The fact that a former NBA player is coming out is really not that big a deal. It will, however, be an interesting test for current players to see if they can avoid making homophobic comments.

    Amaechi apparently hired the right PR agent. A man named Bragman. 🙂

  8. I think it’s a big deal, but not a HUGE deal. When someone in the big four sports comes out while still playing, then we’ll really see.

  9. […] British mother, is saying he’s gay. Should we care? Who’s next? Does it matter any more?read more | digg […]

  10. TMUNE says:

    I feel that this guy is looking for attention. He averaged less than 7 points a game for his career. He played on 3 teams in 5 years. The most important fact about him is he hid his sexuality. I’m not homosexual but I understand why he hid this from his teammates. So now, he wants to come out(and make some money)and tell the world. I’ll pass on the book but I think the better book will come from a guy that is openingly homosexual, playing or retired. To be honest, I know this is wishful thinking but I feel most locker rooms are ready for this situation. Offices around the globe have to handle this subject daily, it’s 2007, why can’t sports? I also think the attention(positive or negative) from this book could knock the idea of a player coming out while playing back at least 5 more years. Simply put, nobody wants to be the first.

  11. SJH says:

    I don’t have anything against the guy, but to me it seems like he’s trying to cake off the fact that he was a gay NBA player. Like, “That NBA money isn’t coming in anymore. I need some quick cash to maintain this lifestyle. Hmm… What can I sell?” It’s the same reason Canseco wrote The Snitch’s Manifesto. Couldn’t play anymore so he found something he could hustle. If John Amaechi the presumed heterosexual ex-scrub put out a book, nobody would give 1/2 a damn. He can bull[bleep] all he wants about how it’s about his turbulent life prior to the NBA, but he and we know that he’s John Amaechi, and not enough people would care enough for it to sell. But drop a bombshell about homosexuality in one of the “manly” sports, and people will check it out just because they’re stunned.

    Like we do soldiers and firefighters and Lexington Steele, we put athletes (except male figure skaters) on that “He’s more masculine than me” platform. So although we know homosexuality is prevalent (you put 100 guys in a room, it’s a safe bet that 5 of them are gay) it’s still hard to imagine a 6’10” athlete doing the funny business. Like it was a stunner to see (now that I saw it) gay cowboys in “Brokeback Mountain.”

    And because of that, the book will sell, and once everything’s been confirmed, it’ll be a big story for a while. ESPN will start doing it’s Outside The Lines specials on gay athletes, commentators will talk about it and him, and columnists will use this a springboard into some social commentary on how, “It’s only a big story because gays aren’t truly accepted, despite the face society puts on, and they’re still thought of as lesser men.” Not something we should be proud of as a society, but I really think that’s where we stand.

    Like black people are hoping for a day when two black coaches in a Super Bowl isn’t a story, I’m sure the gays are hoping for a day when an athlete can’t make money off the fact that he’s gay.

  12. I don’t know if anyone above me has asked this BUT when will a CURRENT player come out?? This guy is suddenly “courageous” after his career is over. So What! When will an NBA or NFL player come out during his career??

  13. Nwan says:

    What is important for us to know about players in sports (their sexual orientation or their game performance)? He was well accepted before he announced his sexual preference…his teammate said it was apparent in ways that Amaechi was gay but John managed to keep it professional. To me, this is all that really matters. Most confessions are like blurt outs of a secret lifeystle. If you don’t hide your actions, then you don’t have to announce anything that you are or whatever it is you are.

  14. Jackie Davis says:

    The name of the game is, “respect.” People have missed the point. The individual respects you, and you in turn, respect the individual. Most alternative life people are professional, they are just not going to do something that will damage their career. There are some out there who don’t care, but they usually leave the scene within a matter of days. Like my late grandmother would always say, “first be a man, and whatever you do after that is on you.”

  15. Rev. Sprat. says:

    I really don’t understand how people get the comments of a powerful man like Dr. King and use it in things that are against the very things that he stood for.Let’s not forget that King was a minister of GOD. I no 1 sin isn’t greater than the next, but how can we embrace something that GOD destroyed some cities for, that’s crazy. Play with fire long enough you will get burned. Think of all the kids that model themselves after atheletes. Do you Want your son to be saying,” I wanna be like Mike,” Not if he is gay, I don’t.So no, we are not there yet, and it is crazy to even consider going there. I understand that we live in Amer. but we have to draw the line somewhere. For a race or even a country that has already been lead so far out of bondage by GOD, we should be enbracing HIS words not the things that he hates!!!!!

  16. yeah right says:

    I really ‘hate’ it when people use religious rhettoric to promote homophobia. The old testament teachings are only used when someone can’t form their own opinion. The old testament was written by men INSPIRED by God. Jesus in the new testament never mentioned homosexuality and if he didn’t say it its not happening. He spoke of love an understanding. If we believe alot of the old testament teachings women would still be enslaved. You know you wouldn’t have that today!

  17. Daryl says:

    John Amaechi’s sexuality is his own business. From the Judeo-Christian perspective, I cannot condone homosexuality. However, I would really like to know what is John Amaechi’s motivation? What is to be proved? I really see no point in his personal disclosure, and all the media attention given to him. This below average former player is pimping the NBA and the American public.

  18. kenneth says:

    This guy is pathetic. However, he did the right thing by hiding his homosexuality. He would have got hurt if he had come out during his career. As an ex-baller,i can honestly say that we did not want any homos in the locker room or shower. Come on,we’re nude.

  19. Denise says:

    I honestly don’t know what happen to the people in this country its ok to tell the world you are gay . It should be ok to come out the closet and say hey I am straight . Thank GOD I’m am straight.
    first i would like the guy name Daryl to know its no one business is true . But this guy said in his book that he is trying to make money off of , he was attracted to some of the basketball players, I feel he needed to keep those comments to himself I would feel uncomfortable too. clearly looking at guys in the same way a woman looks at a man.Ok you like men that does not mean its going to be ok with guys who take showers and change in the nude. I am so tired of Gay people using Martin and Coretta King in reference to being treated unfairly . This mess is so sick I don’t see anything wrong with some one commenting on how they feel about this homosexual thing If one don’t approve so what! we have a right to our opinions as straight people.

  20. Denise says:

    GOD put us on Earth to reproduce offsprings , I just don’t understand why so many guys just don’t want a women anymore . Our race is so messed up as Blacks the media use us like clowns in a circus. I often wonder if a man so much desire to be with another man is it for the sex or is it for that person. I believe alot of it is physical. We are losing our Black men. that at one timea man would be walking down the street with you and making sure you walk on the inside of the side walk to keep you from getting hit by a car. Those days are gone . .

  21. Who Cares is right. McGrady said 5% cause he like many others in the league already know of some. No one makes a big deal about it because those individuals keep their private business private. Something Amaechi should have considered.

  22. G says:

    People like Daryl, Kenneth, and Denise are the reasons why this country is the way it is. Ignorance is still widespread, and until people grow up and understand what gay people face on a daily basis–in sports, in a professional environment, on the street–anywhere, tolerance will not be widely accepted. It was brave for John to do what he did, regardless of timing. Everyone says they don’t understand the big deal. All John did was make a statement…it’s the American people that are making it a big deal. Remember that. And the book is awesome. Awesome, intelligent, and mutli-talented man.

  23. Toni says:

    I discussed this subject with my son and this is what he said to me..”Look, why not have a gay NBA, or NFL? Sports is the one arena where a man can genuinely express his affection for another man without feeling uncomfortable about it. And quite frankly a lot of guys wouldn’t like the idea of sharing the shower with a man that he knew was gay.”

    He said let them have their own league.

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