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”