Jason Collins has played for six NBA teams during his career, including the Boston Celtics. (Michael Dwyer/AP)

Jason Collins has played for six NBA teams during his career, including the Boston Celtics. He announced Monday that he is gay. (Michael Dwyer/AP)

Over the past few weeks, rumors have been swirling that the first male professional athlete from one of the four major sports would soon announce that he is gay.  Today, Jason Collins, a 34-year-old veteran of six NBA teams, took that step with a first-person story in Sports Illustrated. Collins told SI that he had been considering coming out publicly since 2011, but current events encouraged him not to wait any longer.

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?

Sports Illustrated was ready with a flurry of coverage, offering a behind the scenes look at the interview itself, an article in which Collins’ agent Arn Tellem remarks on his client’s inspirational story, reaction from Collins’ twin brother and former NBA player Jarron Collins, a photo gallery of Collins through the years, and another behind the scenes look at how the story came together.

Collins credited Massachusetts Congressman Joe Kennedy III with encouraging him to take the step.  Collins and Kennedy were roommates at Stanford University.  While in college, Collins also crossed paths with Chelsea Clinton, who tweeted her encouragement on Monday.  After tweeting that he was also “proud to call Jason Collins a friend,” former President Bill Clinton issued an official statement of support:

Jason’s announcement today is an important moment for professional sports and in the history of the LGBT 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.

Collins’s season with the Washington Wizards ended less than two weeks ago.  Although he’s officially the first active male athlete in one of the four major pro sports to announce that he’s gay, Collins is a free agent and not yet under contract for next season.  Collins told Sports Illustrated his employment status was not a reason to back off making the announcement:

Now I’m a free agent, literally and figuratively. I’ve reached that enviable state in life in which I can do pretty much what I want. And what I want is to continue to play basketball. I still love the game, and I still have something to offer. My coaches and teammates recognize that. At the same time, I want to be genuine and authentic and truthful.

Thus far, the public response to the first professional male athlete to come out as gay has been overwhelmingly positive, leaving the Only A Game staff to wonder whether we’ll be hearing more announcements from more gay male athletes in the coming days and weeks.