The first NBA player will soon come out of the closet. Well, ex-NBA player - he's retired. John Amaechi, who played for Cleveland, Utah and Orlando in his five years in the NBA, will throw the closet doors open in his upcoming book, Man in the Middle.
Very few male professional athletes have come out of the closet. So far the short list includes former NFL players Esera Tuaolo, Roy Simmons, Dave Kopay and Jerry Smith and former baseball players Glenn Burke and Billy Bean. (Swimmers don't count - I'm talking about professional sports - the ones that get paid ungodly sums to play games.) We're still waiting on the New Jersey Nets player I blogged about earlier to come out, btw.
I'm sure by now most of you have figured out that I'm not that into sports, so I'll save you a bunch of regurgitated facts and figures about his career. Instead, I'll relate the most interesting thing I found about him as I was cruising around the web this evening.
After the 1999-2000 season, Amaechi was offered a $17 million multi-year contract by the Los Angeles Lakers, who featured Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant and had just won the NBA title.
However, Amaechi elected to re-sign with the Orlando Magic at a much lower figure in order to maintain his commitment to some of the community programs he became involved with in central Florida.
"He's dedicated his life to philanthrophy," Ziegler said. "His real passion is helping kids."
The sad part that the story leaves out though? Orlando didn't re-sign him and he ended up playing for Utah. He turned down $17 mil and still had to leave.