"I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay." With those words, published in this week's Sports Illustrated, 12-year pro-basketball veteran Jason Collins just became the "first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport."

In a cover story for the magazine, Collins says that the Boston Marathon bombing spurred him to consider coming out:

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? When I told [former Stanford roommate] Joe [Kennedy] a few weeks ago that I was gay, he was grateful that I trusted him. He asked me to join him [at the Boston Gay Pride Parade] in 2013. We'll be marching on June 8.

No one wants to live in fear. I've always been scared of saying the wrong thing. I don't sleep well. I never have. But each time I tell another person, I feel stronger and sleep a little more soundly. It takes an enormous amount of energy to guard such a big secret. I've endured years of misery and gone to enormous lengths to live a lie. I was certain that my world would fall apart if anyone knew. And yet when I acknowledged my sexuality I felt whole for the first time. I still had the same sense of humor, I still had the same mannerisms and my friends still had my back.

Collins, who spent most of his career with the Nets before embarking on stints with the Grizzlies, Timberwolves, Hawks, Celtics and Wizards, is currently a free agent.

[Sports Illustrated, image via AP]