NEW YORK - NBA veteran center Jason Collins has become the first active male professional athlete in the major four American sports leagues to come out as gay.

Collins wrote a first-person account posted Monday on Sports Illustrated's website. The 34-year-old Collins has played for six NBA teams in 12 seasons. He finished this past season with the Washington Wizards and is now a free agent. He says he wants to continue playing.

Collins writes: "If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I'm raising my hand."

Collins played in a Final Four for Stanford and reached two NBA Finals. His twin brother, Jarron, was also a longtime NBA center. Jason says he came out to his brother last summer.

Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant tweeted his support of Collins, saying, "Don't suffocate who you are because of the ignorance of others."

Former tennis star Billie Jean King, who confirmed she was gay in the early 1980s, says, "We've got to get rid of the shame." And she says Collins "is going to help that" and "help give people courage to come out."

Collins has also heard support from the White House, and from former President Bill Clinton.