Jason Collins, an NBA free agent, on Monday announced he's gay.

“I'm a 34-year-old NBA center,” Collins told Sports Illustrated. “I'm black. And I'm gay. I didn't set out to be the first gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I'm happy to start the conversation. I wish I wasn't the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, 'I'm different.' If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I'm raising my hand.”

NBA commissioner David Stern said he was proud of Collins.

“Jason has been a widely respected player and teammate throughout his career and we are proud he has assumed the leadership mantle on this very important issue,” Stern said in a statement.

After being traded by the Boston Celtics, Collins ended last season with the Washington Wizards.

Nike, with whom Collins has an endorsement deal, also issued a statement of support: “Jason is a Nike athlete. We are a company committed to diversity and inclusion.”

Collins said that the Boston Marathon bombings played an important part in his decision to come out publicly.

“Things can change in an instant, so why not live truthfully?”

He added that he'll march in June with his former Stanford roommate Congressman Joe Kennedy, who is straight, in Boston's Gay Pride Parade.

“When I told Joe a few weeks ago that I was gay, he was grateful that I trusted him. He asked me to join him in 2013. We'll be marching on June 8,” he said.