John Amaechi has become the first current or former NBA player to come out of the closet, and only the sixth such professional athlete from the four major American sports to do so. The former center for Orlando, Utah and Cleveland has written a memoir in which he describes life in the NBA as he started to open up about his sexuality, including mixed reactions from his team’s owner, coach and players.
In an interview with ESPN, Amaechi says there are other gay players in the league, but “they should not be pressured or pushed” to out themselves.
In the book and in an in-depth interview with ESPN’s “Outside The Lines” to be shown Sunday, Amaechi speaks and writes candidly about his pro career, his relationships with teammates and coaches, and how he began to live more openly as a homosexual while he was playing for the Jazz—frequenting gay clubs, both in Salt Lake City and in other NBA cities.
In the book and in his interview, Amaechi called Jazz owner Larry Miller a “bigot,” said former teammate Karl Malone was a xenophobe and said coach Jerry Sloan “hated” him.
Sloan, who was asked after practice Wednesday about Amaechi’s allegations that the coach had made homophobic comments and treated the player crudely, said he did not know about Amaechi’s sexuality when Amaechi was playing for the Jazz.
“We didn’t see eye to eye on a few things,” Sloan said.