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Thread: OT: New book coming out: Man in the Middle, Life in the NBA as a gay player

  1. #1

    Default OT: New book coming out: Man in the Middle, Life in the NBA as a gay player

    http://deadspin.com/sports/nba/your-...-so-234322.php

    see also:

    http://www.outsports.com/nba/20062007/0207amaechi.htm

    John Amaechi to come out publicly

    By Cyd Zeigler jr. and Jim Buzinski
    Outsports.com


    John Amaechi, a former player with the Utah Jazz and Orlando Magic, has become the first NBA player to come out as gay.

    Amaechi will announce publicly for the first time that he is gay on an episode of ESPN's "Outside The Lines" to air Feb. 13, Outsports has learned. His book, published by ESPN Books, "Man In The Middle," in which he chronicles his NBA career and directly addresses the travails of being a closeted professional athlete, will be released the following week.

    Amaechi's sexuality has been rumored for years. In an April 2001 column for Outsports, NBA columnist Randy Boyd named Amaechi, then playing with the Orlando Magic, as No. 16 among those in the NBA most likely to be gay.

    "Could be that the Nigerian-Brit just operates on a different planet?" Boyd asked in his column. "But then again, that explanation for his atypical behavior wouldn’t be any fun now would it?"

    That atypical behavior included a penchant for designing gardens, listening to opera before games and writing poetry.

    In Amaechi's first contact with Outsports in December, he asked with his playful sense of humor, "Why wasn't I higher than 16th?"

    Outsports has been tracking this story for the last year, as quiet rumblings in private conversations started to surface, and had agreed to embargo a story until just prior to his first TV appearance. However, speculation that Amaechi was coming out has become heavy in the past few days, with his publicist, Howard Bragman, dropping hints at a Super Bowl week party in Miami about an NBA player coming out.

    Amaechi contacted Outsports' Cyd Zeigler in December and Outsports introduced Amaechi to Bragman. The publicist had previously handled the coming out of NFL player Esera Tuaolo, golfer Rosie Jones and WNBA superstar Sheryl Swoopes.

    Outsports acquired a copy of Amaechi's book last week. It is clearly the work of a thoughtful, intelligent man who has focused even more on developing his character and spirit as he has on his jump shot and rebounding.

    The book traces his life from early childhood until he was bought out of his contract with the New York Knicks in early 2004. Along the way it paints the picture of a lonely man who only found community when he gathered the strength to start coming out to friends and family.

    Amaechi was raised mostly in England by a single mother. He did not discover basketball until he was well into his teens. He spent one year playing high school basketball in the United States before heading to Vanderbilt, where he played only one season before transferring to Penn State.

    Amaechi was a standout on the Penn State basketball team from 1992 to 1995, where he was twice named First Team Academic All-American. He was not drafted, but he became the first undrafted player in league history to start in his first game as a rookie, with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

    He followed his time as a Cavalier with three years playing in Europe, where he dated and had a regular boyfriend for a time in England. He returned to the NBA in 1999 and was celibate until he went to the Jazz. His guaranteed contract with the Jazz set his mind at ease, and it was there that he began venturing out to gay establishments and building a mostly gay circle of friends (the first wide circle of friends of his life, according to the book).

    "Those grumpy social conservatives who continue to insist that gay life is lonely and unhappy have obviously never met my friends," Amaechi wrote.

    He writes of his first sexual experience in the United States, and how the Utah Jazz and Salt Lake City, controlled by the Latter Day Saints, was an odd backdrop for what felt like his coming out party. He also acknowledges that those in gay clubs like New York's Splash and Los Angeles' Abbey who have claimed in the past to have spotted him there while he was with the Jazz may, in fact, have done so.

    "By the end of my second Utah season, I was practically daring reporters to take the bait and out me," he wrote. "But it never happened. My sexuality, I felt, had become an open secret, which was fine by me. I'd left enough open to interpretation that suspicions were gaining momentum."

    In a 2002 interview with the Scotsman newspaper, Amaechi had this to say about the subject of gays in the NBA: "If you look at our league, minorities aren't very well represented. There's hardly any Hispanic players, no Asian-Americans, so that there's no openly gay players is no real surprise. It would be like an alien dropping down from space. There'd be fear, then panic: they just wouldn't know how to handle it."

    The book also offers insight into the closed world of professional sports, including Amaechi's spirited and friendly political arguments with Karl Malone, what he called the betrayal of Orlando Magic management, kind words from former Indiana coach Bobby Knight, his regret that he never told Greg Ostertag, "the gentle big man" whom he respected, that he was gay when Ostertag asked him while they played together in Utah, his respect for then-Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy, and his lack of respect for Jazz coach Jerry Sloan.

    "Unbeknownst to me at the time," Amaechi wrote, "Sloan had used some anti-gay innuendo to describe me. It was confirmed via e-mails from friends who worked in high-level front-office jobs with the Jazz."

    On the court, Amaechi played in 301 games over five seasons, ending in 2003 with the Utah Jazz. His best seasons were in 1999-2000 and 2000-2001 when he started 89 games for the Orlando Magic. His career high for points came in a 2000 game against Denver, when he scored 31.

    While the book gives a glimpse into the life of the first openly gay former NBA player, it more importantly paints a picture of a man whose dedication to philanthropy once led him to turn down a $17 million contract with the Los Angeles Lakers. It was for his philanthropic work and motivational-speaking endeavors that he was a 2006 recipient of the Penn State Alumni Achievement Award.

    Amaechi, listed on the website 100 Great Black Britons, now runs the ABC Foundation, designed "to get kids playing sports," according to his website. "The ABC Foundation aims to increase participation in physical activity and holistic support services by building affordable, quality facilities and making expert coaches, respected mentors and educators available to all young people." The foundation's first sports center was built in Manchester, England, close to his childhood home of Stockport.

    Amaechi embraces his position as role model for kids with as much vigor as so many professional athletes try to distance themselves from it.

    "It would be nice to one day see one of these kids play in the NBA," Amaechi wrote. "But that's not what gets me up in the morning. It's a chance to change the culture, at least for a few kids."

    Amaechi also owns Animus Consulting. The company, according to its Web site, offers a "range of programs … tailored to inspire, motivate, challenge and entertain in the pursuit of individual and group development - in a way that directly impacts the bottom line."

    Said Boyd of Amaechi's coming out: "Hopefully it will be an inspiration to people who are hetero-identified to be more tolerant and to not assume that all 10 players on a given court have sex the same way they have sex."

  2. #2

    Default Re: OT: New book coming out: Man in the Middle, Life in the NBA as a gay player

    corroborating stories:

    http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/news?slu...v=st&type=lgns

    Former NBA player Amaechi to reveal he is gay

    February 7, 2007
    BRISTOL, CONNECTICUT (TICKER) -- Former NBA player John Amaechi will declare he is gay in his book to be released later this month.

    Amaechi would be the first NBA player to publicly declare his homosexuality and join a very short list of males in professional team sports who have come out.

    The book is entitled "Man in the Middle" and is published by ESPN Books. Amaechi's declaration in the book was reported Wednesday on ESPN.com, and he will appear on ESPN's "Outside the Lines" on Sunday at 9:30 a.m. EST.

    ADVERTISEMENT


    Currently a TV personality in England, Amaechi helps fund the Amaechi Basketball Center in Manchester, which encourages children to become involved in sports and their communities.

    "I don't think (Amaechi's declaration) will have any effect on his ability to do that," said Cyd Ziegler, the co-founder of Outsports.com, a web site dedicated to the gay influence in sports. "You will have some people who will raise an eyebrow."

    Amaechi, 36, was born in Massachusetts and raised in England. The 6-10 forward-center played collegiately at Penn State before entering the NBA in 1995.

    In five seasons with Cleveland, Orlando and Utah, Amaechi averaged 6.2 points and 2.6 rebounds before retiring in 2003. While with the Jazz, he accused the coaching staff of making anti-gay remarks about him.

    Very few male team sports members have publicly declared their homosexuality. Among them are former NFL players Esera Tuaolo, Roy Simmons, Dave Kopay and Jerry Smith and former baseball players Glenn Burke and Billy Bean.

    Kopay told Outsports.com in an interview that he had a sexual encounter with Smith while they were teammates with the Washington Redskins in the 1960s.

    Ziegler said he has read an advance copy of Amaechi's book and spoken with him on the telephone. He gave some insight to Amaechi's upbringing in England, where he was raised by his mother and felt isolated because of his size and black race.

    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."






    Updated on Wednesday, Feb 7, 2007 1:00 pm EST




    I'm gay, says British basketball star

    http://timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/u...cle1347000.ece

    John Amaechi is first male basketball player to come out in US
    Ian Whittell for The Times

    John Amaechi, a former NBA player and England basketball international, is to publish a book next week in which he will reveal he is gay.

    The autobiography, entitled Man in the Middle, will detail his six seasons in the world's leading basketball league and its release is being eagerly awaited in the United States .

    The publishers of the book, ESPN, have refused to reveal the identity of the author although it it understood he will appear on their television station and in their magazine next week in advance of the February 20 publication date.

    Sources in the United States have confirmed that the 6' 10" Amaechi, 36, is the player in question.

    Amaechi, born in the United States but raised in Stockport, will be the first prominent British sportsman to make public his homosexuality since the late footballer Justin Fashanu in the late 1980s.

    While Amaechi's announcement will be met with interest in Britain, it is being anticipated feverishly in the United States where no male basketball player has come out as gay before. NBA teams and officials are steeling themselves for Amaechi's revelations and whether or not he will discuss the sexual orientation of other players.

    Initial leaks from the States seem to suggest that his former coach at the Utah Jazz, Jerry Sloan, is the object of Amaechi's anger in his book and is accused of being homophobic.

    "Unbeknownst to me at the time," Amaechi writes, "Sloan had used some anti-gay innuendo to describe me. It was confirmed via e-mails from friends who worked in high-level front-office jobs with the Jazz."

    The son of an absent Nigerian father, Amachi was raised by his mother, a Stockport doctor, and attended Stockport Grammar School before his basketball talent took him to high school in America. He played at two different colleges, the start of a trend of frequently changing clubs throughout his playing career, and signed for the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA after graduation in 1995.

    After just 28 games, he moved to Europe and played for the French clubs Cholet and Limoges, Bologna in Italy, Greece's Panathinaikos and the Sheffield Sharks in the British Basketball League, five teams in the next three years.

    Amaechi returned to the NBA with the Orlando Magic in 1999-2000 and enjoyed his best season, earning him a $10 million (£5 million), four-year contract.

    After one more season in Orlando, Amaechi was traded to the Utah Jazz for two more seasons prior to a spectacular fall from grace which saw him not used at all at the start of the 2003-04 season. There followed trades to the Houston Rockets and New York Knicks but neither club ever played Amaechi and the latter eventually paid up his contract and released him.

    Since retiring, Amaechi became well known in Britain for his television appearances and his work with children. He has helped fund the Amaechi Basketball Centre, run by his schoolboy coach Joe Forber, in Whalley Range, Manchester.

    Nothing in his playing career will compare with the impact he is about to make with the release of his biography. No male basketball player has come out as gay and only a handful of men in other team sports have done so.

    Billy Bean, a small-time American baseball player, created a stir when he published a biography in which he revealed his homosexuality and Esera Tuaolo, an American football player for nine years in the NFL, did likewise in a magazine article in 2002.

    High-profile women's basketball star Sheryl Swoopes did the same last year but, with the NBA known for its machismo and womanising players, no male star has made such a revelation.

  3. #3
    Member Evan_The_Dude's Avatar
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    Default Re: OT: New book coming out: Man in the Middle, Life in the NBA as a gay player

    There's a list of players in the NBA most likely to be gay? LOL. Someone out there is bored.

  4. #4
    Cheeseburger in Paradise Los Angeles's Avatar
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    Default Re: OT: New book coming out: Man in the Middle, Life in the NBA as a gay player

    Not that there's anything wrong with that.

    “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” - Winston Churchill

    “If you can't be a good example, then you'll just have to serve as a horrible warning.” - Catherine Aird

  5. #5
    White and Nerdy Anthem's Avatar
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    Default Re: OT: New book coming out: Man in the Middle, Life in the NBA as a gay player

    Quote Originally Posted by Ev_eezy View Post
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    There's a list of players in the NBA most likely to be gay? LOL. Someone out there is bored.
    I want to know who ranked 1-15.
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    Default Re: OT: New book coming out: Man in the Middle, Life in the NBA as a gay player

    Quote Originally Posted by Los Angeles View Post
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    Not that there's anything wrong with that.

    When I saw the title I thought this was a spoof - there are just so many jokes I could make about the book title.
    The poster formerly known as Rimfire

  7. #7
    Banned PacerMan's Avatar
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    Default Re: OT: New book coming out: Man in the Middle, Life in the NBA as a gay player

    I really thought he had a chance to be a very good pro. Massive body and nice touch.

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    Member LoneGranger33's Avatar
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    Default Re: OT: New book coming out: Man in the Middle, Life in the NBA as a gay player

    Quote Originally Posted by PacerMan View Post
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    I really thought he had a chance to be a very good bro. Massive body I'd like to touch.
    Wait...what?!

  9. #9

    Default Re: OT: New book coming out: Man in the Middle, Life in the NBA as a gay player

    http://www.outsports.com/ballin/041001.htm

    Evidently, the author of the list is a Pacers fan.

    It was #6, not 16.

    Shaq made the list, but no former/current Pacers.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: OT: New book coming out: Man in the Middle, Life in the NBA as a gay player

    All I remember is, after a couple good years in Orlando, Amechi went to Utah and was immediately buried on the bench. As I remember it, Sloan was pretty vocal about him being soft and questioned if he "had what it took" to be an NBA player.

    Not to stir up anything, but one does have to wonder if his "open secret" had anything to do with it. I'm reminded of Rene Portland, the women's coach at Penn State, who's been dogged for years by allegations of how she treats players rumored to be gay.
    Come to the Dark Side -- There's cookies!

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    Default Re: OT: New book coming out: Man in the Middle, Life in the NBA as a gay player

    I still remember a game he had against Rik Smits while Amechi was on the Magic. He torched Rik and the Pacers defense.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: OT: New book coming out: Man in the Middle, Life in the NBA as a gay player

    Timothy Olyphant on Indie 103.1:

    When Former NBA player John Amaechi's family was asked about the revelations he made in his book, they replied - "We're all very shocked. This came out of left field. We had no idea that John played in the NBA."

















    “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” - Winston Churchill

    “If you can't be a good example, then you'll just have to serve as a horrible warning.” - Catherine Aird

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    Default Re: OT: New book coming out: Man in the Middle, Life in the NBA as a gay player

    LMAO^^^

    I find it funny that A.C. Green was the first one on the list. Because that would have been my first choice too.

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    Default Re: OT: New book coming out: Man in the Middle, Life in the NBA as a gay player

    FYI, Charles Barkley was on PTI and said this was no big deal, he played with "2 or 3" homosexuals and it doesn't mean anything. I couldn't help but wonder if he was referring to KJ and AC.
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    Default Re: OT: New book coming out: Man in the Middle, Life in the NBA as a gay player

    An excerpt from the book -- long, but a great read.

    Question: Is this going to have serious, lasting ramifications for Jerry Sloan's career as a coach?

    http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/s...spnmag/amaechi

    Editor's note: This article appears in the February 26 issue of ESPN The Magazine.

    After my first workout with the Jazz, John Stockton sauntered over and stuck out his hand. "I have a good feeling about you," he said with a smile. "You're gonna have a great career here."

    The whole of Salt Lake City seemed excited about my arrival. I wowed 'em in my press conference, inspiring this over-the-top description in the Salt Lake Tribune:

    "Amaechi's musical tastes range from Ella Fitzgerald to Eric Clapton; he designs gardens; he loves to cook and eat foods that are unhealthy, such as cheesecake and donuts; he is a cartoon addict, but also religious about watching the Discovery Channel; he doesn't much like jock talk, but he will jabber for hours about national drug policies, juvenile crime and social problems; he says he 'teeters between being opinionated and arrogant,' yet he attempts to be openminded; he listens to opera before games, and he writes poetry, including this little ditty: 'The Earth is a stone, every crack a niche. To look is to know, to care to be rich.' "

    In most Americans, such traits wouldn't be a big deal. But as a basketball player, they made me stand out. And they didn't know the half of it.

    * * * * *

    From the start, I was told there was one way to play in Utah, one scheme that had "always worked." Well, it worked for Karl Malone because it was designed for him and he was one of the greatest players ever.

    I was no Karl Malone. Coach Jerry Sloan had signed me in the summer of 2001 because I was a 30-year-old big man with some nifty low-post moves and a smooth jumper and could score pretty consistently from 15 feet in. I lacked Karl's dominating presence (who doesn't?), but I was capable and eager.

    When I brought up the ways the system didn't work for me, Jerry looked like he wanted to shoot holes right through my heart. During one home game, I got slapped with a three-second violation. "Stupid f---ing c--t!" he screamed at me. The notion that he could motivate by name-calling showed how out of touch he was. Perhaps that tactic works with scared schoolkids. We were grown men. "F--- you, Jerry! F--- you!" I screamed right back. Jerry practically hit the Delta Center roof. Yanking me from the game, he pointed a long, bony finger in my face and ordered me out of the arena. I refused, planting myself in the middle of the bench. What was he going to do, have me arrested?

    After the game, he suspended me. I'm a thoroughly nonviolent person by both temperament and philosophy, but I couldn't help fantasizing about a Latrell Sprewell moment.

    Jerry raged against players who he thought didn't play hard enough. If we lost two or three in a row, he'd stride into practice yelling, "You f---ing a-- holes are trying to get me fired! I'm not losing my job because you guys aren't hustling." During one of these job-insecurity diatribes, Karl looked at me and smirked, "If only we were so lucky." Then he went back to the posture he'd long ago adopted: working diligently while pretending Jerry didn't exist.

    The whole "love the game" debate was absurd. I knew for a fact that plenty of guys didn't enjoy the game, because they told me so. Several of my teammates joked that they deserved their fat bank accounts, fancy cars and mansions just for "putting up with Jerry's s---."

    I wasn't going to be embarrassed by Jerry Sloan, because basketball had a proper role in my balanced life. I had a sneaking suspicion my basketball philosophy wasn't the bottom line anyway.

    * * * * *

    The NBA locker room was the most flamboyant place I'd ever been. Guys flaunted their perfect bodies. They bragged about sexual exploits. They primped in front of the mirror, applying cologne and hair gel by the bucketful. They tried on each other's $10,000 suits, admired each other's rings and necklaces. It was an intense camaraderie that felt completely natural to them. Surveying the room, I couldn't help chuckling to myself: And I'm the gay one.

    "I wasn't going to let Jerry Sloan embarrass me, because basketball had a proper role in my life. I suspected my basketball philosophy wasn't the bottom line anyway."
    -- John Amaechi

    Homosexuality is an obsession among ballplayers, trailing only wealth and women. The guys I played with just didn't like "***s" -- or so they insisted over and over again. But they didn't understand ***s enough to truly loathe them. Most were convinced, even as they sat next to me on the plane or threw me the ball in the post, that they had never met one.

    Over time, I realized their antigay prejudice was more a convention of a particular brand of masculinity. Homophobia is a ballplayer posture, akin to donning a "game face," wearing flashy jewelry or driving the perfect black Escalade.

    One night, as the team bus pulled into a West Coast city, I noticed a huge billboard towering over the road: "SOMEONE YOU KNOW IS GAY." The minute I spotted it, I pulled off my headphones. I wanted to hear what the boys would come up with. Sure enough, a cacophony of shock and horror poured forth.

    "If my kid grew up gay, I'd throw him into the street."

    "That's disgusting -- two guys together."

    The comments deteriorated from there.

    On more than one occasion during my playing days in Orlando, I'd gone out of my way to confront teammates who spouted antigay slurs. As a leader on that team, I felt it was my duty to stand up whenever someone went off on a tangent that was detrimental to our cohesion. This time, relegated to Sloan's doghouse, I lacked the credibility to speak up.

    Even so, if I had to be in the repressive, Mormon capital of the Western world -- stuck at the end of the bench for a coach who was always cursing me out -- I figured I might as well enjoy myself. A fabulous existence was the best revenge. And I do mean fabulous. With my guaranteed contract, I felt liberated. In Orlando, I'd avoided my crowd because I worried about repercussions for my contract negotiations, my youth basketball center back home in Manchester, England ... my tenuous sense of self.

    In Utah I still had plenty to lose. All the same fears -- real and imagined -- persisted, to a somewhat lesser degree. Utah employers are legally free to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, and there was plenty of evidence that my employer, owner Larry Miller, might do just that, having made his antipathy to gay people clear. (That never stopped his NBC affiliate, the source of much of his wealth, from airing the lucrative "Will & Grace." Later, one of Miller's movie theaters banned "Brokeback Mountain." I always wondered why one was acceptable and the other was not.)

    But now I was ready to venture out. I made a beeline to the Avenues, the city's "alternative" neighborhood. One day, not long after I arrived in Utah, I was hanging out at Cahoots -- one of those off-color card places that sold everything from erotic magazines to rainbow flags to Mormon Temple shot glasses -- with my friend Nancy. She introduced me to the manager, Ryan, who immediately became my unofficial social ambassador. Ryan, his then-boyfriend, Steve, and I quickly became inseparable.

    I never actually announced, "Yep, Ryan, I'm gay." He told me later he wasn't sure until he dropped by and heard the strains of Karen Carpenter coming through my front door -- and then, once inside, found my place filled with fresh-cut flowers. The rainbow towel in the bathroom confirmed his suspicions. Ryan said I must have been the only jock in history to "towel off with multiple colors singing along to 'We've Only Just Begun.'" Through Ryan, I fell in with a great crowd. These guys were highly protective of my privacy and carefully vetted everyone I met. Since I was still reluctant to venture out too far, everyone came to my closet -- literally. It was frustrating only when it was time to say goodbye at 11 p.m., as they headed out to dance the night away. That would have to wait until my contract expired. I made it a rule to avoid public places where I might be identified, even though on some level it made no sense; this was a community that placed a tremendous value on discretion. Everyone, it seemed, had something to lose.

    John Amaechi
    ESPN The Magazine
    Click here to subscribe to ESPN The Magazine.

    It was the first time I'd lived relatively freely among my gay peers, and I luxuriated in every second. No one cared how tall I was or whether I was in the starting lineup. They knew how to look past sports, wealth and status -- not to mention my stats, which were way down. They didn't care how many boards I was pulling down or about my minutes per game. For all they knew, "MPG" was some new party drug.

    Yet they were also the kind of guys who'd been excluded from the inner circle of athletics since they were kids, and though I could hardly claim to epitomize that clique, I could see the thrill in their eyes with their mere proximity to it -- even if they didn't know Malone from Magic.

    I snagged them family-room passes, and the guys would hang at halftime and after the game. Ryan spent so much time there that he grew close to the wives and girlfriends of my teammates. There was, however, the occasional raised eyebrow when Ryan screamed, "Nice ***!" as I drove the lane.

    * * * * *

    Even had an experience unfamiliar to my life in the States: sex. I had a memorable drunken night with an adorable wrestler (what is it with those guys?) from the University of Utah. He showed up at one of my parties and refused to leave. Friends often marveled at the fact that my personal and professional lives remained largely separate for so long. I took steps to stay out of the limelight, but I never went out of the way to cover my trail. When I was in New York during road trips, I'd check out Splash, a big gay club in Chelsea. In LA, I hung out at the Abbey in West Hollywood, a space so visible, the patio is outdoors. I mostly avoided clubs when in my hometowns of Orlando and Salt Lake, and I never did the Internet dating thing, but those were about the only limits I put on myself my last couple of years in the NBA. All it would have taken was a single anonymous cell phone call from inside Splash to Page Six and I would have been toast. I was hiding, but in plain sight.

    It was not as difficult to stay out of the papers as one might think. First of all, players don't hang out together as much as they once did. On the road, guys are assigned their own luxury suites, and we do our own thing. We all had a common interest in keeping our personal lives off the front page. Call it the basketball version of "don't ask, don't tell."

    Plus, I had another convenient excuse: I'm English. It's an old phenomenon, dating back to the film stars of the '20s, when audiences would ask, Is he gay or is he British? Every time I did something eccentric, like bringing my fabulously flaming friends to games, people would quip, "Oh, he's just English. Leave him alone."

    Still, by the end of my second season in Utah, I was practically daring reporters to out me. But it never happened. My sexuality, I felt, had become an open secret, which was fine by me. I'd left enough open to interpretation that suspicions were gaining momentum. Over the years, I'd become increasingly adept at deflecting questions from the press. I practiced gender-neutral pronouns. When a reporter asked about my romantic life, I'd say, "I'm not with anyone at the moment." Or, "The kind of person I'd like to be with in the future is ... " I rehearsed the answers to questions I could only imagine.

    On the court I was always known as a solid defender, but now my guard was collapsing. One night before a game, Greg Ostertag, with whom I'd become close, asked me point-blank in the tunnel, "Ya gay, dude?" "Greg, you have nothing to worry about," I said. It was clear Greg couldn't have cared less. Looking back, I wish I'd confided in the gentle big man.

    The same goes for Andrei Kirilenko, our talented Eastern European small forward. I called him Malinka, Russian for "little one," and our non-American (or "un-American," as I was sometimes accused of being) backgrounds created an obvious bond.

    John Amaechi #26
    Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images
    Amaechi regrets not confiding in teammates.

    Sometime after Christmas of my last Utah season, in 2002, Malinka instant-messaged an invitation to his New Year's Eve party. Then he wrote something that brought tears to my eyes: "Please come, John. You are welcome to bring your partner, if you have one, someone special to you. Who it is makes no difference to me."

    I was hosting my own party, so I had to decline his invitation. But I had Ryan deliver Malinka a $500 bottle of Jean Paul Gaultier-dressed champagne. Malinka's generous overture made the season more bearable. It showed that in my own paranoia and overwhelming desire for privacy, I'd failed to give some of my teammates the benefit of the doubt. It was the boorish idiots who gave the rest of us athletes a bad name.

    * * * * *

    The day I was packing to depart at the end of the season, my building manager said to Ryan, "I wish John had had a better time here. Perhaps if Sloan hadn't known about John's lifestyle."

    There it was: I'd been sent packing because Sloan couldn't comprehend me, especially my sexuality. He dealt me unceremoniously to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Glen Rice, a once-terrific scorer who was near the end of his career. Unbeknownst to me, Sloan had used some antigay innuendo. It was confirmed via e-mails from friends who worked in high-level front office jobs with the Jazz.

    Suddenly it all made sense. I'm not sure the great Sloan hates all "***s," though I'm pretty confident he's not exactly a gay advocate. No wonder I'd spent the bulk of the season with my *** planted firmly on the bench.

    In the end, I asked myself why I'd bothered to hide at all. I'm not sure why I felt the need to stay away from those darkly alluring American nightclubs. I suppose I feared the aggressive sexuality, the love of the glitter of celebrity and gossip.

    Perhaps I feared I would enjoy them a little too much, see what I'd been missing all these basketball years, and never want to leave.

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