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Washington Wizards center Jason Collins is coming out as a gay man, prompted by support from friends and the ongoing debate about marriage equality, he tells Sports Illustrated.

After years of struggling with his sexuality, he says he was spurred by friend and Massachusetts Congressman Joe Kennedy’s bravery in marching in Boston’s 2012 Gay Pride Parade. He will join Kennedy in the 2013 parade on June 8, he said.

While a myriad of factors have contributed to this decision, Collins said he regrets that someone else hasn’t come out sooner.

I didn’t set out to be the first openly 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.

Read more about Collins’ decision in his own words in the May 6 issue of Sports Illustrated.

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