Role models of greatness.

Here you will discover the back stories of kings, titans of industry, stellar athletes, giants of the entertainment field, scientists, politicians, artists and heroes – all of them gay or bisexual men. If their lives can serve as role models to young men who have been bullied or taught to think less of themselves for their sexual orientation, all the better. The sexual orientation of those featured here did not stand in the way of their achievements.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

John Amaechi

John Amaechi, the first Briton to make a big impact in the NBA, was the first pro basketball player to come out of the closet. The announcement was made on February 7, 2006, two years after his retirement from basketball and just before the release of his autobiography, “Man in the Middle.” In Amaechi's book, he talked about the difficulties of being gay in the NBA, where every player is assumed to be heterosexual. Amaechi also wrote about homophobic comments made by Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan. In May 2007, shortly after coming out, Amaechi said he had "underestimated America", adding that he had expected the "wrath of a nation", but it never materialized. In 2010, Amaechi made public that he had been denied entry to a gay bar in Manchester (England), allegedly because the doorman felt he was "big, black and could be trouble". Amaechi is 6-feet 10-inches tall.

Earlier this week Amaechi received an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) title from Prince Charles during an Investiture ceremony in Buckingham Palace, London on Wednesday. The OBE is an order of chivalry established in 1917 by King George V of the United Kingdom. Amaechi was honored for services to sport. Speaking after the palace ceremony, he said, however, that anti-gay sentiment in sporting institutions is still a "massive problem".

Amaechi, a former England centre, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, to a Nigerian father and English mother, but was raised in Stockport (Greater Manchester, England), before moving to Ohio as a teenager and snagging a basketball scholarship at Penn State University. He went on to spend four years playing in the NBA, the top basketball league in the world, with the Knicks, Orlando Magic, Utah Jazz and Houston Rockets. He retired in January 2004 but returned to help England win the bronze medal in the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.

John Amaechi was awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science by Manchester Metropolitan University on July 19, 2007, in recognition of his achievements not only as an athlete and broadcaster, but also for his charitable work with the National Literacy Trust and the establishment of the ABC Foundation to encourage children to become involved in sport and their community

Amaechi now runs a motivational speaking business from Manchester, where he founded the Amaechi Basketball Centre. Now 40 years old, he has served as a spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign Coming Out Project. He currently works as a psychologist, educator and political activist in both Europe and the United States. In a radio interview, Amaechi said that he was returning to school to get a Ph.D. in psychology. "I want to do something more meaningful in my life," he said. Amaechi also explained why he played for Orlando in 2000 for much less than the $17 million offered to him by the Lakers; his answer was that Orlando had hired him in 1999 when no other team would. "There are many people who are asked what their word is worth, and when people ask me that, I can say, 'At least $17 million.'"

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