In 2007, after retiring from the NBA, John Amaechi released his memoir, "Man in the Middle," in which he writes about his life and professional basketball career. But the focal point of the narrative was Amaechi's sexuality and he consequently became the first former NBA player to come out.
Since then, the center-forward (listed at 6 feet 10 inches and 270 pounds) who played for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Orlando Magic and the Utah Jazz, has become an LGBT-rights advocate and a prominent voice in addressing homophobia in sports. When Kobe Bryant infamously used anti-gay slurs on the basketball court last April, Amaechi responded in a post for The New York Times. In it, he says, "This F-word, which so many people seem to think is no big deal, is the postscript to too many of those lives cut short," speaking about LGBT youth suicides.
Amaechi, born in Boston (he grew up in the U.K.) and an alum of Penn State, made a PSA for the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, was named the national spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign's Coming Out Project in 2007, and became a sporting ambassador for Amnesty International, educating the organization on LGBT rights.
But beyond his LGBT advocacy, Amaechi tirelessly works and travels as a psychologist and motivational speaker, giving talks to corporations, charities and schools. He opened up the Amaechi Basketball Centre in Manchester, England and volunteers with charities such as Big Brothers. In 2011, Amaechi was recognized by Queen Elizabeth with the Order of the British Empire.
Each day in October, which is LGBT History Month, we'll be featuring a different LGBT icon. Check back tomorrow for a look at another incredible individual who changed history and visit our LGBT History Month Big News Page for more stories.