NBA Star John Amaechi Wins Top British Honor

The former professional basketball player is out, proud and quickly becoming a champion of gay rights activism.

By Asraa Mustufa Jun 17, 2011

John Amaechi, the first openly gay NBA player, has been awarded the Order of the British Empire for his services to sport and to the voluntary sector, making it on the Queen’s Birthday Honors List.

Amaechi played for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Orlando Magic, the Utah Jazz, and led several European clubs. He was once the highest paid British athlete in the world, and is the only Brit to have a place in the U.S. Basketball Hall of Fame. Amaechi has worked with his own charity as well as Big Brothers, the Center for Social Justice, and Amnesty International on creating sporting centers in urban communities, and on issues of social inclusion and gay rights. Since retiring, he also led the English squad to a bronze medal in the 2006 Commonwealth Games, and has pursued a PhD in psychology.

"I see this honour as a chance to reach out and do more to create an equality of opportunity for all people, but especially to inspire young people. I was once an overweight bookworm who hid in the corner of my school library and wished I was invisible," Amaechi told "My mother told me that I could do better than just disappear – she convinced me that the most unlikely of people, in the most improbable of situations can become extraordinary. I hope to use this platform to convince other young people just how true this can be for them too."

Amaechi published his autobiography Man in the Middle in 2007, in which he discussed his career and life as a closeted professional athlete, making him the first NBA player to speak openly about being gay. More recently, he made headlines in the U.S. for his scathing critique of NBA star Kobe Bryant’s use of a homophobic slur. "You did serious damage with your outburst," Amaechi wrote to Bryant in a New York Times op-ed. The entire piece is worth a read