In 2007, a few years after his professional career ended, John Amaechi became the first former NBA player to openly identify himself as gay. He publicly came out and opened up about his experience as a gay athlete in his book, Man in the Middle. In an interview with ESPN, Amaechi said of coming out, "It''s a frightening prospect. It's terrifying. There are people for whom their entire world is based around this idea that people will look at them and when they look at them, they are NBA superstars, NBA players. And any change to that would be physiologically devastating. Emotionally devastating, financially devastating."
The reactions to Amaechi's coming out were mixed in the sporting world. At the time, Shaquille O'Neal said, "I was always taught as a youngster to never judge people, so I never judge people and to each their own. If he was my teammate and people ridiculed him and jumped on him, I would probably have to protect him." For LeBron James, it was a trust issue. Following the news, James said, "With teammates you have to be trustworthy, and if you're gay and you're not admitting that you are, then you are not trustworthy. So that's like the number one thing as teammates — we all trust each other. You've heard of the in-room, locker-room code. What happens in the locker room stays in there. It's a trust factor, honestly. A big trust factor."