"I know that I, right now, am the happiest I've ever been in my life," the NBA player, who this week became the first openly gay athlete in a major U.S. team sport, tells ABC News.
"A huge weight has been lifted. I've already been out to my family and my friends, but just to, you know, sort of rip the Band-Aid off and come out on my own terms … I hope that every player makes a decision that leads to their own happiness."
Collins, 34, a 7-foot center for the Washington Wizards, understands that his decision isn't just personal but historic – and he hopes other gay athletes follow his lead.
Kwaku Alston For Sports Illustrated
Collins says he struggled with his sexuality for years, and was even engaged to a woman once. "I sort of describe it as, you know the sky is blue but you keep telling yourself it's red," he says.
Eventually he told his parents, who were supportive, and that changed everything. "Once you have that big talk with whoever that is in your family and you get that support, you get that love, you know the rest of it is kind of downhill from there," he says.
Collins said the outpouring of support he's received has been incredible since his first-person story was posted Monday to Sports Illustrated's website. "You just try to live an honest, genuine life, and next thing you know, you have the president calling you," he says.
Collins will be a free agent this summer but hopes to continue his NBA career. "The NBA is like a brotherhood," he says. "And I'm looking at it that we'll all support each other on and off the court."