Bette Midler, Ricky Martin and ROSIE O'DONNELL have applauded basketball star Jason Collins for his bravery after becoming America's first professional male athlete to 'come out' as gay.

The sportsman made the big revelation in a new column for Sports Illustrated magazine, in which he declares, "I'm a 34-year-old Nba center. I'm black. And I'm gay."

His bold statement has won him huge support from fans and celebrities alike, and gay icon Midler is among those praising Collins for deciding to publicly acknowledge his sexuality.

In a post on Monday (29Apr13), the veteran entertainer calls him a "brave, strong person."

A slew of openly-gay stars are also celebrating the announcement - Martin tweets, "I don't know you personally @jasoncollins but... CONGRATULATIONS buddy! You are a brave man! I'm very (happy) for you! Nba proud", and actress O'Donnell adds, "Thank you Jason Collins - for being the first one - knocking down doors !!!"

Actor Neil Patrick Harris writes, "Bravo, @JasonCollins34! Thanks for stepping up. For standing tall. And at 7 feet, that's saying a lot", and pregnant country star Chely Wright reveals she is "really inspired" by Collins' courage.

Meanwhile, fellow Nba star Kobe Bryant has voiced his support for the former Washington Wizards player: "Proud of @jasoncollins34. Don't suffocate who u r (sic) because of the ignorance of others... courage support".

Rocker Flea, director Spike Lee and actors Gilles Marini and Elizabeth Banks have also shared kind words about Collins' 'coming out' on