David Stern predicts openly gay players

3,600 is a big number. That's roughly how many men have played in the NBA through the years.

None has ever come out of the closet while playing.

Just about every two years we get hints as to why:

One of the questions that arises out of this is legalistic: Do NBA players work in an environment that is hostile to gay people? Might that be why no active player has every come out of the closet?

At the league's Board of Governor's meeting in New York on Friday, the NBA's legalistic commissioner, David Stern says: "I don't think so. But I think that left unresponded to, statements like [Bryant's] could lead to a hostile work environment, and we're not going to have it."

Why, then, in an era when it's hard to find large businesses without openly gay employees, has no NBA player ever come out of the closet?

"I think it's ... I don't want to become a social crusader on this issue but I think sports, male sports, has traditionally not been an inviting environment for gay men to identify themselves. But eventually ... we will get to a place where it is not an issue in sports."

Stern acknowledges that it will not be easy for the first player to come out: "It's going to be hard, but it'll happen, I have no doubt about it."