As he dressed in the visitor’s locker room after the Washington Wizards’ season-ending loss in Chicago, Jason Collins was pelted with a piece of ice. Glaring over at the direction of the toss, Collins spotted teammate Trevor Booker with an opened ice pack on his right wrist, playfully looking away as if he wasn’t the culprit. Collins continued to stare until he made eye contact with Booker and cracked a knowing smile before both players laughed.

In his short time with the Wizards, Collins didn’t play much but managed to endear himself to his teammates for his hard work, discipline and professionalism — the qualities that Coach Randy Wittman said led the team to acquire him from Boston on Feb. 21 in a trade involving Jordan Crawford. And, according to Wittman and several members of the team, those opinions of Collins remained unchanged on Monday, when the 7-foot journeyman center became the first active male athlete in a major U.S. professional sports league to announce that he is gay.

“To me, it was something I was never concerned with,” Wizards center Emeka Okafor said in a telephone interview. “To me, it’s how are you as a person? If you are good person and a good teammate – you have those boxes crossed off – I’m cool. All the other stuff is just whatever.”

Collins made his declaration in a story for Sports Illustrated that was published online Monday. In the article, he explained the difficulty he faced coming to terms with his sexuality and the decision to come out at age 34. In a first-person article written with Franz Lidz, Collins said: “Imagine you’re in the oven, baking. Some of us know and accept our sexuality right away and some need more time to cook. I should know — I baked for 33 years.”